I confess that I cook very little these days. Between frequent guests, regular business travel, and the Chicago heat and humidity, I have little opportunity or desire to step into the kitchen these days. Still, eating out all the time gets tiresome. I can’t explain how exactly but home cooking just tastes different. Often, it tastes better. So last night, even though I was tired and cranky and my apartment was sweltering, I turned on the stove and oven and got cooking. I wanted something simple but hearty, comfort food requiring little effort. I began with the Pioneer Woman’s Simple, Perfect Chili as starting point but made enough changes to have a recipe that I can call my own. (This recipe is easily doubled but as printed here, it’s the perfect amount for anyone who has less than a large ranch to feed.)
Sara’s Simple, Perfect Chili
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
1 chopped yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 pound ground beef
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup canned sweet corn, drained
Optional Ingredients For Serving
Shredded cheddar cheese
1. Begin by measuring the spices: chopped garlic, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and chili powder.
2. Place onion in a large pot with a little olive oil and saute until translucent.
3. Add the ground beef in and throw in the garlic.
4. Cook the beef until brown.
5. Drain off the excess fat.
6. Pour in the tomato sauce, followed by 1/2 cup of water, the spices, and the salt.
7. 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.
8. Add the beans and corn. Simmer for 10 minutes.
9. Serve with shredded cheddar, chopped scallions, cilantro, and avocado.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, make some cheddar corn muffins to go with your chili.
Cheddar Corn Muffins
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
1-1/4 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 to 3 tbsp. warm melted unsalted butter or bacon fat
4 scallions chopped
1 cup of canned sweet corn, drained
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper cups. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and buttermilk. Now combine both bowls and mix just until moistened. Fold in the butter or bacon fat, scallions, corn, and cheese.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400°F for 15 to 20 minutes until or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.