Yesterday the Pittsburgh Steelers narrowly defeated the Arizona Cardinals to win SuperBowl XLIII. Naturally DC was glued to the TV. He had asked me to be sure to get some chips and salsa for game-side munching. I figured some dinner-like food would be good too. Since I haven't been feeling that great, I decided we needed simple, yet celebratory, food for the occasion.
I decided on chili, cornbread, and some kind of apple dessert.
DC is crazy for apples. I'm much more of a chocolate/custard/cake fan, but DC is definitely a pie man. He says that to him, dessert means "fruit in some kind of crust with ice cream." It's really unfortunate that pie crust is one of the few things that regularly defeats me in the kitchen. (LOL, I accidentally just typed "curst" instead, which is what my pie crusts usually are!) So, we have explored the exciting world of apple crisp, apple-berry crumble, apple cobbler, apple cake, apple pandowdy, and apple brown betty fairly extensively. I had noticed a Sara Moulton recipe for Vermont Apple Crisp that I hadn't tried, so decided we would go with that.
Here is what I cooked for SuperBowl Sunday 2009.
Simple, Basic Chili
We are talking no-frills here. This is the kind of "chili soup" Mom made back in the day, when "Mexican food" was unheard of, that you ate with saltine crackers. It's tasty, if plain. The good news for bean-haters is that this chili is bean-free. Of course you can feel free to add a can of whatever kind of beans you like. You can also dress it up with all kinds of garnishes (sour cream, shredded cheese (mmmm, I love PepperJack), chopped onion, chopped cilantro, sliced black olives, diced avocado, etc.).
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/4 lb. ground sirloin
kosher salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green (or any other color you like) bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 T chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 48 oz. bottle of V-8 vegetable juice cocktail (do not use the low-sodium kind; do not use plain tomato juice)
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat the olive oil in in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat.
2. Add the ground sirloin, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and brown well in the olive oil. Add some salt and pepper while the meat is browning. (NOTE: safe food handling experts advise you to avoid touching raw meat (especially ground beef) with your hands; use utensils instead. I just let the meat slide out of its little plastic bag and into the pan without touching it. Be careful not to get splashed with hot oil.)
3. When the meat is well-browned, add the chopped onions and celery. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the chopped green pepper and the garlic and cook until the pepper is soft and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.
5. When the vegetables are soft, add the chili powder and ground cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, until the flavors have a chance to blend.
6. Add the V-8 juice (shake it well), and stir to blend. (NOTE: Campbells now perversely packages the V-8 in 46 and 64 oz. bottles. Go ahead and use the 46-oz. size, even though it is 2 oz. short.)
7. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 50 minutes.
8. After 50 minutes, partially remove the lid and allow to simmer for 10 more minutes, to thicken the chili somewhat. This is a soupy chili rather than a thick one you'd eat with a fork. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
9. Serve hot.
We Southerners love our cornbread-- and what could be better with chili? However, it's just DC and me this week (DS, the Human Eating Machine, is with his dad), so a whole pan would get stale before we could finish it. Corn muffins are a better idea in this situation, and any leftovers freeze well. I wanted to find a way to jazz them up and make them more festive for the occasion, and here's what I came up with! (I will do another post on skillet cornbread, which is so good, as Crescent Dragonwagon writes, that "you'd stomp your momma for the last piece.")
"Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" Stuffed Corn Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
1 c. cornmeal, preferrably yellow, stone-ground cornmeal
1 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt 1T. baking powder
1 1/4 c. cultured buttermilk
1/4 t. baking soda
4 T. sugar
4 T. canola, corn, or peanut oil
4 T. melted butter
4 T. (approximately) hot pepper jelly
1/2 c. diced cheese, preferrably Velveeta or another fast-melting cheese (well, I know Velveeta is actually "cheese food," but it is good for this purpose. I had some on hand to make my famous Armadillo dip, but we ended up having chili instead. I will post the recipe for Armadillo dip another time.)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder with a whisk to blend thoroughly.
