Cooking on the Cheap: Chipotle Turkey Chili

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July 20, 2009 by skwishface

Just because it’s healthy and costs about $7 doesn’t mean it has to taste like bean sprout cardboard and only feed you once.

Did that even make sense? What I’m trying to say is that I’m a huge fan of easy recipes that can be cooked in large quantities, in one pot, with ingredients that impact my budget and my love handles as little as possible. Listen to the economy, folks. It whispers gently “embrace leftovers, for I am cruel”.

Chipotle Turkey Chili (prep time: 20 minutes, cost: about $7, servings: 10-ish)
1+ lbs. ground turkey
24-oz. can tomatoes
15.5 oz can pinto beans, red beans x2
1 whole white onion,chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 qt. chicken stock
olive oil
salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder to taste

(should you desire a printable version of this recipe, look no further than here)

The mystery tupperware to the right? Chipotles.

The mystery tupperware to the right? Chipotles. Because one can lasts FOR-E-VER.

You may be wondering about this chipotle ingredient. WTF?, you may be thinking. I wish I had a fresh can to apply my amateur photography to, but alas all I have is this. Anyway, chipotles in adobo sauce are smokey roasted jalapenos swimming in this magnificent spicy sauce. It smells so good that the first time I opened a can of chipotles, I was tempted to dip a finger into the sauce and sample it.


Unless, of course, you enjoy several minutes spent gasping for breath while desperately chugging milk straight from the jug as tears stream down your face. Not that I speak from experience.

Moving on! Chop up your onion and garlic, drop them into your favorite soup pot with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. No need to dice them up all pretty – they’re going in the blender later. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper goodness, and cook ’em till they’re translucent. Which is fancy-talk for “kinda see-through”.

Highly caffeinated diet beverage: optional. Unless you're me. Then it's one of the food groups.

Highly caffeinated diet beverage: optional. Unless you're me. Then it's one of the food groups.

Notice how it looks like the onions are way, waaaaaaaay down at the bottom of a glimmering stainless steel pit? That’s because they are! My soup pot was one of those rare bargain-basement shopping finds, a real gem of culinary equipment. What it’s doing in my kitchen is beyond me. I’m like a dweeby guy with an inexplicably hot girlfriend – don’t know how I got her, and every day I pray she doesn’t come to her senses and dump me for some skinny professional chef.

While the onions and garlic are doing their thing, prep the tomatoes.

Let's pretend I have a prettier drain in my sink, k?

Let's pretend I have a prettier drain in my sink, k?

Drain the whole can of it’s excess juiciness. You’ll be reducing this mixture to a pasty goo later, so might as well take the head start and eliminate any moisture you don’t need.

Drop the tomatoes in a blender and add however many chipotles you like.

They smell and taste so much better than they look.

They smell and taste so much better than they look.

I used 2 and a half peppers, and scooped in the adobo sauce until I started involuntarily shaking in terror. Then I added a bit more. Be careful with this stuff. Remember: you can always add more heat, but once it’s in, there’s no getting it out. No matter how hardcore you think you are, there’s no way you’ll use the whole can of chipotles. Never fear – they freeze beautifully and can always be used again later on in life.

Blend the tomatoes and chipotles together. Now you could just chop this up and not blend it, go for a chunkier texture in the final dish, but I prefer the smoother texture to the chili. Also, there’s a chance The Husband might be eating this, so I must eliminate as many recognizable bits of veggie as possible.

That being said ….

See? Translucent!

See? Translucent!

Add the onions and garlic, blend until it looks something like this:

Taste it to check the heat. Resist the urge to devour like gazpacho.

Taste it to check the heat. Resist the urge to devour like it's salsa.

Meanwhile, back at the pot.

Add a bit of olive oil (the turkey doesn’t have much fat of it’s own, see) and the ground turkey. Salt and pepper to your liking, and sprinkle in a bit of the chili powder. How much? Damned if I know. A tablespoon? Try that, see how you like it. Anyway, brown the meat, then scoop it out of the pot and set it aside.

Cook it all the way through! Turkey is poultry. Undercooked = bad.

Cook it all the way through! Turkey is poultry. Undercooked = bad.

Now your soup pot has all manner of flavorful goodness clinging to the bottom. To this, add your tomatoey mixture from the blender and a splash of the chicken stock.

Hellooooo down there .... there ... there ...

Did I mention how bright and colorful this dish is?

The reason you don’t see a picture of me adding chicken stock is because I didn’t.

I had a box of stock, but it went bad, a fact which I didn’t discover until I was well beyond the Point of No Going To The Store For Ingredients. So I had to substitute some leftover juices I’d saved from the last time I roasted a chicken, which ended up tasting pretty awesome but also covered my hands in chicken grease when I thought I was cool enough to skim the fat off the stuff using just gravity and the tupperware lid rather than some kind of utensil. Free advice: always use a utensil.

Long story short (too late), there is chicken stock in there. I was just too greasy and chickeny to get a picture.

Cook the tomatoey goodness over medium-ish heat, stirring every now and then. You want to get the moisture to steam out, but without burning anything. Keep this up till it’s thick and pastey enough to leave a trench when you swipe at it with your spoon.

Mmm, lava.


Then add the meat.

It's looking awfully orange. I blame the lighting.

Mmm, low-fat protein.

Stir that all together and let it simmer. While that’s happening, prep the beans:

(insert witty caption here)

(insert witty caption here)

Canned beans are packed in this weird starchy liquid that I’m not fond of. It smells odd and tends to dull the color of whatever it’s added to. Also, unnecessary addition of liquid. Drain it! Or don’t, if you’re into odd-smelling dull-looking soupy chili. It’s all just a matter of preference.

Once drained, add the beans!

Thrilling action shot!

Thrilling action shot!

Gently stir the beans in, lest you break them and turn them into mush. Add the rest of your chicken stock, until you get the consistency you want. Give it a quick taste. Then add a whole bunch of seasoning.

That's a WHOLE bunch. Not half. Whole.

That's a WHOLE bunch. Not half. Whole.

Cumin, pepper, salt, chili powder. I don’t know how much, exactly. If I could lure my measuring spoons out of hiding, I might be able to tell you. As it is, if I had to guess I’d say it’s about a tablespoon of the cumin, a heaping tablespoon of the chili powder, and a teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. But really, it’s all a matter of your tastebuds. Add a little, stir it in, sample it. Add more if you want. You’re the one that’s gonna eat it, after all.

Stir it all together, slap a lid on it, drop the heat to medium-low, and WALK AWAY. For at least half an hour.

Amusingly distorted face of The Boy! He was "helping".

Amusingly distorted face of The Boy! He was "helping".

Seriously. Don’t even lift the lid for at least 30 minutes. Just let it simmer and work its mojo. You’ll be glad you did.

Serve! And since you’ve done so well, cooking with low-fat meat and all these veggies, you deserve a mound of Monterey Jack cheese. You’ve earned it.

Oh, momma.

Oh, momma.


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