When I think of chili, I think of windy fall evenings, football games and the weekend. Chili is such a weekend food because it takes at least a little while to simmer and feels like a feast--especially when you add some supporting players like skillet cornbread and a great beer. The Leffe in the photo, by the way, is one of my favorites of all time and an absolutely excellent food beer; it's worth tracking down, though we did recently find it in a mixed pack at Costco.
This chili is just the thing to have simmering on the stove as you decorate your Christmas tree this weekend. It's also great to make while watching football. Will you be tree-trimming and football watching simultaneously like I probably will? In that case, you can even make this ahead--it tastes even better reheated.
I made this chili for a Halloween dinner this year because of the festive color combo of the sweet potatoes and black beans. The smokiness comes from poblano chiles, a mild, easy to find dark green pepper that you roast, skin and cut into strips. If you don't like heat, remove all the seeds, and you won't have a problem. The pepper roasting is the only fussy part of this recipe, but you've done that before, right? And it totally pays off. I also recently discovered dried chipotle chiles which have the most intense smoky-sweet flavor in their dried form--but a little goes far. We grind these up ourselves to make the chipotle chile powder, but you can either buy it or use any chili seasonings you prefer.
Although I said I was feeling relatively healthy after our blowout Thanksgiving weekend, we've still been eating nutritious, comforting meals like salmon and lentils (my favorite healthy yet totally satisfying meal) and some great vegetarian soups. I have two outrageously good soups that I want to post soon--just in case you need a break from the holiday indulgence that's going to happen in the coming weeks--I'm sure I will!
Smoky Turkey Chili
Loosely Adapted from Food & Wine, January 2003
I’ve actually been making this chili since I received the January ’03 issue of F&W. I even hung onto the magazine because it includes quite a few great-looking, healthy recipes, though the chili is only one I’ve ever made. Because I love the intensely sweet flavor, I buy dried chipotles and grind them in a spice grinder. You can buy them already ground or use one or two canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Anything with the word “chipotle” is probably hot stuff, so use sparingly at first. You can skip it if you don’t like heat, but I’d encourage you to try it because the sweet, smoky flavor is wonderful. Of course, feel free to use your favorite chili seasonings and spices--it’s a fun dish to play around with. Here are some excellent instructions on how to roast peppers. I do mine (or I should say Mike does mine) under the broiler.
1 tbs. canola or olive oil
1 lb. lean ground turkey
Salt and ground pepper to taste
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tbs. chile powder (the regular, mild stuff--Spice Islands makes a good one)
pinch of ground chipotle chile powder (or to taste) or 1 to 2 canned chipotles in adobo (optional)
4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 quart water
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Two 15-oz. cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
4 large poblano chiles—roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/4 cup tomato paste
Sour cream, grated cheese, cilantro and chopped scallions for serving (optional)
Add the oil to a large pot or Dutch oven and heat to medium-high. Add the ground turkey, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking it up as you stir, until browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, both chile powders, cumin and cloves and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and water and raise the heat to bring chili to a boil.
Add the turkey, cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and simmer for 30 more minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add the beans and poblano, stirring to combine, then taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper or chile powder to taste. Stir in the tomato paste and simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve topped with sour cream, grated cheese, cilantro and chopped scallions. Cornbread is an excellent accompaniment.