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Cornbread-Crusted Bean Chili
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    Cornbread-Crusted Bean Chili

  • 3 cups dried blackbeans, or 6 cups canned blackbeans
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons ground dried chile, such as ancho or pasilla, preferably freshly ground
  • l/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic
  • 4 cups peeled, seeded, drained and chopped ripe or canned tomato
  • 1 teaspoon chopped canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stoneground
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • l/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, or canola oil or another high-quality vegetable oil
  • 2 cups fresh, thawed frozen, or drained canned corn kernels
  • 2 cups freshly shredded Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh or canned hot chile such as jalapeño or serrano
  • Fresh cilantro (coriander) sprigs or leaves for garnish
  • CHILI:
    In a small skillet, combine the cumin seed, oregano, ground chile, cayenne, and paprika. Place over medium heat and toast, stirring or shaking the pan frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes; do not allow to burn. Pour onto a plate to cool, then transfer to a spice grinder or heavy mortar with a pestle and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

    In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and reserved spice mixture and sauté about 1 minute longer. Stir in the tomato and chipotle chile and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to achieve a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.

    Transfer 6 cups of the cooked or canned beans and their liquid to the mixture. (Cover and refrigerate or freeze any remaining beans for another purpose.) Add water if needed to cover the beans barely. Simmer until the mixture is well flavored, about 30 minutes.

    Preheat an oven to 350° F. Grease a 3-quart shallow baking dish, a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, or 8 individual-sized baking dishes.

    Remove the chili from the heat and stir in the lime juice or vinegar and chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings. Drain in a colander or sieve to remove excess liquid, which can be saved for adding to a soup or other dish. Transfer the drained chili to the prepared baking dish(es). Set aside.

    To make the Tex-Mex Cornbread, in a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix well. Add the eggs, sour cream or yogurt, melted butter or oil, corn, cheese, onion, and chile and stir just until the mixture is blended; do not overmix.

    Spread the cornbread batter evenly over the top of the chili, dividing it equally if using individual baking dishes. Bake until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cornbread layer comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Garnish with cilantro sprigs or leaves and serve hot.

    Makes 8 servings.

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