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Basic-But-Beautiful Beef Chili

Basic-But-Beautiful Beef Chili
T. Susan Chang for NPR /

Chili is so easy to make, I'm almost embarrassed to be writing a recipe for it. If you've made chili before, you don't need my help. If you haven't, this is a good first chili with endless potential for variation: Try using different herbs, different dry spices or different chilis. It's hard to go wrong.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 or 2 chipotles en adobo, or dried chipotles rehydrated in hot water, chopped

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 pounds ground beef

3 tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 12-ounce package frozen corn

1 large can pinto beans or other beans (cannellini, navy, black-eyed peas, etc.), drained (optional)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. Add the onion, cumin and celery seed, and gently cook until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped chipotles and garlic and stir together for another minute or 2.

Raise the heat to high and add the beef and honey. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook the beef, stirring occasionally, until it loses its red color and begins to brown a bit. Add the oregano and tomatoes and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release any brown bits. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to a bare simmer, and cook for about an hour. Check every 20 minutes, stirring and adding a little water to keep the chili from sticking.

After an hour, stir in the corn and the beans, if using, and add water again if dry. Heat for an additional 15 minutes over low heat, until piping hot throughout.

Serve over rice with optional garnishes: avocado, scallion, sour cream, crumbled queso fresco or shredded cheddar, hot sauce, etc.

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