March 2, 2013

Turkey Chili

When there's two feet of snow on the ground (holy cow it's almost March for Heaven's sake!), nothing warms the soul quite like a heaping bowl of smokin' chili.  And, in keeping with the Luv'n Spoonfuls way, this chili also warms the heart by being chock full of healthy ingredients.  I've used ground turkey breast instead of beef, which reduces the amount of 'bad' fat considerably, but nothing is lost in the flavor department.  This chili can hold its own next to any beef-based version; I've employed a little 'trick' to steer things more toward 'moo' than 'gobble' (see below).  This is a spicy recipe, not for sissies, and packs a punch, but could easily be toned down a bit to suit anyone's heat tolerance.  

I love, love, love peppers...any shape, color or variety.  I've used several versions here to help add layers of flavor--fresh, canned and smoked.  I like to use a variety of fresh bell peppers for all the beautiful colors and sweet flavors they add.  Canned green chilis add a little sweet heat and color, and pureed smoked Chipotle peppers add some depth and complexity.  They are all packed with vitamins, nutrients and healthy compounds, which is great (but I love them because they taste so darn good).

And, of course, garlic...I can hardly make anything savory without at least a smidge of garlic (there's a little more than a smidge in this recipe).  Garlic is fabulous for cardiovascular health, and some recent studies suggest that garlic may help inhibit the number of fat cells we form in our bodies...who knew such a homely little allium could be so powerful?

This recipes makes a big pot of chili, enough for eight people or so, or enough for four to five with glorious leftovers!  I served mine with beautiful blue corn muffins (recipe here).  Some interesting additions to the chili might include roasted corn, roasted tomatoes, or jalapeños, but the brood here prefers this version.  The dark beer adds even more flavor and provides a nice foil to the spices.  A stout or any dark ale will do, but make sure it is something you would want to drink on its own. Chocolate, coffee and/or malty tones work best.

I admit to using a very long list of spices, but I think it results in a wonderful composition of flavor (not to mention there are health benefits to all the spices too).  Two kinds of paprika, sweet and smoked, add some sweet complexity, while two kinds of chili powder, regular red chili powder and Ancho chili powder, provide the 'chili' base.  The 'fire' is stoked with some black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, Aleppo pepper, and red pepper flakes.  The heat level can easily be adjusted.  But for me though, it ain't chili if a few dainty dabs to the eyes with a napkin aren't necessary...just sayin'.  

OK, for the 'trick'.  I brown up small clumps of ground turkey breast in olive oil, in a single layer in the pan, getting a nice, brown crust on the meat.  Just before things go to far, I deglaze several times while browning with some beef broth.  Stir, brown, deglaze...stir, brown, deglaze.  You get the idea.  I think this is an important step as turkey breast doesn't have a whole lot of flavor on its own.  This method infuses the turkey with a more traditional beef taste, and helps to darken the lighter turkey meat.

A fiery pot 'o love to help melt away the icy gloom of a winter that, here, just won't seem to go away.  

 Turkey Chili:

2 pounds ground turkey breast
4 large cans of mixed beans, 25 ounces each (I used black, cannellini, pinto and kidney), rinsed and drained
1 small can of green chilis (four ounces)
1 to 2 tablespoons smoked Chipotle peppers, pureed (I pop a small can of the peppers in the food processor, and reserve the remaining puree in the fridge)
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
4 cups of beef broth
1/2 to 1 bottle of dark beer
3 large bell peppers, a variety of red, orange and yellow, large dice
1 large onion, medium dice
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil for sautéing
Juice of one-half lime

Spices (adjust to personal preference):
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp Ancho chili powder
1/2 cup traditional chili powder
1 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Optional garnishes:
A dallop of Greek yogurt or sour cream
Grated cheese
Sprinkling of chopped, fresh Italian parsley or cilantro

In a large stock pot, saute' the peppers and onions in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat, until translucent.  Add the garlic, and continue to cook until just the garlic just begins to brown.  Remove the pepper mixture to a large bowl.  Return the stock pot to the heat, add another splash of olive oil, and in a single layer, brown teaspoon-size pieces of ground turkey breast, stirring only after a nice, brown 'crust' is formed on one side of the meat.  Salt and pepper the meat generously.  Add beef stock as necessary to keep from burning and to deglaze as you go.  Depending on the size of your pot, you will likely have to do this in two batches to cook all of the meat.  Once the meat is deeply browned, return the pepper mixture to the pot.  Add the beans, canned chilis, tomato paste, chipotle puree, beef broth and about 1/2 bottle of beer (about one and one-half cups).  Stir to integrate all the ingredients.  Now add all of the spices.  Add about 1 cup of water, or enough to get a thin, soupy consistency.  Bring everything to a boil then turn down the heat to a low simmer, and continue to cook for at least 30 to 45 minutes (I like to cook mine longer) until nicely thickened.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Just before serving, stir in the juice of one-half a small lime.  Leftovers keep beautifully in the fridge, and the chili is even better the second time around!


  1. This really looks like a great chili recipe! I can't eat peppers anymore but I know I would love this anyway!

  2. Hope you give it a try (maybe delete the peppers ;-)


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