Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hot Child In The City


I know that for many people, any dish that's packed with heat is generally thought of as being winter fare. But for me, certain hot and spicy dishes are exactly what the doctor ordered as the weather turns warm. Of course, none of us wants a warm bowl of anything once the humidity of summer kicks in, but in that blessed post-winter mirage we call spring (I think it technically still exists), when the sun is warm but shady breezes tickle our newly exposed ankles and virgin toes, nothing welcomes me home like a light stew. The house doesn't need heat, but it's too soon for the AC, and the temperature in the kitchen is just right. There may only be one day a year that fits this description, but on that day, I'm making white chili. It's faster than a traditional beef chili which means less time in front of that hot stove, and it's lighter not just in the use of ground turkey over beef, but also in bringing juicy morsels of sweet corn and creamy white beans to the flavor party. There's no tomato and therefore less thickness to this type of chili, plus it has lemony-fresh cilantro and plenty of diced jalapeños. For me the added bonus are cooling toppings like sour cream and super creamy avocados, not to mention a big handful of cheese and a big squirt of lime juice.

Everyone has their own style when it comes to chili, especially the turkey variety. For some people it's a way to get their daily serving of vegetables, tossing in everything from zucchini to bell peppers and kale, but I generally keep it pretty simple. If I'm trying to really be healthy I stop at turkey, beans, and corn as main ingredients (not counting the onions and garlic), but if I want a little added punch, as I did recently, I like to add a bit of spicy sausage. Chorizo is my first choice, but coming in at a close second is andouille, which I used in this recipe. If you've never had it before it's truly a superior sausage. Smoky and spicy, it hails from the Cajun kitchens of Louisiana, where the black pepper is plentiful and there are green peppers in almost everything. That's why I like using it here, because the mild jalapeños and plethora of spices subtly echo the types of flavors in that wonderful and highly flavorful cuisine. It's also smoked, which much like chorizo with its smoked paprika, really lends an earthy, smoky punch of flavor. You can always use any type of sausage that may be on hand, but this will give you the most flavor bang for your buck, and like I mentioned, really gives the dish a harmonious, layered flavor--no small feat considering how quickly and easily it comes together.

Like any good chili it starts with a large, heavy pot or dutch oven and some onions, cooked down with garlic and a few spices (toasting dry spices is essential to developing their flavor). Once that's done I like to push the mixture to one side and brown the sausage in the new little hot spot I've opened up. Then I do the same with the sausage, pushing it to one side and browning the turkey in the new hot spot. Once it's cooked through and no longer pink, I combine it with the onion and sausage mixture and in go the jalapeños (I personally prefer them not softened because I like their fresh bell pepper flavor, but you could certainly cook them down). After a minute or so I add the chicken stock along with chopped cilantro. After letting the mixture boil together for 10-15 minutes I toss in the beans, which are canned and only need a minute in the soup to heat up. Then in goes the corn (I prefer frozen over canned) and you're ready to serve. There are a ton of different toppings to be had, including spring radishes, avocado, raw onions, lime, sour cream, chopped cilantro and any number of cheeses. I like all of them and usually put out everything I have on hand. So the next time you feel that spring breeze or a slight chill while walking in the shade, give this chili a try; it'll warm you and your soul.

White Turkey Chili

1lb ground turkey
1 15 oz can white cannellini beans, rinsed
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp coriander
1 cup andouille sausage, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup frozen sweet corn
2-3 jalapeños (spice to your taste), finely diced
extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat onions and garlic over medium-low heat in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add all of the dried spices and cook 1 minute further.

2. Move onion/spice mixture to one side of pot and add sausage, cooking until browned. Scoot sausage to the side with the onions and add turkey to the empty space in the pot. Cook turkey on medium-high heat until no longer pink and combine with the rest of the items in the pot. Add jalapeños and stir to combine.

3. Add enough chicken stock to cover, along with cider vinegar and half of the cilantro and cook, partially covered, about 15 minutes. Add white beans and frozen corn, cooking just until each are warmed through. Add stock as necessary if it becomes too dry. Serve topped with sour cream, avocado, sliced radishes, shredded cheese or a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!



Kathryn said...

I love, love, love this recipe. It's officially my new favorite Laura recipe!

We made a big batch of this early this week and all 3 of us found it delicious, light but filling, and fun even Tim who says that he's "not a big fan of chili, usually." I put a little cheese and avocado on my chili as toppings and it was fabulous!

We liked it so much we made enough to give a dinner's worth to another family that we are friends with and this was the response I got after they had it: "The chili was FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Laura said...

Hey Kathryn,

I'm so glad you liked it! It's definitely a good option for these days when the weather is less than predictable and a cozy dinner must be had. I wish I had a section for tried and tested reader favorites so I could give it a gold star!

Kathryn said...

Hi Laura,

Virtual gold star--yay!

We made this again today and Tim wrote to me (I was at work) while it was cooking and said "the chili is simmering on the stove and smells so good! I was afraid it wouldn't be as good as I remembered, but it sure smells good!" Sure enough, it was just as delicious this time.

I have already sent the recipe to several people.

Thank you again! :-)