Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful that you are here. I learned not too long ago that gratitude and happiness are BFFs, which really makes a lot of sense to me. In order to combat the overwhelming negativity of the news of the world, I've been trying to do more through small gestures, to express my gratitude and appreciation to and for other people in my life. I talked to my boss at work about occasionally making chili for everyone (about 20 people) for lunch. I've done it twice now that the weather has turned cold, cooking it at home in my enormous beer brewing pot and bringing it to work in two 8-quart slow cookers to keep it warm. It's been a big hit and everyone gets really excited, which has just been a joy.
I've scaled down the recipe below, as it takes 4 times as much to feed everyone at work. Of course, there are countless ways to make chili and I'm probably going to keep tinkering with my recipe. I like to use ground turkey, but feel free to use beef or other protein sources according to your preferences. Per the preference of one of my coworkers, I didn't use any onions, though there's likely to be a small amount of onion powder in the store-bought chile powder. Instead, the flavor of onions is achieved with asafoetida, a pungent spice available at Indian grocery stores. I also added diced winter squash and I use a little bit of instant corn masa (tortilla flour) to thicken the chili, kinda like Alton Brown's tortilla chip trick.
I should have taken more photos the last time I made chili, but I kinda had my hands full. When making a big batch to share with my coworkers, I use about 8 jalapeños and 3 ripe bell peppers, shown chopped above. And since I remove the seeds and interior white parts from the jalapeños, the chili comes out flavorful yet mild, allowing everyone to customize the heat level of their own bowl with hot sauce.
Ginkgo Gardens Chili
2 tbsp of canola oil plus a splash, divided
1 tbsp of chile powder (store-bought)
1/4 tsp homemade roasted chile powder (substitutions: hot smoked paprika or ground cayenne)
1 tsp of ground cumin
A pinch of asafoetida (1/16 tsp, if you had to measure it)
2.25 lbs of ground turkey
1 tsp of kosher salt
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeños, seeds removed and chopped
2 cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (14.5 oz each)
1 can of chili beans in mild sauce (15.5 oz)
2 cups of your favorite winter squash, peeled and diced
1 tbsp of instant corn masa
1/2 tsp of dried oregano
Temper the spices: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the two chile powders, ground cumin, and asafoetida and stir for about 15 seconds. The initial pungency of the asafoetida will mellow while the flavors of the other spices will be enhanced. Just make sure not to inhale directly over the pot or you'll pepper-spray yourself.
Brown the meat: Add the ground turkey and a teaspoon of salt, stirring to break up the meat and coat it in the spiced oil. Cook until the meat is no longer pink.
Soften the peppers: In a saute pan, cook the chopped bell pepper and jalapeños in a splash of oil (just enough to coat the pan and prevent the peppers from sticking) over medium-low heat until they soften, which takes just a few minutes.
Add in all the veggies and simmer: To the browned meat mixture, add the tomatoes, beans, squash, and sauteed peppers. Stir to mix. When the chili starts to simmer, sprinkle the instant corn masa over the surface and stir again. Cook until the squash is tender and the masa has done its job of thickening the chili, about 20-30 minutes.
The finishing touch: Turn off the heat and stir in the dried oregano. Wait at least 10 minutes before serving so that you don't burn your mouth with hot lava (I have a bad habit of ignoring this advice). In the meantime, assemble some garnishes: I like chopped green onion tops, chopped cilantro, hot sauce, shredded cheese, and sour cream.
BONUS: here's a video to help you appreciate your ability to eat and digest food:
No, seriously, this is the best thing I have ever seen.