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March, 2011

Slimmed Down Smoky Turkey Chili with Toasted Cumin Crema

By Heidi Allison

Chili, a dish popularized in the mid-1800s by the Mexican American street venders of San Antonio, aka the “Chili Queens”, was made with reddish–brown ancho chiles and hot de arbol chiles, cumin, Mexican oregano (not really a member of the oregano family, but closer botanically to lemon verbena—has a strong, pungent and a lesser sweet flavor—great for chili, and not interchangeable), steer meat, masa, salt, and no beans— never, ever
.

This spicy, stick –to –your-ribs iconic bowl of red has morphed into countless of regional variations since then, adding beans, bison, turkey, chicken, tomatoes, garlic, coffee, cinnamon, allspice and dark beer to the simmering cauldron. It doesn’t even have to be red— New Mexican style Pork Chili Verde uses pork and green roasted Hatch chiles and verdant, tangy tomatillos. With just a little care, this dish is a revelation every time. The artery-clogging saturated fat has been slashed by changing out the traditional 80/20 ground beef chuck for ground dark turkey meat and adding a hefty dose of fiber –rich pinto beans. (Turkey breast meat is really too lean for this dish—it toughens up like shoe leather during the requisite 2 hours of cooking time, and its flavor falls flat.) But the real secret to the success of this upscale turkey chili is its spot-on flavor: A complex yet balanced, smoky heat derived from blending five different chiles. The ancho chile lends a sweet, mellow, rich depth of flavor that balances the searing, acidic and smoky heat of the de arbol chile and smoky chipotle, while the roasted green chiles impart a smoky, slightly vegetal base note. A measured portion of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, a few slices of black olive, and a drizzle of Toasted Cumin Crema tops this healthy homage, creating a finished dish that’s a crave, rather than a bland compromise. Pairs well with dark beer, Caesar salad and sweet corn bread.

Slimmed-Down, Smoky Turkey Chili with Toasted Cumin Crema
Slimmed-Down, Smoky Turkey Chili with Toasted Cumin Crema
Serves: 4

6 dried De Arbol chiles
½ cup hot water
1 Tbsp. Chipotle chile powder
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes
1 Tbsp. plus 1-teaspoon tomato paste
2 large Heirloom tomatoes, large dice (Can substitute 4 large Roma tomatoes; peeled, cored and diced)
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 pound reduced-fat ground turkey meat (8 grams fat per serving)
1 ½ cups diced white onion
1 Hatch chile, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced (Can substitute with these two chiles: 1 roasted, seeded, peeled Poblano finely diced; 1 roasted, peeled and seeded jalapeno, finely diced)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3 Tbsp. Ancho chile powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. ground yellow mustard powder
1 tsp. flake kosher salt
3 (15-ounce) cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
4 Tbsp. shredded, extra-sharp New York Cheddar cheese
5 black pitted olives, cut into slices

Toasted CuminMexican Crema

1 cup Mexican Crema Agria
1 Tbsp. cumin seed Flake kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toasted Cumin Crema Preparation:
Place cumin seeds in a small sauté pan and heat over medium heat until lightly toasted and fragrant. Add to a bowl and pour in Mexican Crema and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir.

Chile Preparation:
Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, and add the de arbol chiles and toast till charred and fragrant on both sides, then remove to a bowl. Cover with hot water until chile rehydrates and becomes soft, about 15 minutes. Remove stems from the chiles and discard. Pour the chiles and their soaking water into a food processor and add chipotle chile powder, canned tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes and tomato paste. Purée and set aside.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven, add oil and heat on medium-high heat until hot. Add turkey and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until evenly cooked. Remove meat from pan and set aside. Pour off all but 1-tablespoon of oil and add onions, ancho, cumin, salt, and mustard and onion powder. Stir until onions are evenly coated and cook until soft and translucent, about 12 minutes.

Add poblano and jalapeño (or Hatch) chiles. Cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add turkey back into pan and stir. Add puréed chile and tomato mixture and reduce heat to medium low and cook for 2 hours. About 20 minutes before the chili is done, add the pinto beans and cook till beans are warm.

Pour into bowls and top with sharp cheddar cheese, slices of black olives and a drizzle of Toasted Cumin Crema (optional).