Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter Wonderfood: litbrit's Turkey and Bean Chili

My boys--including the (sort-of) grown-up one--absolutely love this dish, and I'm happy to make it for them, as it's delicious and warming; it's adaptable to different palates (we like it hot); and nutritionally speaking, it packs a nice wallop of lean protein and fiber while keeping fat and calories to a minimum.

If you're going to keep things healthy, I'd recommend using low-fat (not fat-free, yuck) sour cream and low-fat sharp cheddar as toppings. This will serve about eight adults; if you're cooking for a roomful, as I was during the Superbowl, you can easily double the quantities, too (and leftovers are wonderful for breakfast when added to scrambled eggs in tortilla wraps). Cornbread is the classic accompaniment, whether you make it from scratch, use a pre-fab mix, or send someone to the supermarket bakery.

I want to say I adapted this from one of Martha Stewart's recipes; I'm about 99% certain I found the original version in one of her magazines several years ago. Given the chilly outlook, so to speak, this seems to be the perfect thing to kick off a home-bound weekend. So...let's cook!

You'll need a big, heavy-bottomed stock pot, a sharp knife, a long-handled wooden spoon, and a cutting board.


* 3 pounds ground (or finely-minced leftover) turkey (if using already-cooked leftovers, I like to use a mix of dark and light turkey; otherwise, buy the fresh ground turkey that's about 7% fat, as the fat-free kind will be too dry.)
* olive oil
* 1/2 sweet onion (i.e. Vidalia or Maui), finely chopped
* 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely minced (note, that says head, not one measly clove! Hey, you need lots of garlic in your life if you're going to ward off heart disease and vampires; besides, garlic is delicious and it sweetens when you cook it.)
* 3-4 large fresh jalapeño chiles, ribs and seeds removed for less heat, minced (wash your hands well before you touch your face or anyone else's, okay?)
* red pepper flakes to taste (we like a lot; start with a pinch or two if you're not sure)
* 3 tablespoons chili powder
* 3 generous rounded tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (very important!)
* 4 teaspoons ground cumin
* 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes in puree (I use the Cento brand)
* 2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses (it might sound counter-intuitive to use something so sweet in chili, but trust me, it all works)
* Coarse salt
* 3 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) best-quality pinto beans, organic if you can find them, drained and rinsed
* 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped


1. Pour a little oil--a tablespoon or two--into your stock pot or Dutch oven and place over medium heat; roll the pan around to coat bottom as the metal warms. Add onions and jalapeños, lower the flame a little, and cook until the onions are beginning to turn translucent; then add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes (again, go easy at first; you can add more toward the end if you want serious fire), and cook until everything is soft, stirring occasionally. Add the ground turkey and break it up with a wooden spoon, cooking and stirring until no longer pink, about 8 to 10 minutes (if using already-cooked leftovers, much less time is needed, obviously; just warm through).

2. Stir in chili powder, cocoa powder, and cumin; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Things will start smelling really good now, and you may notice children, neighbors, cats, and dogs wandering into your kitchen.

3. Break up tomatoes with a spoon or your hands, and stir them in along with the puree. Add molasses, 1 cup water, and 2 teaspoons salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, partially covered, 30 minutes.

4. Add beans and continue cooking, uncovered, until turkey and beans are very tender, and chili is thick, about 30 minutes more. Stir in the cilantro. Serve in your favorite ceramic bowls, with some shredded cheese, sour cream, and corn bread on the side.

Enjoy! Stay warm--and stay off the roads.


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