Everything's a mess!
So the Friday Newsletter is here to pile on.
Nothing’s really working right now, is it?
I’m always an optimist about a new year, but folks? January isn’t off to the most auspicious start. The Omicron Variant1 has thrown pretty much everything into disarray, once again scrambling school, work, and social schedules and grinding a lot of things back to an unwelcome halt.
Our school district pulled the plug this week due to widespread staffing shortages, meaning my first-grader has been doing virtual learning the last four days. I’ve had a long-anticipated concert rescheduled (that’s bad!), a monthly business trip cancelled (that’s good!) and despite my prior sneering at the idea, my local grocery store shelves have been looking a little scattershot. Things aren’t nearly as bad as they were in 2020—anyone who thinks so has probably wisely repressed just how bad those early days were—but still: things kinda suck right now!
Well, anger is natural in times like these, but it’s not terribly productive.
The schools want to be open, the grocery stores too. The concerts want to go on, and we all want to return to a normal life, even if there’s a lot of disagreement about what that might look like and how we get there. We’re nearly two years deep in this muck, and there’s no simple solution. We just have to soldier on, mask up, bear down, and do our best to keep riding it out.
And if everything’s already a mess, that means we have permission to make a little mess of our own.
It’s Friday. Let’s have some fun.
Today’s slate includes:
A hearty homestyle meal that isn’t pretty, but sure is tasty!
A drink that inverts the cocktail playbook in a surprising way!
Music, book and movie recommendations that’ll knock your socks off!
Reader-submitted pet photos, those good boys and girls that anchor every ACBN Friday edition.
You! The true heart and soul of the Action Cookbook Newsletter is the comment section, and it’s always a pleasure to start the weekend together.
7) SLOP ‘EM UP!
It’s cold and grey and blustery outside, and there’s no question about it: we’re deep into chili season right now. A snowstorm rolled through Kentucky at the end of last week, and that was all the encouragement I needed to cook up a big bubbling pot of chili. There’s no specific recipe to share from that experience—I was improvising with the ingredients that I had in the pantry and freezer—but it turned out great.
Now, we’ve covered chili extensively here on the ACBN over the last few years; the comments section on this October 2020 post, “The Democracy of Chili”, offered both a great recipe of my own and dozens of exciting reader submissions. More recently, I whipped up a thick, rich and meaty batch that happened to be entirely vegan. There’s countless routes you can go with chili, and nearly all of them are worth traveling.
That’s not what I want to talk about today.
I want to talk about the days after.
You see, when I make chili, I make enough to feed an army. A full Dutch oven’s worth, quarts and quarts of the stuff. What am I to do with all the leftovers? The freezer’s filling up, and it gets a little repetitive to eat chili every day. (Not bad, mind you. Just repetitive.)
I was speculating about this conundrum on a group text (shout out to the FoodBros), and my friend and noted culinarian Peter Berkes made a sage suggestion:
It’s a comfort-food classic stretching back generations; a chili-like meat filling baked under a cornbread crust, two great tastes that taste great together.
For my own spin on it, though, I decided that instead of cornbread, I’d bring in one of my favorite potluck staples, the ever-delicious corn casserole. It’s a creamy, fluffy dish of cornbread mix, creamed corn, corn kernels and sour cream that’s buttery-soft. I’d layer that over my always-thick chili and a layer of cheese, and figured I might just get something magical out of it.
Yep. I sure did. Let’s talk tactics.