When you purchase a half a cow, you end up with a bazillion pounds of ground beef. Now, true, it is wonderful grassfed, lean ground beef, but still, that’s alot of ground beef. You start collecting ground beef recipes the same way you used to collect salt and pepper shakers. You begin to wonder if there is anything wrong with having meatloaf and spaghetti bolognese several times a week. When you find a recipe called Spiced Beef Cornbread Cobbler at Epicurious, you make it.
And you like it. You don’t follow the directions exactly, because they have you dirty a skillet and a pie plate. You decide to do it all in cast iron skillet, which possibly makes the meat a little drier than if it was transferred to a pie plate. You like the subtle flavor of the cinnamon, the spice of the cayenne. You think that your dumplings would have been a little lighter if you hadn’t used the coarse ground cornmeal that you use for polenta. You smile as you erase one pound of ground beef from the list hanging above the freezer.
Spiced Beef Cobbler
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 ounces coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a 9 1/2-inch (6-cup capacity) pie plate.
Cook onion in 2 tablespoons oil in a deep 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef and cook, breaking up large lumps, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Add sugar, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and briskly simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 8 to 10 minutes.
While beef simmers, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, egg, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small bowl, then stir into cornmeal mixture until just combined. Fold in 1/2 cup cheese.
Spoon cooked spiced beef into pie plate with a slotted spoon, reserving juices in skillet. Skim off and discard fat from juices if desired, then pour juices over beef in pie plate.
Spoon 4 mounds of corn bread batter over beef, then sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons cheese over batter. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of corn bread comes out clean, 15 to 25 minutes.
Serve cobbler warm.