Okra Chili with Crispy Cornmeal
Used with permission from Whitecap Books
Alterations should be made to fit with your dietary needs.
Please consult with your medical team before you attempt to make this recipe.
Okra Chili with Crispy Cornmeal Serves 4.
Chili Spice Mix
1 Tbsp (15 mL) garlic powder
1 Tbsp (15 mL) ground cumin seeds (use a mortar and pestle)
2 tsp (10 mL) hot or smoked paprika
1 tsp (5 mL) ground coriander seeds (use a mortar and pestle)
1 tsp (5 mL) chili flakes
Combine all the spices in a bowl.
2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
2 1/2 lb (250 g) ground beef
1 bottle dark beer
1 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) okra, sliced ½ inch (1 cm) thick
Chili Spice Mix
1–2 chipotle peppers, canned (depending on desired heat)
2 cups (500 mL) low-sodium beef stock
One 15 oz (400 mL) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 bunch cilantro, stems chopped, leaves picked
Crispy Cornmeal Okra
4 cups (1 L) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) cornmeal
1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) black pepper
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) sweet paprika
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) garlic powder
2 egg whites
2 cups (500 mL) okra, washed and dried well,
tip of stems and bottom ends removed
Chipotle Sour Cream
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream (reduced fat if you prefer)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 chipotle pepper, canned, finely chopped
- Heat 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of the oil in a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the beef and cook until the moisture has evaporated and the beef is browned.
- Drain off any fat that has rendered and add the remaining vegetable oil with the onion, garlic, pepper and okra.
- Sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned.
- Add the chili spice mix and chipotle pepper and stir.
- Deglaze with half of the bottle of beer, then add the browned beef and mix well.
- Add the stock and the diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce to a simmer.
- After 1 hour, add the kidney beans and cilantro stems.
- Cook for half an hour over low heat, uncovered. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and garnish with cilantro leaves.
- In a tall pot, heat the oil to 350°f (175°c).
- Line a baking tray with paper towel.
- Combine the cornmeal, flour, black pepper, paprika and garlic powder in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until frothy.
- Dip the okra in the egg whites, allowing any excess to drip off.
- Dip the okra in the flour mixture to coat and then carefully place in the hot oil.
- Fry the okra until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes.
- Place on the prepared tray and season with salt.
- Repeat with the remaining okra.
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well to incorporate. Serve with crispy cornmeal okra.
At one time I tried to convince people that okra was not slimy and settled on calling it silky. But the truth is—okra is kinda slimy. My advice? Embrace the slime. I love okra. The more you cook it, the “silkier” it gets, and in a chili, with all the chunks of meat and big veg, the smooth silkiness is kind of cool, especially with the crunchy exterior of the okra in the crispy cornmeal okra recipe. There’s a dish in Trinidad called callaloo (also the name of a plant, in case you’re interested), which is leafy greens with okra, cooked down and then buzzed in the food processor. You can spoon it over rice or eat it like a soup. It has a unique texture. If you want to make it and can’t get fresh callaloo plant, use some baby spinach and okra. Now let’s talk about chili.
Chili really is the ultimate one-pot meal. I first encountered it in North America, because we don’t make it in Trinidad. My sister started making it and I loved it. She was the one who got busy with the ground beef and tomatoes, introducing me to chili and lasagna.
Chili reheats beautifully, so make a nice big batch. Keep it handy to reheat. As a kid I used to go out and play road hockey until I was frozen, then I’d come in, heat up some leftover chili, get warmed up and fortified, and go back out.
To be assured of an awesome chili, cook the meat in the pan at high heat in small batches. If you crowd the meat you can’t move it around and it starts to boil rather than brown. Remember, brown, don’t boil. Pour off the fat. If you’re on a low-fat diet you can drain the meat on a paper towel but the fat does add a rich flavour. When the meat is browned, remove it from the pan, then start sweating the onions and garlic. Add the meat back in, followed by the spices.
After you cook all the meat and onions, deglaze the bottom of the pan with a liquid to pull off all the flavour. In this recipe I use beer, which isn't uncommon to see in a chili because they just go so well together. The beer contributes to the cooking liquid. The alcohol boils off and the flavour remains.
The crispy cornmeal okra is like a nice bar snack. Take an okra finger, egg-wash it, roll it in cornmeal and deep-fry it. It will be almost raw, with a bright crunch from the cornmeal coating. And because it’s cooked for such a short time, it’s like a tempura vegetable—the slime doesn’t have time to develop fully during cooking, if you’re not one to “embrace the slime.”
Dairy products like sour cream or yogurt calm the heat in a dish, but here, the chipotle sour cream adds flavour and heat. I like a spiced sour cream because it allows you to make a mild chili that everyone can enjoy and gives the fire-eaters a way to knock up the heat.
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