Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rainy Day Chili

When I was very young we lived in Philadelphia, shopped at a co-op and mostly home made minimally processed foods. After my dad graduated college we moved to an apple orchard outside of Allentown and started growing a portion of our own food in addition to making our own bread, yogurt, etc.

I am really off the topic of chili here but there is a fun story about me as a 4 year old refusing to eat kale that my mom made. Kale is super curly and bumpy so you have to wash it really carefully to get all of the dirt off. My mom had carefully rinsed each leaf but when she served the cooked kale to 4 year old me I insisted there were bugs on it. My mother insisted it was pepper and assumed I just didn't want to eat the kale. My father chimed in: "Actually Irene, these are aphids." I didn't have to eat kale that night.

So what does a child raised to eat minimally processed natural foods do? Rebels a little. Stops reading labels. Stops being horrified by unpronounceable food additives.

Then she has a family of her own and reads "Omnivore's Dilemma" and news stories about pink slime in ground beef and starts to think carefully about the kinds of meat and dairy products I buy for my family.

So what does this have to do with chili? Nothing except that Whole Foods grinds their own chicken and turkey from locally sourced poultry and it only costs an arm. (instead of an arm and a leg, ha!)

The only pre-planning I did for this weekends chili as buying ground turkey. I had the rest of the ingredients on hand.

To make I used:

1 lb dry red kidney beans (soaked overnight but you can use 2 or 3 cans of canned beans with the liquid drained and discarded)
1 lb ground turkey thighs (or other ground meat is fine)
1 package chicken sausage (I used chicken andouille sausage from trader joe's)
1 large onion chopped
2 large garlic cloves chopped
1 shallot chopped (optional, I was using up what I had)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 can of fire roasted green chilies (also optional, I had these in the cabinet so I used them. You could also chop one fresh jalapeno pepper or skip it all together)
2-3 chipotle peppers (or the whole can if you like super spicy) from a can of chipotles in adobo (This is a great ingredient with lots of spice and flavor. Other things can be substituted but I would not substitute this.)
1 large can of whole tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt to taste (I started with 1 tablespoon and adjusted from there)

Sour Cream

  1. If you are using dry beans soak according to package instructions. I do this the night before.
  2. For optimal results, start your chili by around 11 am if you plan to have it for dinner that evening. The longer it cooks the better it gets.
  3. Chop onion, garlic and shallot and saute in olive oil over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of cumin.
  4. Add ground turkey to onions and chop with a spatula so that the turkey is in uniform pieces.
  5. Add whatever chilies you are using along with the broth, tomatoes and bay leaves.
  6. Chop sausage into bite size pieces and add to chili.
  7. Reduce heat to your stove top's lowest setting and simmer partially covered for 4-5 hours stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom of the pan is not burning. 
  8. As the tomatoes cook you should be able to mash them with the back of a spoon so they blend into the chili.
  9. After 5 hours the chili will have thickened and reduced by about 30-40%. Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed. You may need a pinch or so.
  10. I like to add about a tablespoon of brown sugar to soften the acidity of the tomatoes. It is not enough to make the chili sweet.
Once the chili is cooked set it over a very low burner to keep it just warm until you are ready to serve. I have a setting called "keep warm" that works perfectly. You could also put it in a slow cooker on it's lowest setting if you don't like to leave your stove on.

Serve the chili in bowls with sour cream, cheddar and cilantro as a garnish. Add beer and you have a perfect meal for an impromptu gathering of friends on a rainy afternoon. This batch served 6 adults with leftovers. 

Corn muffins make a lovely accompaniment even if you burn them a little. Good thing I have such wonderful friends who find nice things to say about burnt corn muffins ("the tops are super crispy and caramelized.")

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