Fiery, filling chili, piping hot cornbread, and a big tossed salad are the perfect ingredients for a relaxing weekend party with old friends. Add salsa or guacamole and chips to start the party and a smooth, soothing bread pudding to end it, and you’ve got yourself a great evening.
Not everyone likes their chili hot and spicy so you might want to make two batches -- one mild, the other nearly flammable!
Plan Ahead and Make the Chili
Chili is one of those wonderful stews that benefits from being made ahead of time. Even two days before the party is acceptable, and 24 hours before serving is perfect.
We suggest a chili made with ground turkey breast, corn kernels, and pumpkin puree to give it a seasonal flair. You may decide to go the more traditional route and use a mixture of chunked beef and pork, instead, for your favorite recipe.
Regardless of your chili preferences, most chili stews begin with browned onions, garlic, and peppers and end with judicious additions of chili powder and other spices.
The number and type of chilies you decide to use will determine the heat of the stew, as will the quality and strength of the chili powder.
Jalapenos, serranos, and other small chili peppers provide good heat. Go easy with these – they develop as the chili simmers.
Most chili powders sold in supermarkets are quite mild. Those sold in specialty shops and other emporiums that pride themselves on quality spices might be more potent.
Add chili powder in small amounts – regardless of the recipe – and taste as you go along. This is the hallmark of good cook: one who seasons and tastes, seasons and tastes. And then lets the food cook for awhile and adjusts the seasonings again.
Give yourself a break and buy salsa, guacamole, and corn chips. Many commercial brands are excellent and some specialty stores sell their own high-grade versions. If you want, add some extra cilantro or chopped scallions to the jarred salsa to make it your own.
Of course, if you want to make your own salsa or guacamole, go for it. Homemade is always better and you can add your own special ingredients.
For an extra touch, heat the chips very slightly in the oven before serving them. This crisps them and brings out their full flavor.
To do so, spread them on a baking sheet and put them in a preheated 250°F. oven for a few minutes.
As important as the appetizers are, dessert is even more so for some folks. We suggest a rich bread pudding with this menu. This one is made with chocolate and a little coffee, flavors everyone loves.
Bread pudding is not traditionally Mexican, but it has the custardy smoothness of flan and so complements this meal perfectly.
Don’t Forget Drinks
If your guests like alcoholic beverages, this is the ideal meal for ice cold beer. It’s also custom-made for margaritas. You can buy very good margarita mixes in liquor stores and some supermarkets -- add tequila or rum and you’re off!
For those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks, serve soda, sparkling water, or icy apple cider. Chili is a dish that demands something cold and spritely to wash it down. Make sure you have several pitchers on the table!