"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

February 3, 2011

Chili and Cornbread

On Sunday, when it was balmy and warm and 55 degrees, our neighbors asked if they could have permission to hunt rabbit on our land. We don't have a problem with that and now my husband and boys want to go rabbit hunting, too. [And let me just say here that our youngest is the spitting image of Elmer Fudd when he has his (play) gun and buffalo-check wool hat on.] Our neighbors were cooking opossum and invited us for opossum dinner. I've never tried it (nor rabbit) and am willing to try most things once. Nothing against opossum but I suspect it requires a certain appreciation. Well, let's just be honest and say I was grateful that we had a turkey at home in the oven.

I respect that many Kentuckians and some of our neighbors hunt wild game to supplement their diets. Squirrel and dumplings have been described as "good eating" to me by many people we've met here. My husband had a friend in New Hampshire who was an old Yankee farmer, an artisan and a regular Euell Gibbons. Willard Richardson thought nothing of cooking up a snapping turtle into soup, having his wife make their eggs into a salad dressing, or catching a mess of woodchuck for a "woodchuck feed" several times a summer. They even roasted an owl. If it moved they would catch it and cook it. I asked my husband, mildly disgusted, "Did it taste like chicken?" "No, it tasted like owl."

All of this talk of wild game––and another cold wave setting in on the backside of that storm––got me thinking of chili for some reason. I have not made chili, or cornbread, in many moons. So, on Groundhog Day, that's just what we had. A nice hearty pot of chili and the best cornbread recipe I've found so far. I thought I'd share my recipe for chili (which is essentially a non-recipe, as I've never used one) and the cornbread recipe that I just tried in one of my favorite little cookbooks, The Little Big Book of Comfort Food [Welcome Books: 2006.]

I'm sorry to say that our boys picked out every kidney bean and only one of them would try the corn bread. They've gotten used to so many favorites dishes in our kitchen that when I do pull out something they don't remember having, or have never had at all, it can be a difficult transition. My cooking has always been in the style of "take it, or leave it" as I'm not in the business of operating a short-order kitchen. That said, I most often make what everyone else likes. [Wait until they try the Indian dishes I want to make out of Modern Spice by Monica Bhide! I'm determined to get my family to love Indian cooking.]

Catherine's Easy Chili

The very best store bought tomatoes and I just used my last can!
Here's how I make chili. I would photograph it but it always looks like Alpo® (well, maybe higher end Alpo®). I used to add corn to my chili but stopped after my husband laughed at me when I thought that "Chili Con Carne" meant "Chili with Corn" [alright, alright, I studied French from K-12, not Spanish!].

  • Brown two medium chopped onions with a bit of garlic (in about a Tbsp of olive oil);
  • Add 1-3 pounds of ground sirloin (ours was dry aged from a steer, now in the freezer) and brown it with the onion mixture (big hunks of meat are fine);
  • Add 3 cans of kidney beans (don't drain);
  • Then add 1 28-ounce can (or 2 14-ounce cans) of crushed tomatoes––I prefer Muir Glen® Organic tomatoes and they are available at Walmart;
  • You can also add a can of diced tomatoes, if desired (or freshly diced);
  • Add to mixture 1 heaping teaspoon salt and 1 Tbsp cumin, 1 Tbsp chili powder and a bit of hot red pepper, if desired, and all to taste. Also, don't forget your freshly cracked pepper.
I like cumin in chili. You can also add a heaping teaspoon of cocoa and maybe a smidge of cinnamon. The nice thing is that once it is cooking and melding, you can adjust your seasonings to taste. If you want a thicker chili, just stir in some cornmeal (perhaps a tablespoon or so). Stir together and heat slowly until nice and hot. Great with cornbread or tortilla chips and cheese on top.

Cornbread [from The Big Little Book of Comfort Food]

This is a moist and slightly sweetened cornbread, "northern" style!

A hearty cornmeal and a bit on the red side.
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar (next time I will use a heaping tablespoon!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you could also use regular milk, plain yogurt or sour cream)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 (8-oz) can of creamed corn (I think the can I used was a bit bigger)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I did not use this but it would have been good)
  • 2 Tbsps vegetable oil
In large bowl, sift together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, baking soda and chili powder.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, creamed corn, cheese and oil. Add mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined (but not too much).

It says to pour this over your prepared chili in a large casserole dish and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. I baked it in a small, greased oblong dish (a bit more than 9x9) for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Test for doneness. 

Great with butter and honey! And chili, of course.

You come back when you're ready! 



  1. I like your cornbread recipe. In the summer I put the kernels from a couple of ears of corn in my cornbread. I've tried using canned corn but it always went to the bottom of the skillet and stuck. For some reason the fresh corn doesn't.

    Your chili sounds yummy! Cinnamon and chocolate do add some extra levels of flavor.


  2. The chili I had of yours was delicious!

    I've recently taken a liking to black beans in place of some of the chili or kidney beans and instead of canned tomatoes now use homemade canned salsa.

    If you ever want to try Groundhog I will hunt, clean, and cook it up myself - just so you know. No preservatives. ;-}

    Joberta - I will have to try your idea of adding corn to the cornbread mix! Sounds yummy!!

  3. I love roasted cornmeal. I have noticed that it does not seem to absorb as much liquid as other cornmeal & makes a cornbread that is a bit less dense than most.


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