3. In a 4-cup glass measure, combine the buttermilk and baking soda.
4. Add the sugar and stir to blend well.
5. Beat in the egg, until well-blended.
6. Stir in the oil and cooled, melted butter. Stir well with a fork to combine everything.
7. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, and combine gently using a rubber spatula. Stir until just blended.
8. Allow to sit for 3 minutes.
9. Spray a muffin tin (preferrably non-stick) well with non-stick spray, including across the top.
10. Spoon in enough batter to fill each cup about halfway, smoothing the top with a spoon or your fingers.
11. Drop a rounded teaspoon of hot pepper jelly on top of the batter in each cup.
12. Place some diced cheese gently on top of the jelly, leaving about a 1/4 in. cheese-less border around the edge of each muffin.
13. Carefully spoon the remaining batter on top of the cheese and jelly, being careful to cover the cheese.
14. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. (They probably will not rise much).
15. Turn the muffins gently out of the pan, and serve warm.
Sara Moulton's Vermont Apple Crisp
The combination of apricots, maple syrup, and vanilla ice-cream sauce from Sara's cookbook sounded too good to pass up. I went to college in New Hampshire, and lived in Vermont for a few years as well, so I am a maple syrup purist. As any New Englander knows, Grade B Maple Syrup is BETTER than Grade A, because it has a LOT more maple flavor. Grade A is graded "higher" than grade B because it is lighter in color AND flavor, making it more comparable to white sugar (harking back to the days when poor folks couldn't afford real sugar and had to use substitutes). If you can't find Grade B, then of course, use Grade A. But there is no substitute for pure maple syrup. (Do not even mention the words "Log Cabin" to me.) I was delighted to find that my Whole Foods here in Cary, NC sells Grade B Maple Syrup in bulk, along with honey. Sadly, this was AFTER I spent $20 on a jug containing a lifetime supply of it!
Topping: 1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
1/3 c., packed, dark brown sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
6 T cold butter, cut into small dice
4-5 medium size cooking apples (e.g,, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Macintosh; a variety is always good)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c. chopped dried apricots (Note: I used unsulphered apricots, which are brown instead of orange, as I am allergic to sulphur dioxide)
1/2 c. Grade B maple syrup
1 c. Grade B maple syrup
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. firmly packed premium vanilla ice cream
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Grease a 2-qt. baking dish generously with butter, and spray with non-stick spray.
3. Prepare the filling: Peel and core the apples. Cut into thick slices and place in a large bowl.
4. Toss with the fresh lemon juice.
5. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and apricots.
6. Pour in the maple syrup, and mix well.
7. Spoon into the baking dish.
8. Prepare the topping: Combine the oats, flour, sugar, salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the butter and mix well, using a pastry blender or your fingers.
9. Spread the topping evenly over the apples in the baking dish.
10. Bake until the top is browned and the apples are tender, 45-50 minutes.
11. Prepare the sauce: Combine the maple syrup, vanilla and ice cream in a small saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until smooth and the sauce is heated through.
Serve the warm crisp with the heated sauce.
ABOUT APPLES: I used 2 Granny Smiths, a Golden Delicious, and a large Jonagold apple. Contrary to what you might think, Golden Delicious is a great cooking apple as it holds is shape and does not get mushy. The Jonagold is a cross between the tart Jonathan cooking apple and the Golden Delicious. The Golden Delicious and Jonagold are both sweet apples, the Granny Smith is tart, so together they make a great combination for cooking.
Our SuperBowl meal was fun, easy to prepare, and delicious. The chili is one of DC's favorite foods, and he enjoyed the little "surprise" in the middle of his muffin. (I thought they turned out awesome, with the added bonus that they did not need any butter for serving.) We both agreed that while the apple crisp itself was very good, the sauce was just too sweet. If you give it a try, let me know what you think.
We were rooting for the Cardinals, so we were a little disappointed in the outcome of the game-- but it was a pretty exciting game!