Growning up in a Texas home we were raised on chili during the colder months of the year. There was nothing like coming home after school or any number of practices to see that there was a piping-hot homemade pot of chili sitting on the stove with some fresh cornbread muffins waiting to be devoured. We had the extras on the side so we could make our own bowls, especially since we had some picky eaters in the family (*cough* my sister *cough*).
Thanks to the Hedley and Bennet “Get In The Kitchen 2018” contest I finally got in the kitchen and made this recipe happen that had been in my little head for so long and the payoff was huge! Although it’s best served fresh out of the oven I’ve been munching on leftover bowls of the stuff at work all week or while studying for my microeconomics class. (Trust me, that class could use some spicing up!). Plus, my husband actually liked it! He, like some aformentioned siblings, is a picky eater with a very limited palette of acceptable ingredients (most of which consist of any combination of chocolate and peanut butter). So all in all I definitely feel like a winner this week!
Over the years being away from home and family there is something so comforting and grounding about eating chili now that just makes me feel safe and flood my mind with memories. I generally ditch the meat these days and opt for a ultra-fulfilling vegetarian version full of Texan and Mexican influences: cue mole paste and chipotle chiles in adobo. These ingredients add wonderful depth of flavor and warmth to the dish along with some fantastic smokiness and just the right amount of spicy heat.
The mole paste and chipotles in adobo you should be able to find in the Hispanic aisle of any grocery store, if not Mexican grocers will always carry them. There’s a variety of mole pastes, both mole poblano or mole negro paste will worth great here!
What You’ll Need
1 1/4 cups coarse ground cornmeal (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chives, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 cup milk of choice (whole, skim, non-dairy)
1 egg, beaten
4 Tbsp neutral oil, such as canola
1/2 red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp mole paste
1 chipotle (in adobo), finely chopped plus 1 Tbsp of the adobo sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground coriander
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Salt, to taste, if needed
1/2 can of water, if needed
Start with your cornbread batter. In a large mixing bowl add your cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and chives. Mix until combined. Then cut in your cold butter, either with your fingers or using a pastry cutter. Finally add you milk and egg, stirring until just combined. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 400F.
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) or braised over medium heat up the oil. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté just until the onions begin to turn translucent. Then add in the garlic, mole paste, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and spices and fry for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Pour in the tomatoes and their juices as well as the black beans and red kidney beans. Turn heat down to medium-low and simmer 5-6 minutes breaking up the tomatoes with the back of your spoon as they cook.
Remove from the heat and add 7-8 large dollops of your prepared cornbread batter over the top of the chili. I used a regular kitchen spoon for this but don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty if you want to.
Place the skillet or braised in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cornbread is golden brown. Serve immediately. Feel free to add more chives, parsley, cilantro, sour cream or one of my favorites, avocado! This is a tasty, hearty vegetarian dish that the whole family will love and you can have fun customizing your own finished bowl with “fixin’s”.