Sunday, January 24, 2010

Battle Chili, Part 1 - Three-Bean Turkey Chili

It won't come as a surprise to most of you that I'm really competitive.


So you'll understand my excitement at the announcement of my company's annual Chili Cook-off. The proceeds go to a great cause - the Greater Chicago Food Depository - and everyone at Digitas gets to enjoy homemade chili cooked by their colleagues. Apparently, I'm up against some stiff competition. Luckily, the Cook-off isn't for another month, so I have a lot of time to test recipes.


My plan is to cook one chili recipe per week up until the competition, and enter the best recipe I come up with. I am, of course, entering mine into the "non-traditional" category, because I just can't go up against people who have been cooking regular beef-and-red-bean chili for years. My strength lies in creativity - I hope.


This first recipe came out pretty well. The turkey flavor, despite my aggressive seasoning, really comes through to complement the mix of beans. Overall, I'd say this recipe is solid, but not yet a winner. Fortunately, the thrill of head-to-head battle has my head positively overflowing with chili ideas, each one more creative than the last.


I am going to need honest, willing chili judges over the next few weeks, so if you consider yourself a connoisseur, please let me know and I'll reserve you a spot at the judges' table (AKA my coffee table). I'm going to be faced with more chili leftovers than you can shake a wooden spoon at in the month of February - thank goodness it keeps getting better the longer it sits.

THREE-BEAN TURKEY CHILI

INGREDIENTS

2 T. olive oil
1.5 lbs. ground turkey
1 medium white onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3-4 T. chili powder, more if needed
a couple dashes cayenne pepper
a couple dashes paprika
salt and black pepper to taste
1 large can diced plum tomatoes
1 regular sized can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 small can tomato paste
~1/2 c. water
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
sour cream and grated cheddar for serving
salad and bread for serving (optional)


STEP ONE:

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook turkey, seasoning with a bit of all the spices, until browned. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and green pepper. Add more seasonings and cook until the vegetables are softening and most of the moisture has steamed away.

STEP TWO:

Add the tomatoes (with all juices), tomato paste, water, and still more seasonings - especially chili powder. Stir to combine. Add in beans and stir again. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat.

STEP THREE:

Taste the chili and add more seasonings if you need to. Cover and cook until you're ready to serve it - longer is better. Serve and enjoy!

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