The weather in Chicago this past Sunday was not quite chili weather yet, but, it was the first Sunday of the NFL season and I had 2 pounds of ground turkey in the freezer. Thus, it was time to make chili! I don't usually follow a recipe for chili, therefore, I never make it the exact same way twice. The one thing that is usually a constant is that I make it with beef. Since I had the ground turkey in the freezer, i decided to go with it. I also figured I'd stick with the healthier theme and add addtional vegetables to it.
Before I go any further, I should address the idea of authenticity. I grew up in the midwest eating chili made with ground beef, tomatoes and laden with beans. I realize this is sacrilege in Texas in the heart of chili con carne land. I'm an equal opportunity chili-lover. I can definitely appreciate a good bowl of red but I also like the midwest version I grew up with. I also like the crazy Cincinnati version that's served over spaghetti noodles! So this recipe may offend you chili-purists. For the rest of you...read on!
In keeping with the healthier theme of this chili, I thought it would be good to add additional vegetables for additional nutrition. I think the key of adding vegetables is to make sure the consistency is...well...consistent. Enlisting the aid of a food processor, I was able to grind down my veggies so the texture of my chili was nice and fine. If you like it chunkier, by all means, cut them bigger. In a regular beef chili, I would usually use onions, garlic, tomatoes and various fresh chilis/peppers as my vegetables. For this version, I included carrots, celery, additional bell peppers and zucchini.
The key to to maximizing flavor from your vegetable is to really cook them down before adding the wet ingredients. The vegetables have a lot of water so it takes a while to cook them down, concentrate the flavor and get some caramelization. Then it's important to add your dry spices and cook them for a minute or so to wake the flavors up a bit. This version is mild but feel free to add spicier chilis and fiery spices to your version.
TURKEY AND VEGGIE CHILI
Ingredients: 2 lbs of ground turkey, 1 large onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 2 large red bell peppers, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 zucchini, 1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, 3 TB chili powder, 2 TB ground cumin, 2 TB paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, salt, pepper, 2 14 oz cans of red beans, 1 12 oz beer, olive oil
- In a food processor, add the onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, garlic and zucchini to the consistency you prefer. You should rough chop the vegetables before adding to the processor.
- In a large pot, film the bottom with olive oil and preheat.
- Add the processed vegetables and season with salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes or so until they've cooked down and begin to caramelize. Be patient. It will take a while.
- Drain the liquid from the can of tomatoes and add the tomatoes to the food processor and process until almost smooth.
- Add all of the dry spices and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the tomatoes to pot and cook for a few minutes. Season with salt & pepper.
- Add the ground turkey and stir very well until it is well-incorporated with the veggies and the meat has broken up finely. Season with salt & pepper.
- Add the beer. If you don't want to use beer, use broth or water.
- Bring to a boil and then keep at a gentle simmer for an hour.
- Drain and rinse the canned beans and add to the pot. Simmer for another 30-60 minutes.
- Taste and reseason the chili at this point.
- Serve and eat! Garnish with whatever you like. I like green onions and sour cream. Avocados are good too. And, you can never go wrong with cheese!