By Emily Baran

Holidays are an interesting concept.  For some, holidays mean the big Thanksgiving, the Hanukkah or Christmas evening and morning feasts.  For others, holidays mean getting family together whenever the time presents itself.  Due to the fact that my family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, in my book holidays mean spending time with family and eating a meal “family style” regardless of the holiday.  Families have certain dishes that are served at specific holidays, traditionally speaking.  Who said that family gatherings cannot have certain traditional dishes?  My family gatherings consist of a hot bowl of chili topped with a variety of the following: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, small diced red onion, scallions and a couple of pieces of jalapeno corn bread.

Homemade Chili 

1 onion, medium diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground beef

3 jalapenos, minced

1 6-oz can of tomato paste

1 bottle of beer (lager works best)

1 green pepper, medium diced

2 24-oz cans of Del Monte Diced Tomatoes (I prefer the zesty option)

1 8-oz can of corn

1 24-oz can kidney beans (dark or light)

1 24-oz can black beans

Sweat onions and garlic in oil.  Add ground beef and cover to cook.  Once ground beef is cooked, add jalapenos and cook for approximately three minutes.  Add tomato paste and stir in.  Allow flavors to cook together.  Pour in beer into pot and cook off alcohol.  Add green pepper and diced tomatoes and cook covered for about 45 minutes.  Open and strain corn, kidney beans and black beans, and add to the pot.  Cover and cook for approximately 30 minutes longer.  Season as you go with salt, pepper, tabasco and any other spices you enjoy.

Jalapeno Cornbread 

4 ozs sugar

2/3 cup milk powder

1 tsp. salt

6 ozs bread flour

1 ½ oz cornmeal

½ oz baking powder

2 eggs

5 ozs water

1/4 tsp. vanilla

3 ozs corn oil

1 ear of corn

4 small jalapenos


Parmesan cheese

Cut the corn kernels, toast and puree in a blender.  Combine all dry ingredients.  Add the eggs, corn oil, vanilla, water and pureed corn kernels and mix together.  Bring cast iron skillet coated with corn oil to temperature.  Pour batter into skillet and place in 325-degree oven.  Remove when the top begins to turn brown.  Sprinkle paprika and parmesan cheese over the top and return to the oven.  Remove when the cheese melts.

An afterthought of family gatherings is the family brunch using leftovers from the chili family gathering.  Have some friends and family over to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving or the second or third day of Hanukkah and make the following: Cowboy Eggs.  Estimate two eggs per guest and combine all the eggs in a bowl and mix.  Add any desired herbs; basil, oregano, parsley or sorrel.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring a pan to temperature with an oiled base.  When pan is hot, pour in eggs.  Let them sit for a couple of minutes to form a base and then gently shift the eggs with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Once the eggs are cooked through, arranged them in a circle on a serving platter leaving a well in the middle.  Pour the chili in the middle of the eggs and enjoy.

Homemade chili and jalapeno cornbread are perfect for any gathering whether for the holidays, for football Sunday or a traditional Sunday family dinner.

Emily Baran is training to become a chef at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD and is currently working at a restaurant in McLean, VA.  She can be contacted at: [email protected]

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