Since January is resolution month and all, I have a confession: I’m terrible at following recipes. Try as I might, I always forget one ingredient, skip a step after neglecting to read the entire recipe, or just end up with a straight up different dish. Generally, I see recipes as inspiration, rather than strict instruction. And generally, I’m able to cook my way out of a disaster. My fumbled attempts have led me to some mighty decent meals that I can claim as my own.
This is not to say I don’t love recipes. I scour blogs and cookbooks in search of a new recipe, dish, or ingredient to acquaint myself with. So when I saw Nigella Lawson’s recipe for cornbread-topped chili con carne I was smitten. Chili and cornbread are one of those great culinary pairs whose comforting flavors bring warmth to this chilly time of year (perfect timing for slow cooker week!).
When the temperatures in New York finally dropped (why hello, Winter), I gathered the ingredients for a Nigella-inspired chili. So Nigella’s recipe serves upwards of twenty people, and as much as I love to feed a crowd, this was a small party of three. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to take a turn down improv lane. Things were going splendidly as one bangin’ chili simmered away on the stove for nearly two hours before it was time to pour on the cornbread. So into the oven went pot, cornbread batter and all, and out it came 40 minutes later. The cornbread was burned, not fully cooked through, and it had absorbed ALL of the moisture from my delicious chili. Needless to say I was bummed. We extracted three servings and called it a day. Too many variables to say exactly what went wrong, but boy did I learn my lesson and add a new new year’s resolution: read and follow more recipes (old habits die hard). So today I present you with a slow cooker week-worthy chili, minus the cornbread topping.
Juliana Barton is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia who avoided the dining hall by playing lunch lady in her own kitchen. This year, she resolves to take equal parts inspiration and instruction from new recipes.
Smoky Turkey Chili, Cornbread on the Side
Inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Cornbread Topped Chili Con Carne
Clearly, I’m no cornbread expert at this point. Serve the chili with a side of your favorite cornbread—boxed or from scratch, as long as it’s cooked!
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
1 ½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon smoked chipotle chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
approx. 1 pound ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon ketchup
½ cup tomato sauce
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 ½-2 cups chicken stock and/or water
2 15-oz cans beans (black, kidney or garbanzo…your choice)
1 cup frozen corn (don’t bother thawing)
Sour cream or yogurt
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large oven-proof pot. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. When onions have soften, add cumin, paprika, chili powder, brown sugar, cayenne, and salt + pepper, and stir well so the onions are coated in the spices. Once spices are fragrant, add bell pepper and garlic and cook until soften.
Turn the heat up to medium-high to brown the meat. Add the ground turkey to the pan and break up with a fork or wooden spoon. Stir often so the meat gets even browned and cooks through.
When meat is just about cooked, reduce heat to medium. Add tomato paste, ketchup, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, stock, beans and corn to pot.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so mixture is at a simmer. Simmer, covered with lid slightly ajar, for about 1 ½ hours or until it reaches your desired consistency.
Serve with guac, sour cream or yogurt, cheddar cheese, and of course cornbread.