I read cookbooks like other people read romance novels — cover to cover, absorbing every delicious measurement and instruction as if it were the feud between Edward and Jacob (sorry, I had to throw in the Twilight reference).
As soon as I received my copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond (thank you, Mr. UPS guy), it was no different. As soon as my son was in bed, I settled down on the couch with a cup of tea to read my new book. Bliss.
As I was reading through P-Dub’s (cute, huh?!) recipes, artfully intertwined with great stories of her transition from big-city girl to a pioneer woman who works a ranch, I came across her recipe for Simple, Perfect Chili. Ding! Ding! Ding! I just found my recipe for the cookbook review!
Compliments of It’s a Keeper
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
1 large onion, diced (PW doesn’t use onion)
4 garlic cloves (PW uses 2 cloves)
1 tsp ground oregano
1 Tbsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 pounds ground beef
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce (PW uses an 8 oz can)
1 tsp salt
¼ cup corn meal (PW uses masa, a corn flour, found in Mexican food section of many supermarket)
2 cans kidney beans, drained (PW uses 1 can each of pinto and kidney beans)
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
1 can diced tomatoes and chilies (the Rotel brand)
Shredded cheddar cheese
In a large pot, or dutch oven, add diced onion, garlic and ground beef. Cook the beef until brown and drain off the excess fat.
Pour in the tomato sauce, spices and salt. Stir 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 ½ cup water at a time as needed.
After an hour, place the corn meal in a small bowl. Add ½ cup water and stir together with a fork.
Dump the corn meal mixture into the chili.
Stir together well. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and add more corn meal paste and/or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or to add more corn flavor. Add the beans, jalapeño, and tomatoes if desired. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve with shredded cheddar, chopped onion, and Fritos.
Is It a Keeper?
This recipe was pretty good! As you can see, I did a bit of tweaking (sorry, it’s my nature). I just couldn’t bring myself to only use 2 cloves of garlic. I think it’s against my religion or something. It also didn’t feel right to not add onions right from the start. And, since I like my chili to be saucy (pronounce: saw-say), I added some extra tomato sauce. Maybe it’s because I’m saw-say?!?
I also couldn’t find masa in the grocery stores where I live. I guess there’s not much demand for such a product in northeastern PA. So I did a little research and found that corn meal could be substituted in equal quantities. I have to admit, I found this step of the recipe a bit odd (remember, I’m from the north). But, I really do think it added a nice dimension to the recipe.
The finished product was pretty good. My family liked it (even my 5 year old), but we agreed that we needed to kick up the heat a bit. Now, that could be (probably is) my fault. I was very cautious with the various peppers. I was burned once before (that pun was totally intended) in my Chili Test that I did. I nearly burned my lips off! So I took it easy this time. Better safe than sorry.
I really liked the texture of this chili. I think the corn meal actually gave it some heft and made it really hearty and filling. Overall, I’m going to give this recipe a big thumbs up! Definitely a keeper!
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