Sunday, November 29, 2015

Leftover Turkey Chili

So your Dad and your Aunt Edna are the only ones who eat dark meat at Thanksgiving.  I think we can all sympathize with that (even if we don't all have an Aunt Edna...I don't).  That's why turkey breeders in the U.S. breed birds with massive breasts.  Most of us reach for the white meat (and then thoroughly cover it in a pool of gravy...amiright?).

So what are you supposed to do with all that leftover drumstick and thigh meat?  A 20-pound bird can sometimes yield as much as a 2 to 3 pounds of it and it's usually much darker than dark chicken meat.  For years, I tucked it into the freezer.  I might use a couple pieces here and there in a turkey stew, but my wife usually finds them and picks them out.  Eventually, I'd have a block of unrecognizable freezer-burned brown meat and into the garbage it would go.  What a waste.

Enter my recipe for Turkey or Chicken Chili.  It's a loose interpretation of a recipe from Cook's Illustrated magazine for beef chili made from ground beef.  One day, I discovered that you could swap out the ground meat for chunks of dark meat turkey and by the time it was done stewing-down in tomatoes, it'd taste like rich pulled pork or beef.  A real bonus is that it can be done in the slow cooker.

Leftover Dark Meat Turkey Chili

Notes: The amount and kind of meat is flexible here.  If all you have is a pound and 3/4, that's fine.  If it's over 2 pounds, that's fine, too.  Turkey works well, as does chicken, or even chunks of uncooked pork butt or pork shoulder (you can pull it out, shred it, then put it back in at the end).  You can also mix dark and white meat.

This recipe makes a mild, tomato-flavored chili.  If you like it spicier, double-up on the pepper flakes and cayenne.

2 Pounds Cooked Dark Turkey Meat
2 (15-oz) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes
2 medium onions, chopped coarsely
1 red bell pepper
6 medium cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1) In a small bowl, mix the spices (chili powder, cumin, pepper flakes, oregano, cayenne, salt).  Set aside.

2) In a saut√© pan, sweat the onions and pepper in oil over medium heat until they begin to soften.  Add the garlic and spices.  Stir well (it'll look like a brown mess), allowing the oil and heat to release the flavors in the spices.  Remove from heat before it burns.

3) Place the meat, beans, vegetable and spice mixture, and tomatoes into a 6-quart slow cooker.  Stir well.  Cook on low 6 to 8 hours until mixture is well cooked and darkens in color.  If it is not thickening and you like a thicker chili, remove the cover during the last hour or two.

4) Serve in bowls with classic chili toppings such as a dollup of sour cream, shredded cheese, or chopped scallions.

Stove-Top Method:

1) For step #2 above, use a heavy-bottom dutch oven instead of a saute pan.

2) For step #3 Pour remaining ingredients into the dutch oven.  Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a slow simmer and simmer 4 hours.  Uncover, stir, and simmer 3-4 more hours until mixture darkens and thickens.

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