This chili is a fantastic, healthy interpretation of the classic meat stew. Chili, like barbecue, can stir up some fights about methodology and contents, and I’m sure I broke a few rules here. This isn’t meant to be authentic. It’s more of an homage than anything else (call it a derivative work if you don’t like it).
This version is light, zesty, and flavorful–but just heavy and soupy enough to still make it a good contender for cold weather comfort food. (Though it could easily be a feature in a Spring picnic.) The key to making this chili is lots of peppers, at least three different kinds, in fact. A few cans of beans, and some shredded turkey breast later and you have what you can satisfactory call a turkey chili.
I particularly like this recipe because it provides a healthy and lighter alternative to to the heavy and often fatty stews often served during the cold weather. Those have their place, but sometimes it’s nice to know you managed to have a great meal and eat something healthful too.
This recipe is largely inspired by the Cooks Illustrated version of a white turkey chili. They keep things light colored instead of the ruddy browns in beef chilis. Their addition of lime juice brightens the dish and gives the impression of a much lighter meal that goes down really well scooped up on tortilla chips.
Small turkey breasts are sometimes difficult to find. Many are upwards of 6 to 8 pounds. Get the smallest you can find at your store. The recipe can be scaled if necessary.
1 small turkey breast (~3-4lbs), patted dry
1 tbsp veg oil
4 jalapeño chiles
4 poblano chiles, seeds removed, cut into chunks
3 anaheim chiles, seeds removed, cut into chunks
1 large onion, cut into chunks
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
2 cans (~15 oz ea.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (I like Progresso)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (homemade is best)
2 limes, juiced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
4 scallions, sliced into thin rounds (from the white to the light green)
Step one can be omitted for time, but it creates a richer turkey flavor if you do it.
1. Over med-high, heat 1 tbsp veg oil in large, heavy bottomed pot. Once the oil is hot, add the turkey skin-side down and sear for 6-8 minutes. Rotate the turkey, and sear on another side for 6-8 minutes. Repeat until the turkey is well browned. Remove the pot from the heat, remove the turkey to a plate and discard the skin.
2. Working in batches in a food processor, process three of the jalapeños, the poblanos, anaheims, and the onion in 10-20 pulses (stop when it reaches the consistency of salsa).
3. Add the vegetables from step 2 to the now empty pot (leave the oil that was still in it from searing the turkey) along with the garlic, cumin, and coriander. Cook over medium to medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes.
4. After the vegetables soften, process about 1 cup of the vegetables with 1 cup of beans and 1 cup of broth (again, work in batches if you have a small processor) until well blended. Return the now smooth mixture to the pot with the remaining broth. Add the turkey breast (bone-side down) and cover the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 20-30 minutes (internal temp of turkey should be around 160 when cooked).
5. Reduce heat to medium-low and transfer the turkey to a plate. Add the remaining beans to the pot and cook until heated through, 5-10 minutes.
6. Mince remaining jalapeños–to make the chili hotter, keep the seeds.
7. Shred or chop the turkey (I did a bit of both) and add the turkey, jalapeños, lime juice, cilantro, and scallions to the pot. Stir to combine and taste for salt and pepper adjustments. Serve with tortilla chips.