Tag Archives: Mark Bittman cornbread

Accidental Curry Chili

Oh, the weekend! Ah, the weekend. I didn’t give a tour Sunday and so I had a glorious three-day span to do absolutely nothing. Well, that’s not true: I was out & about every day and when, late Sunday evening, I got back to my house, I collapsed into bed and slept like a small child. What I meant to say is do absolutely nothing related to work. These past few months, I’ve honed my leisure skills and now lounge like a pro. Don’t believe me? I’ve got references.

My social schedule is directly linked to my tendency to eat like a frat dude, and this weekend, my fratty diet hit an all-time low (high?). Friday, I met Emily for lunch at The Little Chihuahua, where we sampled all the salsas and where I had a beautiful tostada salad of mixed greens, queso fresco, mixed greens, cukes & tomatoes, black beans, mango salsa and — best of all — carnitas! (I love nothing like I love carnitas: fact.*)

I had carnitas again Saturday evening, this time around in an amazing dorado-style taco, gobbled down ten minutes before guests arrived. I ate peanut M&Ms, jalapeno Cheetos, and mediocre Ethiopian food. At Sunday’s brunch, I had Shakshouka, roasted fingerling potatoes, baked bacon, and mimosas (made with fresh juice: y’all should be #jealz). Sunday afternoon, I munched pizza from Arizmendi** and sucked down coconut water like my life depended on it (it did). I drank enough champagne to render debt ceiling news irrelevant.

(Note: If you’re wondering how I didn’t emerge from the weekend eight to ten pounds heavier, wonder on. I’m in the same befuddled boat. Buuuut, I’m not going to question the magic of my metabolism, lest my questioning change things.)

You know you’ve had a good weekend when, during your Saturday night*** walk home, you see the Chronicle being delivered. But such indulgence — gastronomic and recreational alike — isn’t sustainable. By Monday morning, I was craving healthier offerings.

When I got home from work last night, I immediately changed into pajamas and got to cooking. I’d spent most of my 80-minute commute pondering what to make — stir fry? pancakes in a lake of grade-A syrup? — and decided on chili. Hearty, warm, and comparatively nutritious, chili is what my weary body craved.

As with most things I now like, I detested chili growing up. I’d dump enough shredded cheddar and oyster crackers on my portion to obscure the rusty surface, and I’d chase each spoonful with a glug of milk. (Note: I still don’t like drinking milk with meals.) My tastes have evolved enough to foster a love of chili, and I make a batch every few months.

As I cooked, sis called. She and I rehashed our weekends, swapped facebook gossip, and bemoaned our respective living situations. In short, I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. As I shook spices into the pot, I remember thinking, “Hmm, this cumin doesn’t smell like cumin!” Of course, I didn’t stop to assess what I was doing; I forged ahead.

It was too late to correct my mistake once I’d realized what my mistake was: I’d added curry powder instead of cumin. Ooops. Rather than chuck the whole batch of chili, I added cumin (and a bit of Tabasco) and carried on. Yes, I felt like a dumbass. No, I wouldn’t let dumbassery ruin my night.

Today at lunch I sampled my creation. Verdict: I like it more than regular chili. To be fair, I’m fond of really spicy things, and this chili is really spicy. Accounting for my bias, this chili is still pretty damn good; the curry powder adds depth to what can be a flat flavor profile. If you care to replicate my stumbled-upon results, see the recipe below.

Cheers to a healthy week, friends. Come Friday, I’ll once again raise a glass of champagne. Until then, it’s tofu, tea, and thoughts of yoga.

Accidental Curry Chili


  • One package (1.25 pounds) ground turkey (or ground beef, if you prefer)
  • Approximately two tablespoons olive oil
  • One medium onion, diced
  • Two bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • Two (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • One (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • One can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Red pepper flakes — a few hearty shakes
  • Cumin — a few hearty shakes
  • Curry powder — one scant tablespoon
  • Tabasco sauce — one scant tablespoon


  1. In a large, nonstick skillet (sprayed with cooking spray), brown turkey. Once turkey is cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.
  2. To a Dutch oven, add approximately two tablespoons of olive oil. Add diced onion and peppers and cook for several minutes (until onions are translucent). Add cooked turkey, tomato sauce, tomatoes, and kidney beans. Stir to incorporate all ingredients.
  3. Here’s where things get fuzzy: add your spices. Yes, I realize that my measurements are hella imprecise, but that was deliberate — I don’t know how spicy you like your chili! If you’re like me, add several hearty shakes of everything. If you’re more timid, take it easy with the red pepper flakes and omit the Tabasco. The world is your oyster! Add as much spice (or as little) as you prefer!
  4. Simmer your chili until much of the liquid has absorbed, about half an hour.
  5. Serve warm with sour cream and cornbread. (I used this recipe by Mark Bittman and was wholly satisfied.)


