Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Being a Leader, not a Follower

I used to be a recipe follower. If a recipe called for an eighth of a teaspoon of something, I had to buy a set of measuring spoons that included an eighth of a teaspoon. There was no eyeballing it. If I was missing any ingredients, I'd be sending Tim to the store instead of making a logical substitution. When I look back, I enjoyed cooking strictly by the recipe but I missed out on the opportunity to be creative. When you take a recipe and make it your own, you get such a feeling of satisfaction. That is, if you make wise decisions based on at least a little experience and knowledge about food. I'm sure that's why I didn't take risks back then. I just didn't feel confident enough in my skills and the perfectionist in me did not want to risk failing.

This has changed. And really just within the past year or so. I can't pinpoint exactly when I became a recipe adapter, or leader if you will, but now that it has happened, I enjoy cooking so much more.

My latest recipe adaptation resulted in one of the best chilis we've ever had. I was looking for a turkey chili recipe and I found an interesting one on I would, by the way, highly recommend searching for recipes on that site. Many, such as this one, are from past issues of Bon Appetit magazine and I've had so much success from the recipes that I am considering subscribing! This recipe called for ground turkey, white beans and a really interesting mix of spices, including cocoa powder! If you've never used cocoa in cooking (as opposed to baking...) don't be afraid of it! Tim made some cocoa rub ribs on the grill this summer that were outstanding!

Now let me be clear that I am not taking credit for how wonderful this chili turned out. It is outstanding chili because the original recipe is outstanding. The slight modifications just make it more "mine." Try this chili and make it yours. I would love to hear how it turns out!

TURKEY CHILI WITH WHITE BEANS -original recipe from Bon Appetit, 1997
(my modifications in parentheses)
1 T vegetable oil (Canola)
2 medium onions, chopped (1 large)
(about a cup of chopped red, yellow, and orange bell peppers)
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (I used 1 lb. ground turkey, 1 lb. chopped turkey filet. We like chunks of meat in our chili!)
1/4 cup chili powder (ancho chili powder!)
2 bay leaves (fresh)
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch dark cocoa)
1 1/2 tsp. salt (Kosher salt)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes (I used San Marzano tomatoes)
3 cups beef stock or canned beef broth (Wegman's beef culinary stock!)
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
3 15-oz. cans small white beans, rinsed and drained (I only used 2 cans of cannelini beans and that was plenty)

Garnishes: Chopped red onion, chopped fresh cilantro, plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream (We used cilantro, light sour cream, shredded reduced fat cheddar, and chipotle tabasco sauce)

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion (and peppers); saute until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin, stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink. breaking up with back of spoon. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon. Mix in stock and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. Ladle chili in to bowls and serve with garnishes/toppings.

**** We served this over brown rice. YUM!!!!!


  1. Even though I'm a meat eater, this sounds great! Maybe I'll try some and jar it up for the girls as well,,, they both love chili but are off "red meat"

  2. I actually prefer chili with turkey instead of beef, but this same recipe could definitely be done with beef. I'd use part ground beef and part beef chunks!
    I bet the girls would like the turkey version. Let me know if you/they like it!