Wednesday, October 31, 2007

(Turkey) Chili

When I was a kid, every year at Halloween, my mom would make us chili for dinner before we went trick-or-treating. If I remember right, it was to keep us warm on the cold October nights. But it was Texas, for God's sake. Right now, as I type this at 12:30 in the morning, it's 66F down there. It was always an agonizingly slow dinner because I just want to go run out and get the good stuff. It was really good chili, though. I appreciated it a lot more the other times she served it, when I didn't feel I was missing out on prime candy-gathering time.

In the spirit of the holiday, I decided to whip some up. I threw this recipe together from a few I found at the International Chili Society, memory of previous cookups and a few things I found in my spice collection. This works great with turkey, but should be good with beef as well. Tonight's batch was virtually fat free. If you go with beef, I would recommend adding up to another pound, to account for the loss of volume from the fat when browning and draining the meat before adding in the rest of the ingredients. A longer simmer time may be needed to tenderize the beef more.


2 pounds ground turkey breast
29 oz can tomato sauce
3 cups water
2 tablespoons masa flour
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon dried oregeno
1 tablespoon fresh sweet basil, chopped
1/2 tablespoon dried epazote
1/2 tablespoon dried jalepeno
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin

Brown ground (turkey) meat until cooked through. Mix masa flour with 2 cups warm water into a smooth paste. Stir into chili to tighten it and add flavor. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour. Add water if needed during simmer.

This used up the last of the summer basil crop here. This worked out really well - I'm very pleased with the results.

One thing I've noticed - up here in Chicago, they don't sell ground beef for chili. I know, big surprise, but it never occurred to me how regional that was until I looked for it last year.

I remember my mom mentioned several times that she read one chili cookoff champion claimed his secret was to use several different sizes of meat: regular grind (i.e. hamburger), chili grind (much larger) and stew chunks. His theory was that every judge had a preference for the cut size of meat and, this way, he satisified them all. The turkey kind of naturally ends up giving several sizes of meat chunks, by the way it binds during cooking. You have to really break it up in the browning to get that consistent hamburger texture, but if you dial it back...

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