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The Cornbread Chronicles

  • January 29, 2015

 Just in case you’re having Christo’s big cowboy chili  (or ribs or barbequed chicken) for Superbowl Sunday, don’t forget to include some cornbread too.

 Actually, let me amend that statement. Fresh from the oven, smeared with some butter, this cornbread is so delicious all on its own. Top it with some fig jam and you could call it dessert.
This recipe, from Taste Of Home, turned out just the way I like – moist, with a tender crumb and full of corn flavor. My quest for some good cornbread took a few detours though, as I tried several recipes in the course of a week, trying to get it right.
The first one, which included chopped jalapeno peppers, was too dry and crumbly. I should have realized it when I was mixing it, since it was more like a crumb topping for a cake. I tossed it out to the birds. Fortunately, there was snow on the ground, so if they had parched throats after eating this, they could quench their thirsts.
The second recipe (which also included jalapeno peppers, cheddar cheese and a can of creamed corn) was too wet and gooey, even though I kept it in the oven longer than called for. I threw it out to the squirrels – or who knows? Maybe that red fox that’s shown up a couple of times in my yard lately ate it. In any event, it wasn’t fit for human consumption.
By now, I figured I’d better read a few more recipe reviews before baking cornbread. But what I did know was that I really didn’t want jalapeno peppers in my cornbread. I wanted good old fashioned, plain cornbread.
So I read the critiques from home cooks following each cornbread recipe, until I found this one, where the praise was nearly unanimous. “This will now be my go-to recipe,” one reviewer wrote. “Delicious. It always gets rave reviews,” wrote someone else, echoing dozens of others.
So armed with kudos from dozens of bakers, I made this recipe, cutting back a little on the sugar, as some recommended.
I didn’t bake it in the 13 x 9 inch pan called for, but rather in a 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish. As a result, I increased the baking time by about 15-20 minutes. Bake it in muffin tins for a different way of serving it – or in a cast iron skillet. Just be sure to adjust the baking time accordingly.
It’s a simple recipe, but really is a winner, and like the other reviewers, it will be my go-to recipe for cornbread from now on.
I’m afraid the birds and squirrels in my back yard will have to be content with stale bread — or wait for another kitchen failure at some point in the future.

Buttery Cornbread
printable recipe here

2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I used 2/3 cup and it was plenty)
3 eggs
1 2/3 cups 2 percent milk
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 1/2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Combine eggs and milk. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking power and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with egg mixture.
Pour into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Bake 22-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cut into squares. serve warm. Yield: 15 servings.
Note: I used a square 8 x 8 inch baking pan and baked it for 40-45 minutes.

Christo’s Chili

  • January 25, 2015

 Yes, the Superbowl is coming up soon and that’s reason enough to make this delicious and hearty chili. Your friends and family will love this flavorful stick-to-the-ribs dish that’s traditionally served before the big game.

But I made it for another reason – as a way to honor Chef Christo Gonzales, whose life was ended too quickly last week. He had a passion for life, for work, for his beloved New Mexico, his adopted home of New York City, and most of all for his son Jackson. Although we met only once in person, he always brightened my day with his Facebook musings and his blog posts on “A Little Bit of Christo.” They were frequently about food, but more often than not, they were witty, thoughtful musings about life in New York City. Those who followed him will never forget his inflatable zebra Harold, his rooftop grilling, his tirades about those who “unfriended” him, his enviable mane of grey hair, or his “gotta feed the kid” hashtag that he used when lovingly cooking for his son.
He arrived at his profession of chef relatively late in life, but set an example of how you can achieve your goals when you work hard enough and you care enough. In short, he touched a lot of lives in a positive way, even those who knew him only through the blogosphere. It’s sad and it’s maddening to think that someone this creative, this passionate and this giving will no longer be here to grace this world. But hopefully, he left “a little bit of Christo” in all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him, in a real or “virtual” way.
If you’d like to donate to a fund that was set up to held his son, click here for more information.

Christo’s Big Cowboy Chili
printable recipe here

1 lb ground beef (or chicken or turkey)
1 large onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
3 Tbs cumin powder
4 Tbs (use as much or as little as you want for level of heat desired) red chile powder (get it from New Mexico) 
1 small can tomato paste
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb dry of cooked kidney beans (I cooked a pound of dry beans in the pressure cooker you could use canned and it would probably work out to 2 quarts of beans) Make sure you have at least 3 cups of liquid with your beans
Avocado, sour cream and green onion for garnish

Brown the meat in a large skillet. When meat is brown add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. When the onion and garlic have softened then add the cumin and the chile powder and stir till everything is coated (if its not spicy enough add more red chile powder). When all of this is a nice deep red color then add the tomato paste and water. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add this mixture to your cooked beans and bean broth and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with your garnish and cornbread of you have it.