Lemons Lemons are one of my favorite flavor enhancers but you need to be careful of the white pith. If you cook the pith, it turns very bitter. Cooking the rind or pulp is fine but never use the pith or seeds. I remember discovering this disturbing fact cooking chicken piccata for the first time. I thought I could enhance the flavor by cooking lemon slices in the sauce but instead I got a bitter taste I couldn't correct with sugar.
My Favorite Pan My favorite pan is a twenty dollar cast iron pan. I remember vividly how my step-father coveted his iron pan and warned us about not using soap to clean it. Seasoned and maintained properly, an iron pan can last forever. It is better than any non stick pan and far more durable. It's thick base holds heat better than any pan in my arsenal and prevents food from burning by dispersing the heat.
Chipotle in adobo are smoked jalapeños that have been canned with tomato sauce, vinegar, garlic and other spices. Think of them as a party in a can. Chipotle chilis in adobo are one of those go to methods to enhance the flavor of any dish. It falls in the same realm, for me, as prepared horseradish, Dijon mustard, capers, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and many other other flavor enhancing food products that are too numerous to list here. Not as many people think of chipotle in adobo because it's hot. But it also has tons of flavor to go with the heat that can pick up any dish. I guess what I'm trying to say is, chipotle peppers go perfect with chili because people expect chili to have a little heat.
Chipotle in Adobo are easy to find these days in just about every supermarket. Just look for the international foods aisle and you will find them in the Mexican section. I use the Embasa brand and it has never let me down. I'm sure other brands are just as good but you might want to do a taste test one day if you have the luxury of time. Taste tests are really important if you wish to improve your cooking skills. Even tasting basic ingredients is a great idea. Don't just throw stuff in a pot and hope it comes out good. Understand each piece in the recipe and you will understand food preparation at a much more intimate level.
The spice mix for the ground turkey and vegetables is a combination of garlic powder, celery seed, chili powder, cumin, black pepper and salt. If you've never used celery seed before, it has a strong earthy and somewhat bitter flavor that compliments tomato based dishes which is why I use it in chili. The seed is not derived from the familiar celery stalks you see at the grocery store but the dried fruit or seed of a wild variety of celery called smallage. I absolutely love it and try to sneak it into recipes all the time. If you are familiar with celery salt, it is the ground celery seeds mixed with salt of which I am also a big fan. The other spices are fairly common and require no explanation.
I use ground turkey because I actually think it tastes better but feel free to use ground beef. My wife started me on leaner meats, to my dismay, so don't tell her I like the turkey... Shhhhh! Browning the meat develops flavor so set your burner to medium high heat and get the pan really hot. Since ground meats have a large surface area, you won't be able to brown all of it since juices will start to release, dampening the process. That's okay because unbrowned meat has a rich silky texture that you will love as well. After the initial sear occurs, cover the meat with half the spice mixture and begin breaking up the meat into pieces and mixing to get all sides cooked.
Drain the rendered fat from the browned turkey into a pot large enough to hold all the chili ingredients. Add enough extra oil to cook the vegetables on medium high. Start with the onions and shallots and cook till starting to become translucent. I would recommend having all your ingredients chopped and ready to go for this process as it goes quickly. Add the minced jalapeños and cook for a minute, stirring frequently. Do the same with the green peppers. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant, about a minute. Add the rest of the spice mixture and cook for another minute.
Now you can add all the tomato paste, tomatoes and chipotle peppers. Stir the the mixture till the tomato paste is dispersed evenly. Add the chicken broth and beans and simmer for at least 30 minutes, if not longer. My wife always says it tastes better the next day cause it has time for the flavors to meld. She is probably right but I always like a dish fresh off the stove and not reheated so I suggest simmering longer. Fifteen minutes before you are ready to serve, add the corn meal as a thickener. In the past I have used refried beans instead with better results but there is a limit to how much I will do for a single recipe. I won't put those nasty canned refried beans in my chili so I have to wait for mexican night to happen just before chili night. If you do decide to add refried beans instead, you need about a cup to thicken the chili.
Just before spooning the chili into bowls, squeeze half a lemon and mixed quickly. The lemon will bring a freshness to the chili. Now all that's left is to garnish each bowl with your favorite toppings like sharp cheddar cheese, raw onions (either yellow, red or green onions), sour cream, avocado slices and a few dashes of tabasco. I always like corn chips with my chili. I say corn chips because I don't mean tortilla chips. I like those Fritos Scoops from Frito-Lay. The hearty thickness of the scoops just seems to match better with the chili than a plain old tortilla chip.
No bowl of chili would be complete without a great craft beer. I even substitute a cup of beer for some of the chicken broth when I think about it. But, I usually drink the beer in all honesty. Here is what I was drinking the night I made this chili. This double IPA from Pizza Port in San Diego was refreshing to say the least. I won't try to review it other than I liked it because sometimes I feel like people make up what they taste. For me, it's not about picking out each individual flavor but how it tastes as a whole. That to me is the taste and I liked it!
Combine Salt, Cumin, Chili Powder, Celery Seed and Pepper.
Heat a large pan on medium high. When hot, place a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the pan and sear turkey. While it is searing, place half the spice mix on the meat. Break the turkey apart as it browns and mix occasionally till meat is done. Set aside.
Heat a medium size pot on medium. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil followed by onions and shallots. Mix occasionally to prevent burning but not browning. After five minutes, add Jalapeños and cook for a few minutes. Add Green Peppers and cook another few minutes. Add garlic and mix till fragrant for about 30 seconds.
Mix in the Rest
Start by adding the tomato paste and diced or stewed tomatoes. Mix well and add chicken broth. Follow up with browned turkey. Finally, add rinsed beans and chipotle peppers. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Final 20 minutes
Add the corn meal and mix well. Simmer an additional 20 minutes. Just before serving, squeeze the lemon and mix well.
Serve in bowls and garnish with cheese, onions, sour cream, avocado slices and Tabasco.