Turkey & Vegetable Chili – A Potluck Hit

My mom called over the weekend and said she had a potluck coming up. She typically brings side dishes, but this time around she wanted to bring a main. Both of us own ATK’s Light & Healthy 2010 book that I’ve been covering over the last month, so it just made sense for me to find something in there.

Right away I spotted “Vegetarian Chili” and promised I’d feature it on the site this week. After we got off the phone, our web admin politely reminded me that I had already made that recipe and we disliked it. A lot.

Huh. Really? This delicious pot of goodness?

It took me a few minutes to remember why, but I finally did. To turn it into a vegetarian chili, the meat was taken out and replaced with a funny little soy product called “tempeh“.

I had no idea what that even was, and had to look it up. As it turns out, tempeh is made up of soybeans fermented into a hard cake. To cook, it’s crumbled with a little oil in a pan — the same way any ground beef product is cooked. It’s a little lighter than meat, but I thought the texture and weight of it to be very similar to ground turkey. There’s just one problem: The smell.

As I said, it’s fermented, and that makes a weird odor. It was so strong that it influenced my sense of taste. I just couldn’t get past it. So this time around, I swapped it out for ground turkey, and I was really pleased with the results.

Now, there are lots of chilis. And there are certain parts of the United States where chili is a huge deal and people claim definitive chili recipes. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. I believe it’s nice to have a few different kinds in one’s repertoire. This one is loaded with vegetables, and I don’t think it can be compared on the same level with the strict meat and bean chilis. But that’s just me.

Looking at the ingredient list, right away we know it’s Southwestern: Red bell pepper, tons of garlic, chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, cumin seeds and lime.

Unfortunately, I omitted a very important first step — the diced tomatoes are supposed to be pulsed in a food processor or blender for about ten 1-second pulses. That’s very important because, when your chili is simmering, the liquid reduces down to a lovely tomato sauce that lightly coats the chili the way a chili sauce should. I didn’t pulse my tomatoes, so my sauce couldn’t really reduce enough, and what I ended up with was more like a very hearty Southwestern stew. But the flavors were awesome, so I didn’t mind.

Our web admin might have expressed some displeasure, but I couldn’t understand over the sounds of his rabid scarfing.

After the sauce reduces and the spicy and savory flavors are built up, diced zucchini, frozen corn and a splash of fresh lime are added in at the end, along with the ground turkey. Now, if you’re a spice wimp like me and you feel that there’s too much chipotle in this, add more of the corn. The sweetness of the corn will help balance that out. Don’t use canned! Use frozen.

Top with cilantro (or, if you don’t care for the kick-in-the-face-brightness of cilantro, use Italian Parsley like I did) and dig in. My favorite part of the chili has to be the mouthful of vegetables in every bite. There’s the right amount of crunch and the flavors are simply delicious. This chili was an absolute pleaser and has been added to my regular dinner rotation. Mom: This is a winning potluck dish!

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