Recipe Road Test: Chicken Chili & Skillet Cornbread from "Now & Again"

Seira Wilson on October 04, 2018

NowAndAgain_CORNBREAD_200H.jpgThe concept of Julia Turshen's new book Now & Again is perfect for busy home cooks. Make something now and then use the leftovers for a follow-up meal. Yes, we've seen this done before, but Turshen's "again" recipes are often unexpected and pretty genius. 

I made the Chicken + Black-Eyed Pea Chili with Skillet Cornbread with Cheddar + Scallions. The chili was fantastic. Ditto for the leftover chili nachos recipe eaten a couple days later when the chili was extra flavorful. I was skeptical of using no water but the tomatoes break down and give the chili the perfect consistency.  I also really love the addition of pickled jalapeno juice.  Secret weapon, that one.  I over-mixed then overcooked the cornbread. Double argh. But even kind of dense and crunchy on the bottom the flavor was good.  I'll definitely make both recipes again.

Here are the recipes and photos for both chili and cornbread from Now & Again so you can try them yourself.  In the book Turshen also includes a lovely salad to go alongside, but these two ought to give you a sense of how great her recipes are.

Chicken + Black-Eyed Pea Chili
Serves 4

This chicken chili is a testament to a well-stocked pantry (cheers to short grocery lists!). It turns staples like onions, spices, and canned tomatoes and beans into a family-friendly meal. The secret ingredient is the splash of brine from a jar of pickled jalapeños (which could also be distilled white vinegar) that gets stirred in right before serving. It doesn’t make the chili spicy. Instead, it just kind of perks everything up and adds that extra dimension that happens when something acidic touches something slowly cooked.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1½ lb [680 g] boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tsp kosher salt
1 large red onion, finely diced
2 bell peppers (whatever color you like), stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp red chile powder
1 Tbsp dried oregano
One 28-oz [794-g] can whole peeled tomatoes
One 15½-oz [445-g] can black-eyed peas
3 Tbsp pickling liquid from jar of pickled jalapeño chiles, or 1½ Tbsp distilled white vinegar
Hot sauce, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, cilantro, pickled jalapeño chiles, and sliced scallions for serving (all optional)

In a large, heavy pot heated over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chicken in a single layer, working in batches if necessary, and sprinkle with 1 tsp of the salt (divide the salt between the batches if necessary). Cook, stirring now and then, until browned all over, about 15 minutes. Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, cumin, chile powder, and oregano and cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables begin to soften and brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the black-eyed peas with their liquid, and the remaining 1 tsp salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

Cover with the lid slightly ajar to let some steam escape. Cook, stirring now and then and breaking up the tomatoes as you stir, until all of the flavors have melded and the chicken is very tender, about 1 hour. (If you’re using thighs, the meat will begin to shred.) Add the pickled jalapeño liquid, then taste the chili and add more jalapeño liquid and/or salt if needed. (If you can, let the chili cool down, then cover and refrigerate it overnight and reheat it the next day. The flavor will be even better.)

If using, set out the hot sauce, sour cream, Cheddar cheese, avocado, cilantro, pickled jalapeños, and scallions. Serve the chili piping hot.

Skillet Cornbread with Cheddar + Scallions
Serves 6 to 8

Years of cornbread trial and error have brought me to one recipe that is rich but not just cake going by another name (which so much cornbread is). It’s slightly tangy thanks to buttermilk and sharp Cheddar cheese, but it’s just as good without the cheese if you prefer it less adorned. The best and most important part is the piping-hot cast-iron skillet. It’s impossible to get the beautiful crust on the cornbread without it. Be sure to park the skillet in the oven when you turn it on so it can heat up while you’re measuring and mixing.

1 cup [120 g] all-purpose flour
1 cup [140 g] stone-ground yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs
1¼ cups [300 ml] buttermilk
7 Tbsp [100 g] unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¾ cup [75 g] coarsely grated sharp white Cheddar cheese
6 scallions, roots and dark green tops trimmed off, white and light green parts thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to 425°F [220°C]. At the same time, place an 8-in [20-cm] cast-iron skillet in the oven to get it really hot.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and 6 Tbsp [85 g] of the butter until well blended. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir everything well to combine. Stir in the cheese and scallions.

Carefully take the skillet out of the oven and add the remaining 1 Tbsp butter to it. Tilt the skillet to spread the butter evenly over the bottom and sides. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the skillet and smooth it into an even layer. Return the skillet to the oven and turn down the oven temperature to 400°F [200°C]. Bake the cornbread until it’s beautifully golden brown, firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Let the cornbread cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges. It is best served straight from the skillet. Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days (toast before serving).


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