Chile. Chili. Chilly. What’s the difference? Chile (pronounced cheé-leh in Spanish) refers to any one of hundreds of types of chile pepper. Chiles include Serrano, Guajillo, Chipotle, Habanero, and so on. The pepper is also referred to as chili or chilli in places outside of the American Southwest. Chili refers to a stew usually made with, meat, chile peppers, spices, and often tomatoes and beans. Chili powder is a blend of ground chiles, cumin, coriander, dried oregano, garlic, and salt. You can buy it or make your own. Chilly is cold. Chili Palmer is the gangster played by John Travolta in Get Shorty. A very funny movie, by the way. But I digress.
Every cook has their own version of chili, and there are as many variations as there are cooks. You go to a chili cook-off, not a chile cook-off. While chile and chili are often used interchangeably, here at Hot Eddie’s we’ll usually refer to the ‘chile’ as a specific type of pepper and ‘chili’ as the dish. Except for Chile Verde and Chile Colorado, but we’ll get into that later.
The original, original recipe for “chili” was meat, suet, dried chiles, and salt pounded into cakes and dried that could be boiled up in a pot of water when on the trail. This basic staple of the west has undergone many, many transformations in the past hundred years. Chili con Carne (chili with meat) typically means just meat and the chili sauce. The inclusion of beans is always a topic of hot debate amongst chili aficionados. Many claim that true Texas Style chile never has beans or tomatoes. Legend has it that Lyndon Johnson instructed his cook to substitute tomatoes for the suet because of health issues. Chili John’s in Burbank, California serves an authentic Texas chili, (even though the recipe originated in Green Bay, Wisconsin). Beans or spaghetti are optional. Whatever the reason, whatever the ingredients, chili is a comforting, warming dish for those cool nights and days ahead.
Here is a recipe for Chili con Carne that uses ground turkey instead of the usual ground beef. It includes fresh chiles, chili powder, onions, beans, and tomatoes; an all-inclusive dish. You can leave out the meat and use vegetable stock and it becomes vegan friendly. Like all our recipes, please feel free to vary the ingredients and proportions as you wish. You can vary the types and amounts of chiles to regulate the heat. You can add more ground powdered chile or a chipotle, either dried or in adobo. You can add cocoa powder and cinnamon to make it more like a mole. You can omit the tomatoes and use more stock. You can add a can of corn, omit the peppers, use different beans, use a mixture of beans, use fewer beans, leave the beans out. However you cook it, chili is an indispensable item in any cook’s repertoire.
Turkey Bean Chili – Prep time 30 minutes. Cook time 1½ hours. Makes 3 quarts and serves 6-8
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 jalepeño or Serrano chiles
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 green poblano peppers
1 red bell pepper
1 pound ground turkey meat
2 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ – 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
2 Bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken or beef stock
½ cup white wine
½ pound dried beans; pinto, mayocoba, kidney, black, red, pink, whatever you like.
You can make this chili powder in a few minutes and it is much better than the store-bought version. If you don’t want to do it yourself, Chili Powder is available in nearly any grocery store. Hot Eddie encourages you to make your own, as you can experiment with different spices and chiles. You can add a teaspoon of cocoa powder and/or cinnamon to add another layer of flavor. Just have fun with it.
¼ cup ground powdered ancho chili. You can get powdered chile at any market that carries Latino products.
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons crumbled oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and put in a tightly sealed jar. Keeps for months.
For the beans
There is a debate as to whether to pre-soak beans or not. I used to use the quick soak method outlined below. Many feel there is no advantage to soaking the beans, and just rinse them and put them up to boil. I have become a devotee of this. I haven’t noticed any difference in flavor, texture or cooking time. Pinto beans usually take an hour or so to cook. Other beans cook more quickly, so the best guide is to simmer them until they are soft but firm. You don’t want mushy beans.
Rinse and sort. If you are going to soak them, either cover with water and soak overnight or use the quick soak method: Put beans in large pot and cover with 2 quarts of water. Bring to boil. Turn off heat, cover and let stand for an hour. The most common bean for chili is the pinto bean. Pale, mottled pink. I used a mayacoba bean. It is white, a little bigger than the pinto, cooks more quickly, and has a nice creamy texture and a distinctive taste. Years ago, I got a wonderful yellow bean, called Indian Woman Yellow at the farmer’s market. You can use any dried or canned bean you want.
Whichever method you use, when the beans have soaked, drain and rinse. Rinse out the cooking pot.
Cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour until the beans are tender. I have heard “Don’t add salt until the last 5 minutes of cooking” as it makes the beans tough. We have tested this, and prefer to add a big pinch of salt, as much as a level teaspoon, at the beginning to help season the beans from the inside. Or you can skip this whole thing and use 1 or 2 14 oz. cans of beans, drained and rinsed. It’s up to you.
While the beans are cooking, put the olive oil into a 4-quart or larger pot, and put over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 10 minutes till they are clear and soft.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add the turkey and brown the meat, breaking up into desired size chunks. Keep the heat fairly high so the meat browns and doesn’t start to stew.
When all traces of pink are gone, sprinkle the chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, salt, and cayenne over the meat and onions. Mix thoroughly to coat the meat with the spices and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the mixture becomes fragrant.
Add the garlic, jalepeño or serrano, red pepper, poblano, and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften the peppers.
Add the stock and the crushed tomatoes, rinsing out the can with the half-cup of wine. Stir to combine. Add the bay leaves, and oregano. Bring to the boil and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes (or so) stirring occasionally.
Spoon the cooked beans into the chili with a slotted spoon and add as much of the cooking water as necessary to cover the beans and make a nice thickish sauce. Simmer for another half an hour or so, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and ground black pepper if you like.
Serve with warm tortillas, garnished with fresh cilantro and chopped raw or green onion. You can spoon it over hot rice for some extra carbs. Some people even put grated cheese on it.
This is actually better the next day. The flavors have a chance to meld and marry. It freezes magnificently to have on hand when the urge strikes for a nice hot bowl of chili goodness. Enjoy