November 9th, 2009
With the onset of cooler weather and my (second!) ChowBaby’s arrival, I have kicked into bulk cooking mode. Big pots of warm comfort food that can last several meals (or stock my freezer with quickly re-heated dinners) are a welcome lifesaver. Lasagna, soups, beef stew and, of course, chili.
I’ve always wanted to have a go-to chili recipe, but have never found the right one. In fact, I got so tired of trying variations that I gave up on chili for a long time. But I had a hankering the other day after reading a review of The Pioneer Woman’s cookbook that specifically called out her Simple, Perfect Chili. The thing that struck me most was that her recipe did, indeed, look simple. I usually go for complicated “speciality” chili recipes.
Wait a minute!
As I scanned the Pioneer Woman’s short ingredients list, it dawned on me: I had been making chili too complicated!
But was the Pioneer Woman’s recipe too simple to really be perfect? Let’s put it this way: I finally found my go-to chili! I made the recipe as the Pioneer Woman published it. I used all of the optional ingredients, but ended up substituting polenta for masa. It felt like a risky move, but that was all that I had on hand. It ended up working fine, though I wonder if masa would have lent even more rich, corn flavor. Next time, I’m going to try making this recipe with ground turkey and chipotles. I’d also like to try the beef version with diced zucchini and corn.
Hmm… am I making things complicated again? Probably. So, you know what: scratch that. For now, stick to the Pioneer Woman’s version. It’s truly simple and perfect. Just. As. Is.
Simple, Perfect Chili
from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
(can be adapted for kids 10+ mos*)
Note: Here’s the recipe as it was shared on Serious Eats. I used polenta instead of masa, and also used all organic ingredients.
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tbsp chili powder
2 lbs ground beef
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 c masa (corn flour)
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
1 can diced tomatoes
shredded cheese (for serving)
onion, chopped (for serving)
1. Place the ground beef in a large pot and throw in the garlic.
2. Cook the beef until brown and drain off the excess fat.
3. Pour in the tomato sauce, followed by the garlic, spices and salt.
4. Stir together well, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes overly dry, add in 1/2 cup water at a time as needed.
5. After an hour, place the masa in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup of water and stir together with a fork. (I used the same technique for the polenta.)
6. Dump the masa mixture into the chili and stir together well. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and all more masa paste and/or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or add more corn flavor. Add the beans, jalapeño and tomatoes if desired. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve topped with cheese and onions.
*Skip the cayenne and jalapeño, and reduce the chili powder to keep this super mild if feeding to young eaters.