Chapel Hill, NC

Aah yes. Chapel Hill. This is the dinner that Jeff, our trusty road trip bodyguard companion became so hungry that at one point during the dinner we noticed all the food was on his side of the table! Excellent.

We staggered into Chapel Hill and into Simon & Claire’s lovely red brick home very late and very tired. It was at this point in the trip that we caught up on Zzz’s. Before we slept and after we ate, Simon took us to Top Of The Hill, which is a swanky joint with an incredible view of the city.

Lets back up to dinner. We walked into Simon and Claire’s home and Simon was belting out “I stroke it to the North, I stroke it to the South, I even stroke it with my mouth-“ in his lilting English accent. I think Claire rolled her eyes at him and giggled.
It’s fun to be with a married couple who firmly love and tolerate each other.

Claire and Simon are English and had lived in the Bay Area for many years before moving to Chapel Hill to raise their babies.

“We love it here. Mild weather, occasional snow, slightly muggy warm in summer, great community, less people, it’s gorgeous really.” – Claire

She said this as she threw together dinner. Have you ever had TexMex in North Carolina prepared by an Englishwoman?

Claire’s Chili Con Carne with Cheesy Cheddar Biscuits

For the shortcake biscuits
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar, grated coarse (about 1 1/2 cups)
four 2-inch pickled jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
1 cup sour cream

For the chili con carne
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 carrots, sliced thin
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, ground coarse in batches in a food processor or by the butcher
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
two 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
a 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 green bell peppers, chopped

Make the shortcake biscuits
Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt, add the butter, and blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the Cheddar and the chilies, add the sour cream, and stir the mixture until it just forms a soft but not sticky dough. Knead the dough gently 6 times on a lightly floured surface, roll or pat it out 1/2 inch thick, and with a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter cut out 6 rounds. Bake the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet in the middle of a preheated 425°F. oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they are golden.

Make the chili con carne
In a kettle cook the onions in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, add the garlic and the carrots, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chuck and cook it over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up any lumps, for 10 minutes, or until it is no longer pink. Add the chili powder, the cumin, the paprika, the oregano, and the red pepper flakes and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce, the broth, and the vinegar, bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer it, covered, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. Add the kidney beans, the bell peppers, and salt and black pepper to taste and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the bell peppers are tender.

Et Voila! Enjoy with Rice rather than Biscuits if you so desire.

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