Monday, October 5, 2009

Turkey Chili Eases Game Day Jitters

While we gave up red meat some years ago, we definitely weren't willing to forgo the many dishes we so love that often star this main burgers, meatballs, tacos, and CHILI! So we've simply reinvented our favorites along the way.

This particular Turkey Chili is one that we avidly look forward to this time of year when temperatures begin to fall like the leaves on our trees and all we want is a dish that's comforting and satisfying. Chili is like hamburgers, hotdogs and apple pie...a classic. Yet it truly doesn't have to have beef in it to be delicious. Besides all that, this season favorite allows me to finally pull out my beautiful red-orange Le Creuset dutch oven (which I secretly pined for and received a few years ago). Its cheery color and heavy presence almost guarantee to deliver a soothing goodness regardless of what's dropped in.

We were, however, unfaltering in our choice for chili this past Saturday as we settled in to watch our daughters' respective schools battle it out on the turf... against each other! Our steaming bowls of chili not only sustained us through more than three hours of nail-biting football, it also warmed our spirits and our resolve to remain neutral. We had experienced this same duel last year, attending the game firsthand, and realized it is one better left for the couch. Where do you sit in the stadium that simulates Switzerland? Who do you root for? It was entirely impossible. Recognizing these pitfalls, we were more than content to witness this year's match-up from the quiet comfort of our family room, buoyed by our chili and cornbread, and happy that the game was VERY close... allowing us to keep with the action until the final play. And... the winner? Well, perhaps more apt than not, it was the school that still remains on our bankroll! (Another season to go and, I suppose, we'll truly be Swiss.)

The key to the success of this chili is in the seasoning. Turkey is a lean meat but also relatively bland. Giving it a little punch before you get too far along in the process is important. And, adding a good mix of seasonings as it simmers assures that you'll bring its flavor up to (and, perhaps, beyond) its beef brethren. Topped with a good shredded cheddar cheese and some diced onion, it holds its weight with the best of "chilis." And, of course, a little hot-out-of-the-oven cornbread with a pat of melting better atop doesn't hurt either.

Turkey Chili
serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced and divided
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups green bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 pounds ground white turkey (you can use a combination of white and dark meat if you prefer)
4 tablespoons ground chili powder (more if desired), divided
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their juices
3-4 cups water (depending on how "soupy" you like your chili)
1 can (14.5 ounces) kidney beans, with juices (rinse and drain, if you prefer)
1 can (14.5 ounces) chili beans, with juices (rinse and drain, if you prefer)
4 tablespoons fire-roasted green chilies, diced (or diced jalapeno if you want more heat!)
shredded cheddar cheese, for topping

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large dutch oven, or heavy pot, over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the diced onions (reserving remainder for topping), garlic and bell pepper. Saute until onions are just slightly translucent...basically just "sweating" the vegetable mixture. Move mixture to side of pot and add 2 tablespoons olive oil to cleared half of pot (or pull veggie mix out for a bit while you start your turkey). Add ground turkey to oil and break up and cook apart from veggie mixture for about 1-2 minutes before incorporating all of veggies into the turkey. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and paprika to meat mixture to season. Mix well and continue cooking until meat is just cooked through. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

2. Add diced tomatoes, water, beans, chilies, and remaining seasonings to pot (taste before adding salt as canned juices from beans may add additional saltiness). Stir well and reduce heat to medium low. Let simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes to heat through and meld flavors. Add additional chili powder, salt and/or pepper to taste. Serve with freshly shredded cheese and diced onions.

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