Monday, April 1, 2013

a chili

It is generally true that there isn't any food I don't like. I'll try everything at least once, and usually really like it. What I sometimes don't like are associations of certain foods. In my mind, chili is inextricably linked to "game-day", and entrees at big chain greasy spoons in small, small towns. I also think of pre-mixed spice packets in the quasi-ethnic aisles of large supermarkets, and because I didn't grow up eating chili, I sadly can't attach much nostalgia to it.

Chili, however, is the type of food I love to cook. When made from scratch it
requires a lot of chopping and dicing, stirring and tasting. It's open-ended. It evolves. Making it requires a certain degree of bravery, you have to believe that the ingredients will meld together over two simmery hours on your stove and be brightened by a dollop of sour cream.

I like my chili like a stew, and suggest using less liquid if you like yours thicker. I also like fewer beans--in fact, the recipe lies. I used one and a half cans, but you should use two full cans for a more "authentic" dish. I like to squeeze a handful of the beans as they are going into the pot, to help break them up and thicken the chili. (Mushing with a spoon when in the pot has always proved rather tedious and ineffective to me.)

Things you can leave out but which I added for depth include the beer, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg, but do throw them in if you have them around. Essentially you can make as many changes as you'd like, but do not, do not skimp on the chipotle peppers! They really make this dish. The first chili I ever made didn't include any chipotle and it sorely lacked the smokiness and complex spice of the pepper, and nearly turned me off of chili-making for good.

Turkey Chili with Chipotle Peppers

Ingredients :

16 ounces of ground turkey
1 14ounce can San Marzano crushed (or diced) tomatoes
1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
1 can of pink beans, drained and rinsed well
1 green pepper, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cups of water (or a broth, if you have any)
2 chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, chopped up
1-2 tbsp of adobo sauce
1 cup of beer
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground oregano
a dash each of cinnamon and ground nutmeg
1 tbs maple syrup
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped up
salt and peper to taste

garnish with:

sour cream or plain greek yogurt
cilantro, or scallions
shredded cheese
a squeeze of lime

Directions :

In a big pot, brown the turkey in 1 tbsp of olive oil,  breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon as you go. When the meat starts taking on a bit of color, add the garlic; allowing the meat to brown as much as turkey can before burning, then transfer to a bowl and set aside. 

Sautee the onion, carrots, green pepper in olive oil until soft, about five minutes; add all the spices until the fragrance is smokey and wafting.

Stir in the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, tomatoes and tomato paste allow to start bubbling up before adding the beans and returing the turkey to the pot. Add the liquids. 

Lower heat and cover, simmering anywhere from one to three hours, knowing that the longer it simmers the greater your patience will be rewarded. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally so it doesn't burn.

At the last hour I like to add the maple syrup, salt, and pepper and begin adjusting the flavors. I like a lot of cumin, so I usually add more towards the end, and usually more adobo sauce as well.   

Serve it piping hot with garnishes of your choosing. I never let things sit or come to a more palatable temperature, unless it's meat and the juices need redistributing. For soupey, stewey, melty things, there is no greater pleasure for me than tasting it right as it's crossing the threshold from "cooking" to "cooked". A little caution and I've reached my bliss.

I usually feel very virtuous substituting plain yogurt for sour cream, but in this instance the sour cream-ness of the real thing is important for me to retain. It's just really, really good. 

Serves 6-8, or 2-3 friends with big appetites. 

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