Chili cornbread pie

It’s suddenly gotten cold — cold enough I’m sleeping in a sweatshirt, bundled under the comforter. I guess that’s making me want heavier food, because today I had a craving for a hearty pie with a chili filling, and decided on a cornbread crust.

This vegetarian chili came out pretty well, with a sneaky heat from the hot paprika that catches you in the back of your mouth. However, while we enjoyed our spicy chili with a full tablespoon of hot paprika, I found this somewhat overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the cornbread, and recommend using less (as I’m noting below). I added the dried mushrooms and chocolate powder in order to give the chili a rounder flavor. Consider using a little more than I did.

The process takes a while, since you have to cook the chili first, and then bake it topped with the cornbread batter. It probably took me about two hours from start to finish, including all the cooking time. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it’ll take even longer.

VEGETABLE CHILI

Ingredients:
2.5 c kidney beans, soaked for several hours
1.5 onions
1 carrot
1 big red pepper
6-8 garlic cloves
2-3 tomatoes
1 c tomato paste
1/2 c dried portobello mushrooms
5-6 T sweet paprika
1.5 t hot paprika
1 T salt
4 t unsweetened chocolate powder
1 t cumin
1/4 t cinnamon
black pepper
olive oil for frying
2 1/2 c corn

Begin soaking the kidney beans several hours before you mean to start cooking. Drain and rinse them before you use them.

Dice and fry the onions, carrot, pepper and garlic in a pressure cooker or a large, thick pot. Add the spices, the chocolate and the dried mushroom. Then add the beans and the tomato paste, and cover with enough water so that almost everything is submerged (If you’re using a pressure cooker, the water won’t boil off, so make sure the chili is as thick now as you want it to be when it’s done — meaning, don’t overdo the water). If you want your tomatoes to be chunky, you’ll be adding them later; if not, dice the tomatoes and add them now.

If you’re using a pressure cooker, put on the lid, let it pressure up on a high flame and let cook pressurized, on a low flame, for 30 minutes. If you’re using a regular pot, the stew will probably need about 1 1/2 hours to cook (pressure cookers take 1/3 of the time).

Once the stew is cooked, add in the corn and the tomatoes, if you didn’t add them earlier.

CORNBREAD

Ingredients:
2 c cornmeal
1/2 c flour
2 c buttermilk
4 T butter
1 egg
2 t salt
1 T sugar
2 T baking powder

Melt the butter, and mix together all the ingredients. You can taste it to make sure you like the balance of salty and sweet.

Note: If you want to bake this alone, without the chili, at this point you can put it in a baking pan on its own and bake it at 220 degrees until it’s browned on top, about 30 minutes.

ASSEMBLING THE PIE

Pour the chili into a 9-by-13 inch baking dish. If there’s too much chili, don’t overfill your dish — you’ll need about an inch for the cornbread. Spread the cornbread batter on top of the chili as evenly as possible. If it doesn’t precisely touch the edges of the pan, that’s OK, it’ll spread out as it bakes (my batter stopped about 1/2 inch from the sides of the pan). Bake at 220 degrees Celsius for 25-30 minutes, until the cornbread is golden brown.

When it’s done, let the dish sit for a while to set — 30 minutes to an hour. I didn’t have the patience for this, so the first few slices I cut had a very liquid chili base, but the pie began to firm up after that.

Now, go ahead and eat — happy winter!

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