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Enjoy chili three ways — beef, chicken and vegetarian — with corn bread to match

Last fall, St. Petersburg Times food critic Laura Reiley, copy editor and competitive cook extraordinaire Jim Webster and I provided the after-play lunch for a charity golf tournament. We wanted something simple and portable, but being showoffs, we wanted to leave them talking about the meal.

We succeeded with our Chili and Corn Bread Extravaganza, which you could easily re-create for a Super Bowl party menu. We each made a different chili and accompanied it with a corn bread. Jim grabbed beef, Laura took vegetarian and I tackled chicken. We didn't much compare notes before the event but when we arrived, big pots in tow, we realized none of us used traditional beans in our creations. Weird. That's not to say you couldn't add some, though use white beans if you add them to the chicken chili.

A few chili party tips:

• Coordinate the garnishes and don't underestimate the amount of sour cream that partiers will go through. Everyone seemed to pile it on, especially for Jim's sinus-clearing offering. (Might not be a bad idea to put out a box of tissues.) Think beyond shredded cheddar, especially for Laura's veggie chili, which benefits from a few crumbles of goat or feta cheese. Other topping suggestions include sliced, pickled jalapeno, chopped radishes and scallions, fresh cilantro leaves, lime wedges and hot sauce.

• Expect your guests to try each chili. Put out or buy small bowls, otherwise you'll go through the chili too fast and there won't be enough for everyone to get a taste.

• We set up each of the chili offerings in a large kitchen and put them far enough apart so that people could move around. Two were in slow cookers and another on the stove. The corresponding corn breads were placed nearby. A center island held the condiments and garnishes.

• Keep dessert simple. We each made a different cookie, but you could put out trays of brownies, too.

Included here are our recipes, plus comments from each cook.

Janet K. Keeler, Times lifestyles editor

n Here's the beef

So, if you're watching football, you're going to want meat. Red meat. Con carne, baby. And none of that bean stuff. If you want beans, get a separate bowl.

Meat and heat.

Bring it.

For this pot, we start with a little smoky sausage, just enough to imply the fire to come. Then come in with chunks of beef, a bottle of beer and as much chili heat as you deem necessary. As written, this recipe will be plenty spicy. Dial it down if you must. Or turn it up if you dare. But if you do, have a cooler of ice-cold Gatorade to douse yourself with at the end.

The corn bread is cheating on more than one level. First, it starts with stuffing mix. But then it gets totally unfair with the addition of chorizo and cheddar.

Jim Webster

n Roasting's the key

Chicken chili can be insipid, the bland chicken becoming even more flavorless in a soupy mass of glop.

I solved the flavorless issue by roasting a variety of peppers, hot, sweet and mild, before adding them to the melange. Yes, it takes more time but you can make the chili the day before the big game. A day resting in the fridge only makes it more tasty.

Oven-roasting is simple, but you may have some problems getting the skin off the super soft peppers. Do what you can and don't worry about the rest. Somehow, everything works out and the skins disappear into the mixture.

Two other elements make this recipe delicious. Forget the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. That's one big reason why most chicken chilis don't taste like much. This recipe calls for chicken thighs, which have oodles more flavor.

At the start of the cooking, a dozen chopped tomatillos are floating in the mix. By the end, they have disappeared but their special tartness is still in the pot.

For the corn bread, Havarti cubes cradled in the middle of the muffins are a nice, smooth surprise to accompany all the spice of this chili. Like Jim, I cheated, too. Jiffy corn bread mix is your friend.

Janet K. Keeler

n The farm's bounty

It used to be that a pound of ground beef could be turned into all kinds of one-dish crowd-pleasers suitable for gatherings: casseroles with noodles, shepherd's pies and the ultimate rib-sticking party food, chili. And then there were vegetarians.

You can devise a vegetarian chili to resemble its meaty cousins with bulgur wheat, beans, brown rice or even tofu standing in for the beef. Or you can choose to show up all those monochromatic animal proteins with the incredible array of colors and textures that vegetables provide. What makes this version particularly satisfying even for a meat-eating crowd is the use of the grill. Grilled peppers, tomatoes and squashes retain the smoky heartiness imparted by open flame. This dish isn't merely vegetarian, it's vegan. Before sounding too virtuous, its corresponding corn muffins are heaped with Cheddar and sour cream.

Laura Reiley

>>EASy

Blazing Chorizo Beef Chili

2 links chorizo, dry Spanish sausage, skin removed, small dice

1 onion, small dice

Olive oil

1 pound chuck steak, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

Salt

2 (14.5-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1 (12-ounce) can of beer

1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

2 tablespoon sugar

4 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 green bell pepper, 1/2-inch pieces

Optional garnishes:

fresh jalapeno, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, Tabasco sauce

In a hot stock pot, saute chorizo. After 2 to 3 minutes, add onion and continue to saute until the onions get soft. Sauteeing them in the rendered chorizo fat will turn them red. When softened, use a slotted spoon to remove the onions and chorizo, leaving behind any fat.

