Saturday, November 05, 2005

Turkey Chili

Most people have the sense not to cook a large hunk of turkey in the beginning of November because they anticipate that turkey will soon become tiresome to them when they are faced with the leftovers of the Thanksgiving feast. I like turkey more than most people (more than most people like turkey, that is, not more than I like most people), perhaps because many people don't know how to roast turkey and end up with overcooked breast meat that is just as bad in sandwiches or croquettes as it was on the Thanksgiving table. Contrariwise, I am highly skilled in the roasting of turkey (and poultry generally), so I have no reason to fear the big bird, except perhaps when it comes to finding space in the refrigerator.

As many of you are doubtless aware, the tendency to overcook is also responsible for the highly regrettable tendency of turkey processors to add all manner of whatnot to their turkeys, resulting in labels that will tell you that up to 11% of the weight of the turkey you're buying is something other than turkey. At Thanksgiving time, I can generally, even in the supermarket, find a turkey that says "minimally processed," meaning that it has not been injected with Godknowswhatall, but during the rest of the year, it can be impossible to find all-turkey turkeys, and you just have to do your best to find something that has the lowest percentage of the least objectionable additives. (I am holding back rather a significant rant here, largely because I managed to work it out of my system at the supermarket last night, where I was audibly hurling invective at a whole bin full of packaged turkeys who probably didn't deserve it. One assumes that they didn't ask to be processed, minimally or otherwise.

Anyway. A friend of mine used to live on Capitol Hill in DC, and when I would go to hang out with him, we would often eat at a small restaurant near his house, and I would often order the white bean turkey chili, and it was always good. Because I've been craving turkey, I decided to try to make some. I was pleased with the results, though I did have to monkey around with the seasoning for a while before it tasted the way I wanted it too. As is my usual practice, I have worked the corrections into the recipe so that it represents what I should have done had I known then what I know now.

Turkey Chili with Navy Beans

2 T. olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. ground cumin
3 T. ground ancho peppers
2 t. celery seed
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. salt
black pepper
2 lbs. dried navy beans
4 quarts water
1 turkey breast, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes

Put a large, heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, stir in the chopped onions (white and red), cover, and let cook for five minutes or so until the onions are softened. Add the garlic, cumin, ground ancho, celery seed, oregano, and salt. Grind in some black pepper. Stir, cover, and let cook for another three minutes.

Add the navy beans and stir well. Add the water, the turkey breast, and the wine. Cover and bring to the simmer.

Put the covered pot in a 225 degree oven. Go to bed.

The next morning, take the pot out of the oven. Remove the turkey and set it on a cutting board to cool. Taste the beans and correct the seasoning. You will need significantly more salt. When the turkey is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones. Cut the meat into cubes and stir back into the pot.

This recipe makes a lot of chili, so if you're not going to be making it for a crowd, you might want to cut the recipe in half. I'm going to be freezing a lot of the batch I made and then taking it to the office for lunch.

Ground ancho chiles are really not spicy. Because my chili will be eaten by people who don't like spicy food, I haven't added any heat here, and when I eat a bowl of it, I add hot sauce at the table. You are, of course, welcome to add hotter peppers during the cooking, as I would, if I didn't have to feed some of it to the kids.

If you're wise, you'll either tie the turkey breast with kitchen string or wrap it in cheesecloth before you put it in the pot. Otherwise, when you come back to it the next morning, you will find that it begins to fall apart if you so much as give it a quizzical look, and you will spend a great deal of time fishing vertebrae and other bones and skin and large hunks of meat out of the chili, and you will invariably miss some, and then you'll be finding bits of bone at the table, and you don't want that.

Because the turkey's already falling apart, you don't need to cut it up too finely before returning it to the pot. It will shred of its own accord. The chili will look very thin, but it will thicken up nicely when you return the chopped turkey to the pot. If it's too thin, just cook it on top of the stove for a little longer. I had originally planned to add a cup or so of barley after I put the turkey back in, but I didn't need any, and I didn't have any, so I changed my mind.


Anonymous lindy said...

I too am a great fan of the big bird. In fact, I find your taste in foodstuffs to be exemplary ( which is to say, very similar to my own.)

Turkey soup, whether made from the Thanksgiving bird or those nice turkey necks you can buy now, to my mind makes the best broth of all broths. (My mother claims that leftover partridges were the basis of the best soup she ever tasted. Having never had a partridge in any form, I can't say.)

I am trying to find an excuse to make a big bird, as we are now having holiday feasts at my brother's place, cause the aged parent can't do my steps. I need the leftovers like flowers need the rain.

9:57 AM  

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