In Dinner in Five Ivy Manning shares 5-element menus that are so easy, you can pull them off even on a weeknight. Cooking hacks, time management tips, shopping secrets, and beverage pairings, she covers all the bases, so you can enjoy the dinner party, too. Today’s meal? A simple cocktail to sip while awaiting trick-or-treaters, a Halloween feast of beef chili with cornbread, and even a candy-themed dessert for the grown-ups.
Halloween is simply not right without chili. My mom started the chili-on-Halloween ritual decades ago. Ever the pragmatist, she would make a slow cooker full of chili and hold it on the warm setting until all three of her kids finally came home, freezing cold and dragging pillowcases full of candy. Before we could get to the serious business of sorting, bartering, and munching on our sugary spoils, she would make us eat a bowl of chili. To make the wholesomeness a bit more enticing, Halloween chili featured steak instead of hamburger and fewer beans than she usually subjected us to.
I continue my family’s Halloween chili tradition to this day, and it’s one of my favorite evenings of the year. We invite a few other kid-free couples over for dinner and watch the It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror; and the 80’s thrasher classic Halloween while sipping cocktails and taking turns answering the door to hand out candy, chili bowl in hand. It’s all the fun of our old costuming days without having to go out in the rain to get treats.
To Start : Dark & Stormy
A few years back, I made a pitcher of Dark and Stormy cocktails for my Halloween feast and now I’m not allowed to skip it. To serve 6, mix 4 cups of natural ginger ale (I like Hansen’s) with 1 1/4 cups aged rum, and 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, add ice in a large pitcher. Serve with lime wedges.
The Main : Beef Sirloin and Black Bean Slow Cooker Chili (recipe below)
The trick to getting nicely browned meat without having to cook it on the stove and splatter oil everywhere? Broil the beef in the oven before adding it to the slow cooker. Instead of using mushy canned beans (sorry mom), I start this chili with dried black beans. There is no need to soak black beans when you cook them for a long time in the slow cooker, and the texture and taste are amazing. I add the tomatoes at the very tail end of cooking this chili, as their acidity would otherwise toughen the beans. Since our friends run the gamut as to dietary restrictions, I always make a quick batch of vegan chili on the stovetop so everyone is included.
The Side Dish : Toppings
Being from the dairy state, my mom always put out grated cheddar cheese and sour cream to decorate the top of the Halloween chili. I still include these because their creaminess helps cut some of the heat from the chili, but I’ve added sliced radishes and diced avocado to the decorative offerings for a little west coast flair. Guests love to build their own bowls of chili, and they can try different combos when they come back for seconds.
The Other Side : Cornbread
No bowl of chili is complete without some cornbread served on the side. I’m a Yankee, so I’m not super-fussy about what sort. I do have standards, though, so I won’t serve store-bought cornbread to guests. At the very least I grab a box of Jiffy cornbread muffin mix, add some cheddar cheese, and top each muffin with a slice of jalapeno pepper to dress it up a little. The entire procedure takes about 4 minutes to mix and 15 minutes to bake. One box of Jiffy makes 6 standard-size muffins, no matter what their box claims. If you’re serving more than 6 people, or want extra muffins, make 2 boxes.
The Big Finish : Snickers Magic Shell Sundaes
There is no shame in dipping into the big bowl of candy meant for the trick-or-treaters, but if you feel like splashing out a little, may I suggest homemade Snickers Magic Shell sundaes? In a large microwave-safe measuring cup, combine 2 (full size) Snickers bars cut into pieces, 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, and 6 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Microwave on 50% heat in 20 second bursts, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and most of the nougat have melted. Drizzle over vanilla ice cream and let it sit for 1 minute to harden into a delicious crunchy shell.
The Shopping List:
- 2 six packs ginger ale
- 5 cups beef or chicken broth
- 2 cups dried black beans
- Chili powder, oregano, cumin, cinnamon stick
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes in puree (such as Pomi)
- Cornbread mix
- 2 Snickers bars
- Chocolate chips
- Coconut oil
- 4 limes
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 bunch radishes
- 1 large avocado
- 2 1/2 lb sirloin steak tips
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- One (8 oz) container sour cream
- Vanilla ice cream
- 1 bottle aged rum
- 1 (12 fl oz) bottle lager beer
Beef Sirloin and Black Bean Slow Cooker Chili
Serves 6 to 8
Recipe by Ivy Manning
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 to 3 lb. sirloin steak tips cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoons salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 cups beef or chicken broth
- 2 cups dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 bottle (12 fl oz) lager beer (or pumpkin beer, if you’re in the spirit)
- 3 tablespoons chili powder (I like Gebhardt’s chili powder)
- 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle pepper in adobo
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes in tomato puree (Such as Pomi)
Preheat the broiler on high and adjust the oven rack so it is 6 inches below the broiling element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the beef on the baking sheet and toss it with the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Spread the meat out in a single layer and broil, stirring once, until the meat is well browned, about 5 minutes total.
Place the meat and accumulated juices in a large (6-quart) slow cooker.
Add the broth, beans, onions, beer, chili powder, chipotle pepper, oregano, cumin, cinnamon stick, and remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and stir to combine. Set the cooker on low heat and cook until the beans are tender, 8 to 9 hours. Add the tomatoes, increase heat to high, cover, and cook for 45 minutes or until all the flavors have melded and the steak chunks are fork-tender. Discard cinnamon stick before serving.