*Exaggeration. Mom, I love you more than I love pork! I can think of a few other people and things I love more, but for the sake of argument (and continued enjoyment of lunch), I’ll leave the above statement as is.

**Which is completely deserving of the hype, reluctant as I am to admit it. I’m a bit of a curmudgeon and things that truly deserve hype make me cranky, then happy — after all, if the food really is that good, I’m not going to be a jerkface for long.

***Using the term loosely here.


Cornbread Addendum

Per my plan to stop watching so damn much TV and spend my evenings doing things*, I whipped up another batch of Bittman’s cornbread last night. Per my goal to become more mindful (of my surroundings, of my current activity, and so on), I did not multitask while preparing the batter. That’s right: I waited to call my sis until after the batter was in the oven and I’d started cleanup. My attentiveness paid off: this loaf was superlative.

Mark Bittman’s recipe calls for butter or olive oil. I used the latter — more specifically, Stonehouse blood orange olive oil that Hook bought at the Ferry Building. My logic maintained that the citrus notes and faint sweetness of the oil would make this killer bread even more lethal; as sometimes happens, my logic was correct. Enjoyed with a pat of butter and a frosty Spaten, my blood orange cornbread made the perfect post-dinner snack/dessert. (Classifications: who needs ’em? One man’s snack is another’s dessert…)

Lesson learned from this baking experience: it pays to include all the ingredients in a recipe, especially butter (or oil).

My next cornbread experiment will be jalapeno and cheese cornbread. After that: pepper cornbread? Vanilla sugar cornbread? March is going to be Cornbread Month: this much I know is true.


*You know: verifiable activities with a beginning/middle/end, and preferably with a tangible end result.

Cornbread Craving

You might be surprised to learn that I was not a fan of chili when I was young. In fact (and in direct opposition to this week’s red meat theme), I didn’t like most dishes featuring meat. Steaks and chops grossed me out in a major way; burgers were OK so long as they came from McD’s. (For further information about my childhood feelings re: homemade burgers, see this video.) Tacos were the only exception to my general meat abhorrence: I loved filling those Old El Paso taco shells with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, grated cheddar, and a flood of Mild sauce. The ground beef particles were so small that I could barely taste them: hallelujah!

But chili. Chili was maybe my least favorite childhood meal. Not only did I dislike meat, but I had a major problem with green bell peppers. I wonder now whether my hatred for peppers was the result of some conditioned taste aversion, or whether the peppers’ bitterness was too much for my young palate to bear. Whatever the grounds for my anti-pepper stance, my only redemption on chili nights was my mom’s cornbread.

You can't even tell that I forgot to add butter, can you?

Sometimes my mom used a Jiffy mix and made corn muffins (whose single-serve nature didn’t fool me: I always had two!). Sometimes, she made cornbread from scratch, pouring the batter into a greased Pyrex 8×8 pan. Through the lit oven window, I’d watch the batter solidify. I’d beg to cut the bread into squares before it had cooled.

Unlike the other starches we ate as sides — crescent rolls, baked potatoes, savory rice — cornbread was distinct. It was sweeter than other breads, hinting at the lusciousness of dessert territory while remaining fully footed in the realm of the main course. And unlike other side dishes, it was beautiful: vibrant yellow and grainy textured, its composition mimicked sculpture more than bread.

After all these years, my love of cornbread is undiminished. I’ve come to like chili — it was one of my mainstays in grad school, when any dish with beans and veggies ranked high on my meal roster — but cornbread will always be the star of the show.

Last week, when I came upon Mark Bittman’s recipe for Good Old Fashioned Cornbread, I had to try it. It turned out well, despite my failure to add butter to the bottom of the pan (OOOOPS!). (In my defense, I’d had a hella long day at work and was distracted by Jeopardy!) I have no plans today to make chili, but I might make another batch of this bread: snow is predicted, and nothing warms one better than a slab of buttered cornbread, eaten in the warmth of one’s kitchen.