I hear there is some big football game coming up in the next month or so, and while I don’t know a lot about sports, I do know that one of the staples for a tailgating (couchgating?) menu is chili. There are so many different ways to make the stuff (beans or no beans? what kind of meat? spicy or mild?) that it can sometimes be hard to please everyone. I used to make a really hearty chili, but my kids would never touch it. Something about the big hunks of tomato turned them off. Then one of my colleagues recently made chili for our English department — it was smooth, saucy and a little tart (Kind of like her. Not that she is a tart. Oh…forget it) and I tried her recipe out on my family. Guess what? All of my kids ate it and my pickiest eater asked for extra helpings (yes, plural…not just one extra). That’s a winner, people!
I’ve tweaked her recipe just a little bit by using turkey (and less meat altogether) and also found a middle ground between that thicker, adult chili of times past and the more tomato-sauce based chili my kids prefer.
I have to serve chili with lime sour cream (another shout out to a super cool colleague — thanks Jaclyn!). Once you try chili topped with this, you will never want to go without it. The cool sour cream is mixed with a squeeze of lime juice and some lime zest — it adds that hit of acidity that chili desperately needs.
One great thing about making chili is that the longer it cooks, the better it tastes. I usually make a big ole pot of chili in the morning and let it simmer all day long, remembering to stir it every now and then. The flavors really have time to develop and penetrate the meat and beans. You could easily brown up the turkey and throw everything in a crock-pot and let it go all day while you are working.Talk about e-a-s-y!
A key to this particular chili recipe is using canned kidney beans without draining them. I usually drain and rinse all canned beans, but the viscous canning water that the beans come in helps the chili come together in a lovely way. It also adds sodium, so you don’t need to season this chili with much salt at all. If you do want to add more salt, add it at the end of your cooking so it doesn’t become too concentrated and salty. Of course, if you don’t want to add this canning water, feel free to drain your beans or rehydrate dried beans. Whatever works for you!
The last thing that this chili has over my old version of chili is the incorporation of ground chipotle pepper. I had no idea they even made this stuff. I’ve used the chipotle peppers in the can that come in that rich adobo sauce, but the dried powder is life changing. It has a kick to it with a beautiful smoky flavor. A little goes a long way, but if you want your chili extra spicy, feel free to add more. When making chili for a crowd though, it is best to leave it on the mild side and allow others to spice up their own bowls.
So — if you want to make this chili, too — here is what you need:
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (I prefer Cento brand — very smoothly crushed, not super chunky)
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 Cup chicken stock
2 regular sized cans of dark kidney beans (do not drain)
1 lb of lean ground turkey (not turkey breast)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Cup frozen corn
1 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs cumin powder
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1/4 tsp ground chipotle chili pepper (or more if you like it hot!)
1/2 Cup sour cream
1 lime (zest before cutting/juicing)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot/dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown your ground turkey until completely cooked, then add your crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken stock, and canned beans with canning water.
Stir in the chili powder, cumin, and Italian herbs. Add your chipotle powder (be careful, this stuff will burn your nose and eyes if you inhale it) and stir it in.
Bring your chili to a boil, then simmer (uncovered) on very low heat for at least one hour, stirring often. This can go much longer, though!
Before serving, give it a taste to see if you need to add salt, pepper, or more seasonings mentioned above.
Serve with garnishes like shredded cheddar cheese, cooked macaroni, cubed cornbread, cilantro, or my favorite…
Lime Sour Cream:
Mix 1/2 Cup of sour cream with the zest of 1 lime and one squeeze of lime juice and a little salt. You can make this up ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge to mellow a bit before serving. Mmm, Mmm!