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Jun 17, 2007 11:53 AM

What makes a good chilli? {from General Topics]

At the risk of being deleted or moved to the Home Cooking Board (where recipes are generally herded), I would say that, when I am making a ground-meat-and-beans type chili con carne (not Texas style), I've come to learn to replace ground beef with a combination of ground turkey and ground buffalo. Far tastier, believe it or not, and one of the rare instances were lower fat tasted better (I am generally of the school that fat and flavor are correlated in a positive way). I like to use fire-roasted tomatoes, fire-roasted corn and fire-roasted salsa verde, too.

To see what I mean, here's a recipe I invented from scratch on a cold week in mid-February and have refined a bit since. The bonus is that the nutritional profile of this chili is fantastic, and has garnered major raves from family and neighbors asking for more. I now think it's fit for Thanksgiving Day - other than the onion, garlic and some seasonsings, all of the ingredients are New World in origin. This is the first time I am publishing it in public, as it were (unlike the hoary repeats I repeat repeatedly on these boards...).

Karl’s AAA (Almost All-American) Chili

1 lb ground buffalo

20 oz ground turkey

At least 6 oz onion (2 small yellow onions), coarsely chopped; you may also add minced garlic to taste (for a more pronounced garlic flavor, add it at the end of cooking)

- 2 tablespoons or more of quality chili powder (I use Penzey’s),
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano (make it Mexican if you can find it),
- 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (half for mild, more for hot)
- 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (ditto)
- 0.5 tablespoon ground cumin
- 0.5 tablespoon ground coriander
- If out of fresh garlic (it happens), add 1 tablespoon garlic powder (1T)
- Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste (also, if the tomatoes turn out to be just too acidic (it happens, too), a pinch or two of granulated sugar might be in order if you like.)

0.5 cup fire-roasted salsa verde (tomatillo salsa) (I use the one from Whole Foods)

Two 28 oz cans of Muir Glen crushed fire-roasted tomatoes

One 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed [you can also substitute equivalent amounts of any dried, rehydrated and parboiled beans you like]

One 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed [ditto]

One 15 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed [ditto]

1lb frozen corn (shoepeg white corn or Trader Joe's roasted corn niblets preferred)

* * *
Use a large (at least 5 quarts, preferably larger) heavy pot. Brown the meat (adding a few pinches of salt to draw out the water) over medium heat until cooked through but not dark or crust. Then create a space at the bottom center of the pot for the onion (and garlic, if you like); let that cook in the rendered juices until soft. Then mix in the spices & salsa and let them cook a few minutes until fully aromatic. Then add the tomatoes, beans and corn, and simmer uncovered over medium low heat for 30-45 minutes (longer if using parboiled dried beans rather than canned beans), stirring occasionally. If the chili is too watery at that point, you puree a cup of it and add that puree back in to thicken it. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Makes about 18 cups (4.5 cups)
Nutritional information per cup: 201 calories, 5.2 grams fat (23%), 1.6 grams saturated fat; 22 grams carbohydrate (44%), 5.6 grams fiber, and 16.4 grams protein (33%)

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  1. Looks good KarlS I love turkey and use it. Would be a good trade in chili.

    10 Replies
    1. re: chef chicklet

      Thanks. I've sometimes been underwhelmed by just ground turkey, but adding the ground buffalo transformed it.

      1. re: Karl S

        I am not able to get buffalo. Saw it once and it must not of sold well, they removed it.
        Perhaps at my Trader Joes. A better choice than and healthier than beef.

        1. re: chef chicklet

          Also wanted to double check on the oregano. I prefer the Mexican oregano also, you call for a tablespoon and at what point to you add it.
          Also, do you cook your spices first then add the salsa? Sorry everyone has these little tricks that do make a big difference, imho anyway...I love beans and especially good chili!!

          1. re: chef chicklet

            Yes, I do cook the spices first before the salsa. The oregano is included with the spices, since it's dried and needs to be rehydrated and heated to bring out its flavors.

            1. re: Karl S

              good thanks, I try to pay attention...

          2. re: chef chicklet

            Chef, Full Circle is up here in the Rogue Valley. Check em out.

            1. re: chef chicklet

              Around Boston, the major supermarkets all carry ground buffalo, often near the ground turkey. That's what inspired me to thinking and led to this recipe. The buffalo creates a deep layer of flavor that the turkey alone cannot do (and I use ground turkey, not ground turkey breast - the latter too lean and low in flavor); the buffalo is also lean enough that the recipe ends up being quite low in fat (23% is really low for a meat-based chili).

            2. re: Karl S

              Nice recipe, Karl. Whole Foods carries buffalo in my area, and I've not yet worked it into chili, but you've motivated me to try. My only changes are order/process oriented: I like the flavor of toasted cumin, so I'd brown it whole in the dry pot first, then grind. Then I would brown the onions next, adding the chili powders & the meats at the same time. And I'd probably add the juice of half a lime at the end, and substitute the shoepeg corn for a big pinch of masa to thicken it a bit.

              1. re: Hungry Celeste


                Toasted the cumin and dry spices in a Teflon pan would be great. However, since I add no oil to this recipe, the onion needs to get cooked in the rendered juices of the meat. I don't want the onions to caramelize, so I don't use them to build a fond the way I would for a ragu.

                I've actually added lime to this chili to good effect; but the salsa is quite tangy as it is. And the masa also can work - but fire-roasted corn adds a bit more complex layers of flavor and texture - why not both!?

                1. re: Karl S

                  I can't reliably find the Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes without driving 20 miles to Whole Foods and spending $3.29 a can. Occasionally, my local Dollar Tree will have a few cans, but it is hit or miss. So I generally use fresh tomatoes and cook my chili down for a long, long time.

          3. I am confused about the three kinds of beans. Even though I know that true Texas chili doesn't have beans, I still grew up with red kidney beans (Dallas/Houston origin), my husband grew up with pintos (a San Antonio version)...but I would never think to mix three beans. Have you tried different bean combos and this is the best? Just wondering.

            And I have to say the recipe looks very good...