Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What is comfort food? An ode to ground beef

The foods of my childhood that I consider "comforting" are decidedly European in style - lots of "wursts" and potatoes to be found.  Ok, and ground beef, lots of it.  I still think fondly of the meals in Berlin, Munich, Prague, and Slovakia that evoke those same feelings of comfort and satisfaction. 

I know some of you that read this may turn your nose up at ground beef. From a foodie snob perspective, I can see the point. But really, some of the best food I've tasted has ground beef in it and even the most stuck-up food snob goes slummin' from time to time (generally under the guise of eating some authentic "ethnic" cuisine previously unfamiliar). What they don't know won't hurt them, right? I have news for food snobs - ground beef has tons of flavor! That burger you chow down - ground beef! Those empanadas you love at 2 am after leaving a club? Ground beef too! If you're a purist, you could grind your own (and yes, I have a meat grinder and I can do that), but honestly, on a random Tuesday night when I get home at 8:45 pm from work, do I REALLY want to bother?

I found myself thinking tonight about what would make me "comforted" after yet another LONG and trying day at the office.  Instead of my expected yearning for sausages (the "wurst") and 'taters (the potato component) that my husband would probably have requested, I found myself longing for Tex-Mex flavors.  Unwilling to purchase yet another bad version of fajitas at my local Chili's (they have great fajitas in Texas, not sure what the problem is in Florida), I turned to my pantry and another childhood staple - ground beef.

Yeah, didn't think you would want to bother either....  So, with that, I went to the subconscious part of my brain craving some comfort and asked it what it really might want on a night I'm missing my sweetie and generally feeling down.  The answer?  Tex-Mex flavors wrapped up in a ground beef package.  While our culture has decidedly focused their "versatility" monniker on chicken breasts, and deservedly so, an unsung hero in the home cook's arsenal is ground beef.  I'm not suggesting you go out and get some insanely fatty ground beef.  Ok, maybe for a juicy burger since you really need some fat to make that work, but for everyday use you can choose a variety of fat content options and yes, even lean versions with only 7% fat. 

Realizing that I only wanted to spend about 20 minutes cooking, I searched ye old pantry.  I found a bunch of spices with a Tex-Mex flavor, canned black beans, frozen corn, salsa, and ground beef.  Guess what?  They make a pretty tasty "kitchen-sink" dish, only took 20 minutes to cook, and satisfied my craving.  So here's my tribute to ground beef, a la Tex-Mex style:

"Kitchen Sink" Tex-Mex Main Dish
1 lb 85% lean ground round
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup store bought salsa
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. minced garlic or garlic powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips and shredded cheese for garnish

Cook onion until translucent; add ground beef and brown over medium heat until cooked through.  Once cooked, add in corn, black beans, salsa, and spices through oregano.  Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low.  Cook over low heat five minutes or until heated through.  Add cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste.  Serve in bowls with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese as a garnish.

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