Thursday, October 28, 2010

Turkey Chili

Cooking desi has affected the way I cook many other cuisines. Particularly the desi concept of bhunofying---that is Hinglish or Urdu-lish for cooking down ingredients until all of the moisture has evaporated out of them and the cooking oil floats to the top of the contents of the pan---has influenced me. Take the American dish, chili. Chili is an appropriation of the Northern Mexican and South Western US chile con carne (or carne con chile :p). Traditional chile con carne is a sauce of ground rehydrated dried red chiles and cubed beef, slow cooked. It actually looks vaguely like a Pakistani saalan ("curry"). No ground beef. No beans. Certainly no turkey or tofu granules. Chile con carne is very much and American dish, as it belongs to the land of the South Western US states which were erstwhile a part of Mexico. But the dish has taken on a life of its own in the hands of the gringos and gabachos in those states and in the the rest of the US, with regional variations all across the country. And it has gone from chile con carne to chili con have to say chile as chili and carne as carni in true estilo gabacho. We have divergent chilis from New Mexico to Texas and even Wisconsin, bean-less ground beef chiles, bean only chilis, black bean chili, and tofu chili. Among die-hard connoisseurs, there are great debates on whether or not good chili contains tomatoes. There are artisanal chilis and chili cook offs. Then we have chili in a can, chili dogs, and chili cheese fries, and so on. Tried and true American appropriation and adaptation (I dare not say bastardization) is seen in so many foods from around the world, and the treatment of chile con carne is the same, making it uniquely estadounidense and regionalized. Here, I share with you my personal recipe for spicy hot low fat turkey chili. Preparation involves a few steps, but the results are excellent. I credit the delicious taste to the desi technique of bhunofying the base of the chili gravy. This recipe is non-traditional and there are a few surprise seasonings in it.

1 pound lean ground turkey
1/4 cup oil

Brown turkey well in the oil, mashing and breaking it into little granules as you fry it golden brown. When it is well browned, throw it in a colander. Strain the oil and wash the excess fat off with water. Don't worry, the browning will leave it flavorful and you won't miss the fat. Set this aside. I brown the turkey separately for a couple of reasons. Firstly, so that I may rinse off the fat. Second, I find that ground turkey throws off a lot of water and simply boils in its own juices and ruins the other ingredients if I cook it with the onions and other ingredients.

1/4 cup oil
1 yellow onion finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, crushed
(I put my onion and garlic together in a food chopper and blitz them together)
3 tablespoons Goya Sofrito
1 7 oz can of chipotle in adobo sauce, (puree full can in food chopper)
2 12 oz cans Rotel Tomato and Green Chiles, pour into a strainer and strain off liquid
3 tbs chili powder (Tex-Mex style, do not use Indian red chile powder)
1 tbs chipotle chile powder
1 tbs Mexican oregano
1 tbs roasted cumin powder
1 tbs salt
1 12 oz bottle of non-alcoholic beer
1 can red kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke
1.5 cups water
3 tbs masa harina or finely ground cornmeal

Heat oil in a deep pot. Add in garlic and onions and fry until golden. Add in Goya sofrito. Stir for a few moments to cook through. Sofrito is associated with Latin-Caribbean cuisines (originally it is Spanish), not Tex-Mex, but I like the savory flavor that it adds to many dishes and I use it in many other non-traditional ways. Add in chipotles in adobo sauce and stir for a few moments. Add in strained Rotel tomatoes and chiles. Stir on high heat until all the water has evaporated from the tomatoes and you have a thick paste. This is the desi style bhunofying step. I said this was a low fat recipe. Now you will turn off the heat. Cover the pot for a few minutes to allow all of the oil to come out of the paste. Now pour off all of the excess oil. You have defatted your chile base! You will have low fat, high flavor chili.

Return pan to stove, turn on medium heat and the salt, the roasted cumin, chili powder, and chipotle powder, and the Mexican oregano. Fry this for a few moments to release the flavor of the dried spices a bit.

At this point, add your browned turkey. Mix well, and add in the non-alcoholic beer. Next, add in your two cans of beans. I use pinto and kidney but you may use any beans you like. Stir in the liquid smoke, the masa harina, and the water. You may add more or less water depending on how you like the consistency of your chili, liquid or dry or in between. Adjust salt if necessary. Allow to boil, then lower heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes.

You may serve this as you like, but I like to have it with corn chips, garnished with pico de gallo, or  instead chopped raw onions, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, and some shredded cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese. You can also add a spoon of guacamole, chopped avocado, or a dash of sour cream. Very Tex-Mex, spicy, and yummy. This dish also goes great with corn bread.

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