Serious Entertaining: Chili Night

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

Chili is the ice cream sundae bar of entrées. Instead of sprinkles and chocolate sauce, there is shredded cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro. Instead of whipped cream, sour cream. What can I say, people just love to top their own dishes. And I'll embrace that love.

The problem is that chili night is usually relegated to winter, when a hearty bowl of meat and beans is just the thing to keep out the cold. Personally, I enjoy chili even more in the summer, when vegetables get to be the star of the show. Paired with a slice of spicy cornbread and finished with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, this is my kind of do-it-yourself dining.

Jalapeño Jack Cornbread


This skillet cornbread has a crumbly, moist interior and just the right amount of crisp golden crust. The cheese melts into gooey pockets and the jalapeños add a belly warming heat. My suggestion? Use the corn bread to mop up juices from the chili.

Summer Vegetable Chili


With chili there's more to play with than just toppings. In this version, I like the combination of zucchini, summer squash, and ripe tomatoes, though feel free to add in any vegetable that's in season. Similarly, I use a duo of beans: creamy kidney beans and nutty chickpeas, but black beans or white beans would work just as well. I often make this chili as a vegetarian main, though here I've added chunks of hot sausage for a bit of a meaty, spicy kick.

Chocolate Cinnamon Ice Cream


You won't believe how easy this ice cream is to make. The creamy texture comes from banana, not eggs, and a mixture of dark and milk chocolate ensures it's sweet but not intensely so. The main flavor is cinnamon—if possible use Saigon cinnamon for a spicy, smoky touch.