Shockingly, it's still cold and rainy (cold being, of course, a relative term). Some nights I open my front door to find a wet drizzle of rain pouring in front of me. The concept of being kept indoors because of inclement weather is definitely a foreign one where I live. It annoys me. But then I remind myself that I'm completely spoiled and I should quit complaining and appreciate the beauty this constant light stream of water has provided for the desert I live in. I've been hiking around the area a bit lately, and seeing rolling green hills dotted with sun-bleached rocks and boulders is one gorgeous sight! You know what I see in the summer? Dead, brown grass. Same color as the rocks. It's nothing special. Just desert. So I should enjoy this wet weather while I can, right? And anyway, it's called a drought and Southern California has been in one, well, forever. Again, desert. So keep it coming, rain! I'll take everything you got!
But all this cold, wet weather has kept me in the constant mood for rib-sticking comfort foods. A few weeks ago I wanted something with ground meat, and beans, and chipotle...definitely something spicy. Chili was the obvious choice. I hunted around for a recipe I liked, but nothing sounded quite right, so I decided to just make it up as I went along. Let me tell you, it turned out fantastic! I am definitely keeping this recipe in my back pocket for the next time the mood strikes. It was smokey and spicy and dense and sweet. I really liked the ratio of a little meat, some beans, and lots of peppers. I used dried kidney beans (my first time using dried beans!), and they were fantastic.
There something very important I need to discuss with you: chili powder. You know that generic chili powder you find in the regular grocery store? I can't really stand it. I don't know what's in it, but it never gives the type of flavor I'm looking for when I think chili (or chiles). So I've been buying ancho chili powder and chipotle chili powder either/both of which are far and away better than anything labeled simply as "chili powder". I resisted buying them for a long time because I didn't want to over-clutter my spice drawer, but trust me, it's worth the investment. You'll never go back to the old stuff!
I really debated whether to use turkey or beef in this chili. Husband was out of town, so his cholesterol concerns were for once not a factor. But I actually like ground turkey! I like beef too, but in the end I went with the turkey. You can really use anything you think will taste good.
You'll notice in the pictures I did a rare thing and added some garnishes to my chili. I'm not generally a garnish person, not because I don't like them, but because I'm lazy and it's usually too much effort and time standing between me and the food I want to devour. But in this case, the garnishes were necessary (and delicious!). See, I made the biggest rookie mistake in the book. What do they always say? Add heat slowly because you can always add it, but you can't take it away. Well I was a dummy. I was distracted, talking to Husband on the phone while throwing my chili together, and I wasn't exactly paying attention to just how many chipotle peppers I was putting in. See, they only sell that one rather large can of them at the store. Sure, it looks small in size, but when you open it up there are like 10 chipotles in there, at least! Once the can is open, you have to use them right? Because you can't just stick the can back in the pantry, and you can't let a single precious gem go to waste because that's a sin, right? When you get to this step in the recipe, take a deep breath and don't be afraid to walk away from the chipotles! I think I ended up adding about 6 of them. I really have no idea. I just kept, one at a time, pulling them out of the can, chopping them up, and throwing them in the slow cooker, always amazed that there were still so many left. Well when I finally got around to tasting the mixture, my mouth was on fire. Oops. I had hoped the cooking would mellow out the spicy, but no. This was chili caliente! But that's ok. You know how you tame the spicy? With garnishes! I'll bet you thought I was leading you on one big tangent never to return to the topic at hand, eh? Not so. Dairy is just about the only thing that help quell the fire in your mouth when you eat something spicy, and it just so happens that sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese go amazingly with chili. I added some chopped cilantro because I love it so, and voila! Perfect chili!
And for the record, extra chipotles can be used in a variety of ways: chipotle hummus or black bean dip, a southwestern omelet or frittata, Spanish rice, heck even another batch of chili!
Turkey and Red Bean Chipotle Chili
1 yellow onion, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey, beef, or whatever meat tickles your fancy
1 TB cumin
1 TB ancho chili powder
1 TB chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp smoked paprika
4 bell peppers, any color, roughly chopped
2 poblano peppers, roughly chopped
1 large can chopped green chiles
2 cups kidney beans (or 1 can)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 TB tomato paste
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (more or less to taste)
1-2 bottles of smoked porter or other smokey or full-bodied beer (I used Stone Smoked Porter)
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro, cheddar cheese, and sour cream for garnish
- In a pan over medium-high heat, saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add ground turkey and cook until browned and liquid has released and mostly evaporated. Add cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper, stir to incorporate, and cook for a minute or two.
- Put turkey mixture in your slow cooker*. Add the bell peppers, poblanos, green chiles, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chipotles, and enough of the beer until the mixture is thinned to your desired consistency. It'll thicken up a bit as it cooks, but I like it chunky, so I didn't add the whole bottle (I had one of those huge 22oz bottles, so it probably ended up being about a beer and a quarter), which left me the unfortunate task of finishing it right then and there. Cooking is tough, right?
- Turn slow cooker to low and cook chili for 7-8 hours.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro, cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream (or sliced avocado, or whatever else you like).
*If you don't have a slow cooker, you can use a stock pot or dutch oven on the stove. Just keep the chili at a bare simmer and it does the same thing as a crock pot.
I also discovered an easy non-invasive alternative to collagen injections. You heard it here first, people! The first day I ate my caliente creation was for lunch at work. I didn't know just how spicy it was until I attempted to finish it. There may have been tears shed. I finished it alright, and then I went to laugh with my co-workers about my achievement. I expected everyone to comment on how red my face was, but I guess that's nothing they haven't seen before, my face turns red when someone says my name out loud. Instead one co-worker exclaimed that he could tell my food was spicy because my lips actually looked swollen. So there you go. You want to impress the guys with a fish mouth (something I never understood), just eat some super spicy chili!
I paired my chili with the most amazing cornbread I've ever eaten. Seriously, it is so freaking good. I wish I could link you the recipe, but I actually got it from Peter Reinhart's cookbook. I know! I actually finally tried a recipe from it! I wish I wasn't so busy this month because after how good this cornbread was, I can't wait to try the rest of the breads in this book. What makes it so much different than regular cornbread? Soaking the cornmeal in buttermilk overnight. It's so hard to describe the consistency of this cornbread, but soaking the cornmeal gave it a creamy, moist, cakey texture that, as the PW would say, made my skirt fly up! And by cakey, I don't mean it was airy and fluffy, it wasn't. It was dense like a good cornbread should be. But I mean it had the creamy texture of a cake, rather than the grainier texture that cornbread traditionally is. I never would have described cornbread as grainy before trying this recipe, but by comparison, it is. I can usually take or leave whole corn kernels in cornbread, but in this one they provided a much needed texture balance. I did alter the recipe in one way. I left out the bacon and bacon fat. I'm sure it's even more delicious with it, but it sounded heavy. I just greased the pan with butter instead.