If the bottom of the pot is dry, add olive oil. Saute the meat a little at a time, never crowding the bottom of the pan, leaving room so the chunks of meat don't touch. Salt the meat as it sears. Get one side of each chunk of meat really brown. When it is browned on one side, take the meat out and keep it in the bowl with the onion as you continue to brown the meat in batches. When all the meat is browned, return the meat, onion and chorizo to the pot and stir to incorporate.

Add the remaining ingredients except for the green pepper, and stir. Let simmer on low for at least an hour, but the longer the better (3 to 4 hours is ideal). The longer you simmer it, the thicker it will get.

About 15 minutes before serving, stir in the green pepper. Serve over rice with your choice of garnish.

Serves 6 to 8.

Source: Jim Webster,

St. Petersburg Times

>>EASy

Corn Bread Stuffin' Muffins

2 links chorizo, dry Spanish sausage, skin removed, small dice

1 onion, small dice

1 (8-ounce) bag of corn bread stuffing mix

1 (14.5-ounce) can creamed corn

1 (10-ounce) can corn niblets

1 cup chicken stock

1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)

6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large skillet and saute chorizo. When fat has rendered, saute onion with the chorizo. Add remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate.

Spray muffin tins (see note below for size) with nonstick spray. Fill tins with stuffing. Bake regular muffins 35 minutes or minimuffins 20 minutes. Allow to cool in pan at least 15 minutes before attempting to remove from pan.

Makes about 18 regular-sized muffins or 36 minimuffins.

Source: Jim Webster,

St. Petersburg Times

>>MODERATE

Chicken Chili Verde With

Roasted Corn and Chilies

2 poblano chilies

2 Anaheim chilies

1 green bell pepper

1 to 2 jalapenos

3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into

1/2-inch pieces

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

3 cups chopped onions

3 tablespoons chopped garlic

4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed

6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

12 tomatillos, husked, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry chilies, green pepper and jalapeno. Place on baking sheet with a lip (to prevent juices from spilling into the oven) and roast for about 20 minutes, turning several times. Remove when chilies are charred and let cool slightly. Peel off as much skin as you can and remove seeds. Chop and set aside.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Coat with flour. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken to skillet and saute until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to large pot. Repeat with 1 tablespoon oil and remaining chicken.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; saute until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to pot with chicken. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet. Saute half of corn until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to pot with chicken. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and corn.

Add chicken broth, tomatillos, oregano, chili powder, cumin, paprika and cinnamon sticks to pot. Bring liquid to boil. Reduce heat and add chopped roasted chilies and green pepper, and simmer until mixture thickens and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours. Mix cilantro into chili and serve. (If making ahead, don't add cilantro until chili is reheated for serving.)

Serves 12.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit

>>EASy

Cheese-Stuffed Corn Bread Muffins

2 packages Jiffy corn muffin mix

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

24 1/2-inch cubes Havarti cheese (see note)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend muffin mix, eggs, sour cream and milk together. Batter should be a little lumpy. Let batter rest about 4 minutes.

Grease muffin tins. Depending on size, you'll have enough batter for about 16 to 18 muffins.

Fill cups with about 2 tablespoons batter then drop in cube of cheese. Add another 2 tablespoons to cover. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. (Empty muffin cups should be filled halfway with water to ensure even baking.)

Note: You can use other cheeses according to taste such as cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, pepper Jack or Swiss.

Makes about 16 to 18.

Source: Janet K. Keeler,

St. Petersburg Times

>>MODERATE

Farmers' Market Veggie Chili

1 ½ pounds tomatoes

12 ounces mixed yellow pattypan and zucchini squash

3 bell peppers, preferably red, yellow and orange

2 jalapenos

3 tablespoons safflower or canola oil, plus more for rubbing on vegetables

2 medium onions, cut into ½-inch dice

3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder or 1 tablespoon hot paprika

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 cups water

½ pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths

2 ½ cups corn kernels (from four ears of corn, or frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained)

¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup finely chopped cilantro

Light grill. Rub tomatoes, squashes, peppers and jalapenos with a bit of oil and cook them on all sides on a hot grill. Do not char; just brown until they begin to spit juices, about 8 minutes over high heat.

Transfer tomatoes to a food processor, skins and all. Cut peppers and squash into 1-inch chunks and reserve. Seed and mince jalapenos and reserve.

In a large stockpot, heat oil and add onion and garlic and stir to coat. Cook over moderate heat until softened and lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Stir the cumin, chili powder (or paprika), oregano and salt into the onions. Pour in the pureed tomatoes and 2 cups water. Add the beans, cover, bring to a simmer and cook over moderate heat for 15 minutes. Stir in corn, squash, bell peppers and jalapeno and cook until all vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir in chopped herbs and serve.

Serves 6 to 8.

Source: Adapted from Food & Wine

>>EASY

Corn Muffins With Scallions,

Sour Cream and Cheddar

1 cup unbleached

all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled

1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed, drained

1 cup chopped scallions

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups (1/3-cup size) with paper liners. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk sour cream, eggs and melted butter in another bowl. Add sour cream mixture to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Fold in corn kernels, scallions and cheddar. Divide batter equally among muffin cups. Bake until golden and tester inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack.

Makes 12 muffins.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit

Enjoy chili three ways — beef, chicken and vegetarian — with corn bread to match 02/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 3:30am]
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