White Turcken Chili
Last Sunday was the Superbowl, and making massive amounts of chili (so that Mike could have chili dogs, naturally) was my token nod to the event. I will openly admit: I don’t like football. I have no particular aversion to football, true, I just don’t understand what’s so compelling about it that people can spend 8 hours on a precious Sunday planted in front of the tv with a bag of chips and a six pack. I prefer to circulate my house with my bag-o-crisps and brewskies, making messes which Mike will inevitably clean up following the game.
Back in my beer-wench days, I was scheduled to work every Superbowl, Grey Cup, and major playoff games of assorted sporting events. Why? Oh, no, not because I have a sparkling personality that would keep the customers happy. No such luck. It was because I was the only one who was guaranteed to pay attention to our crazy clientele instead of being glued to the screen. Now, I still find myself wandering around and bringing beer and munchies to people during the game, except that I don’t get tipped for it. (Note to friends: I am not proud. I’ll leave a cup by the front door, k?)
I think it’s better off for everyone that I don’t enjoy football, because then they can watch it in peace. After all, the few times that I’ll periodically pop into the room to see if anybody needs another bevy, I can’t stop myself from crying out things like, “Oh NO!!! Look at those poor boys, they don’t even have jackets on and that coach is making them run around in the snow again! Him – he has bare arms! I bet his mother is so upset right now.” or, “@&!#@ TOM BRADY, you philandering home-wrecking sonofabitch! YOU HEAR ME TOM?! DO YOU?!!!” They say I miss the point. I disagree.
Anyway, because I’m far happier putzing around my kitchen than I am watching fellows run around throwing a pigskin, I get chili duty. And because football games are long, this year I made two – a white chili for those mild in heart and spirit who like a savory and lighter chili dish, and a red chili that may actually cause hair to start sprouting on your chest. I like to think of that one as the Chili Dog Chili, and this one as the Please Pass The Pinot Chili. And see? Look at that! It’s a veritable yin-yang of chili in that bowl, and everyone gets along just fine….unlike the football fans. Just saying…..
Oh, the title! Well, we I couldn’t call it ‘White Turkey Chili’ because of the chicken, and I couldn’t call it ‘White Chicken Chili’ because of the turkey, and I definitely couldn’t call it ‘White Poultry Chili’ because…well….that just sounds asinine. So Turcken it is! And now I wish that I had found some roast duck to add to the mix, for a proper White Turducken Chili. Maybe next time.
White Turcken Chili
Serves 8? Maybe? It’s chili, too hard to say.
- 1 large Spanish onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 600 g ground turkey
- 2 pre-cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts *
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- 1 red chili pepper
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1.5 tsp dried thyme
- 1.5 cups pureed tomatillo **
- 2 cans Cannellini beans (19 oz each)***
- 1 can sweet or white corn (16oz)
- 2 medium zucchini
- 2 limes
- small bunch fresh cilantro (about 2 tbsp finely chopped)
- salt and white pepper to taste
- fresh cilantro
- queso fresca or tangy goat’s cheese
- sliced green onion
- sliced avocado
* Great way to use up leftover chicken….just sayin’….
**I would have made my own tomatillo puree by roasting the gorgeous little beasts and then pulsing them through a food processor. The thing is, however, that I’ve found tomatillos in the grocery store a total of 5 times. Ever. I would like to think that it’s a seasonal thing, but they’ve randomly popped up in both January and July, so I really can’t say. I think that Galen Weston just likes to mess with us.
*** Feel free to use your favorite hearty white bean. Great Northern is a great choice. Navy beans are delicious but they won’t hold together quite as well for the long simmer and inevitable leftovers.
Chop the onions into a smallish dice and mince the garlic. Discard the top and bottom of the celery and chop it up into 1/4 inch chunks.
Slice each pepper vertically in half and then scoop out the ribs and seeds where the heat is kept. Well, unless you like it really spicy. The red chili was spicy enough, and since this was meant to be our foil-chili we kept a pretty light hand. This amount of chili pepper is really not a lot for a long simmering pot. Finely mince the peppers.
