Saturday, February 6, 2010

Simple Chili

About 3 years ago I decided I wanted to make chili. I don't know why, it's not something I had ever really liked or eaten before. For some reason I was convinced that If I made it myself I would like it. I guess it also seemed like something that I could make super healthy without sacrificing flavor. I really didn't know much about it and had no interest in following an actual chili recipe. They were mostly beef (I wanted turkey) and usually had some "secret ingredient" like beer or cacao or cinnamon powder. I wanted simple, fresh, with a chunky tomato sauce. I figured it couldn't be that hard; hot peppers, turkey, beans, tomatoes, fresh cilantro and whatever spices I could find in the cabinet. Thus, my turkey chili was born. Little did I know it would turn out so well! 
Over the past couple years I've made adjustments, adding fresh onions and garlic and perfecting the spices, but basically my recipe has stayed the same. Of course I'll tweak it now and again depending on my guests and what I have in my fridge; more spicy, less spicy, beef, turkey, peppers, carrots, etc. When it's just for me I stick to my original.

Recently, I picked up the last issue of Cook's Illustrated entitled "Soups and Stews". Not surprisingly they had an article about testing chili. I scanned the recipe expecting some ground breaking idea or crazy secret ingredient but it turns out their recipe is as basic as mine. In fact if I wasn't 100% certain that I created my own, I would think that I had used theirs. With an increased sense of confidence in my own chili recipe, I decided that's what I would make for Super Bowl this sunday.

Lisa's Simple Chili

I never ever measure any of the spices that I put in here. I just pour things in until it tastes right. In an effort to record this for y'all to at least get approximate, I measured them (gasp, I know) when I made this today. Still amounts are not exact because it will depend on your personal tastes and the freshness of your spices. Just taste it as you go and remember you can keep adding as needed, but you can't take it out. Too much salt or too much heat and there isn't too much you can do.
Note on chili powder: The best, freshest flavor comes from grinding your own, but I have an enormous quantity of super potent hot chili powder from my trip to India last year so I use that. If you're not into grinding your own, then store bought (in a jar or bulk) works fine you just might need to increase your quantity.
Note on hot peppers: The seeds and the spines are the hottest parts of the pepper. I leave them in because I want a lot of heat. If you are not big into spicy, removing the seeds will keep it on the mild side. Also make sure to chop the peppers fine. No one wants a giant piece of habanero pepper landing on their tongue (ouch!).
Serves 12-16.

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
couple cloves of garlic, chopped
6 serrano chili peppers, chopped fine
3-6 habenero peppers, chopped fine
2lbs lean ground turkey (94/6)
56oz plain crushed tomatos in puree
28oz diced tomatos in juice
~30oz dark red kidney beans
~30oz black beans (or 15oz black beans and 15oz small red beans)
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2-1tsp coriander (cilantro)
half a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large (~7qt) pot. Add the onion and hot peppers. Cook until onion softens a bit and becomes translucent. Add garlic and cook until it browns just a bit. Add the ground turkey stirring and breaking it up with a wooden spoon (you might need just a bit more oil).
Once the meat has browned a bit (but not cooked through), add the crushed and diced tomatoes, beans, and spices.
Cover the pot, and bring to a boil.
Turn down to a simmer and cook covered for about 30 minutes.
Remove the cover, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. 
Stir in fresh cilantro and cook uncovered until thickened (about 10 minutes or so).
Serve with plain greek yogurt (or sour cream), shredded cheese and whole grain tortilla chips.
Can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat on the stove in a covered pot. Also freezes very well.


  1. I am thoroughly impressed with how simple this actually is. I was a little nervous you'd give me some crazy recipe. I will let you know how it turns out tomorrow! Good thing for the Super Bowl so we have a great excuse to make chili and cornbread right?

  2. hey any excuse to make chili and cornbread is good enough for me...

  3. Mmm that looks amazing! I had a similar experience making lasagna last week and it turned out great! I wanted a healthier simpler version of it and it turned out wonderful the first time I made it.


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