I feel like we are getting close. To autumn, to brisk weather, to chili season. I hope I am not rushing things and we see another hot spell. I was in Dallas at the beginning of September and it was 109 degrees outside, but the restaurant specials were pumpkin and cranberry and I felt like they were jinxing the fall. So I’ll just say this is an “in case of autumn weather” recipe. Warm, hearty chili with tender cornbread dumplings makes for a bowl of comfort and warmth. And man am I ready for it!
The chili recipe I use here is sort of a riff on lightly spiced Cincinnati-style chili. All the flavors go so well with the cornbread. Frankly, you could use your favorite chili recipe just make sure it has some liquid to it so the dumplings poach nicely. I like to use a deep, wide enameled cast iron braiser for this, that goes form the stove to the oven and has a good surface area to accommodate the dumplings. You can of course cook the chili on the stove, then transfer it to a baking dish, add the dumplings and place in the oven. You can make the chili ahead of time and reheat it with little more beef broth, but only add the dumplings when you are ready to serve. A dollop of sour cream and some grated cheddar are wonderful on top.
Chili Beef with Cornbread Dumplings
- For the Chili
2 pounds ground sirloin
1 onions, finely diced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 (15-ounce can) petite diced tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- For the Dumplings
2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
- For the Chili
- Put the beef and onion in a large 3.5 quart or larger braiser or deep skillet that is oven safe. Sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of salt and many grinds of black pepper. Cook over medium high, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until the beef is cooked through and the onions are soft. Transfer the meat and onions to a colander in the sink to drain off the fat. Shake well to remove as much fa as you can. Put the pot back on the stove and add the tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring until the tomato paste darkens to brick red. Add the chili powder and stir to toast slightly, then put the meat pack in the pan. Pour in the tomatoes and one cup of broth and stir, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the cocoa powder, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice and stir to combine. Stir in the remaining cup of beef broth, the Worcestershire and vinegar to combine. Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain the beans (you can do this in the meat colander). Add to the pot with the chili and stir to combine. Fill the empty tomato can with water and add to the pot. Stir to combine completely, raise the heat to medium, then leave to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. You want it a little saucey because the dumplings will plump up with some sauce.
- For the Dumplings
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Put the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the eggs and beat, then beat in the milk. Stir in the cheese to combine. Use an ¼ cup ice cream or large cookie/muffin scoop to scoop dumplings on top of the soup with some space in between, about 12 dumplings. Transfer the pot to the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through.
- Serve immediately with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream for topping.