In a large heavy bottomed pot let the oil heat up over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and pepper and let them cook down until the onions are translucent. Ease your minced turkey into the pan and let this cook down, breaking up any large pieces with the back of your spoon. Turkey is very lean so you really need the oil here to make sure that it doesn’t stick and burn. If your ‘medium’ heat is actually more like a ‘medium high’, you may want to lower it to….’low’…..sigh.
When the turkey is cooked through you can add the bay leaf, cumin, oregano and thyme, and give it a quick stir together. You may also want to give it a light salting at this point, but save the main seasoning for the end after you know how salty your chicken stock is. Scoop the barley and pour the chicken stock into the pot. Let this come to a simmer and then put a tight fitting lid on the pot and let it be for 15 minutes.
The barley will probably still be a bit al dente at this point (no matter, we’re going to cook the bejeezus out of this whole thing anyway) but it will have absorbed about 2/3 of the liquid.
Add in your pureed tomatillo and white beans. Don’t forget to drain the cans and rinse the beans before they go in the pot!
Now you’re probably wondering what happened to the chicken, right? And you may also be wondering why I had raw chicken in the picture but down here it’s cooked? Fair questions, those. To be honest, there are two reasons.
1. I find it really difficult to cut raw chicken into tiny wee bite sized 1/2 inch chunks. It gets all slippery and pieces of raw meat go flying off the counter (to my chagrin and my cats’ delight) and then I get depressed about my shoddy knife skills and the revolting flecks of meat on my counter which are just lying in wait to give me salmonella. And now I’m embarrassed.
2. If you sautee the chicken at the same time as the turkey it tends to get really dry and tough. The cooked chicken will start to absorb some of the liquid (counter intuitive, yes, but it works) as the chili simmers away, actually re-tenderizing it a bit. Or at least this is my theory, possibly very wrong, but I’m sticking to it as far as chicken chili goes.
It’s easy enough to season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and then tuck them in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes as the onions sautee or your barley cooks down.
In with the chicken! Also add the can of corn. If your chili looks thick you may want to add the corn water, but if it’s perfect or on the thin side then drain the corn first. I like to add the water from the corn because it’s sweet, a bit salty, and fully of flavor…and not gross or gas-inducing like bean water.
Let the chili simmer on low heat for at least a half hour and up to two hours (chili likes to hang out), checking on it occasionally to make sure that it isn’t drying out and stirring to make sure that the bottom of the pot isn’t getting burnt and crusty. If the chili looks too dry or is starting to get too thick then you can thin it out by adding a cup of water, stirring to see if you’re happy with the new consistency, and then adding another cup if necessary. This is the joy of chili! If it gets too thick you can thin it down, and if it seems too thin then you can let it bubble away on a higher heat for half an hour or so until that liquid is absorbed and evaporated.
Leave the peel on the zucchinis or they’ll liquify and disappear in the chili. Cut each zucchini vertically into quarters and then slice horizontally to make wee wedges about 1/3 ” thick. If you like melty soft vegetables, add these to the chili about 20 minutes before you want to serve it. If you like your vegetables to have a bit of tooth to them, add in the zucchini about 10 minutes before you want to serve the chili, turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit. The zucchini will cook in the ambient heat from the rest of the ingredients.
Right before you’re ready to serve, finely chop up the cilantro and add this to the pot along with the juice of both limes.
Oooh…chili chili chili…….
The chili is simply garnished with a crumbling of queso fresca, a sprig of cilantro and a smattering of finely sliced scallions.
I’m feeling a bit better about this football thing already. I mean, not enough that I would let Tom Brady date my best friend or anything, but I have temporarily stopped with the ill will. And yes, I have to use Tom Brady as an example because I know that he played last year and I’m …uh…not quite sure who was on the field this time around. I was wearing silver, does that count as fan colors? Was one of the teams silver? Ooh, I know a silver one -those Raiders people, did they play? I should go ask Mike. He’ll know.
White Turcken Chili – one of the few things that saves me from getting kicked out of my own home on Superbowl Sunday.
PS – Are footballs really made from pigskin? Because that’s just rather upsetting. Silly sportsmen. Don’t they know that pigskin is for EATING?!