Monday, February 28, 2011

Desperation Chili

I feel like all my posts should begin something like this: We had no food in the house because we haven't had time to go shopping, so we threw together wilted, old, awful things in a desperate attempt to avoid eating a sodium-laden meal out. Do you have nights like this?

We are awful about shopping and stocking our pantry lately, and it has to stop! We have a Trader Joe's right close to us, and we still avoid shopping. Luckily, tonight I found what is probably the oldest frost-covered ground turkey anyone could possibly have in their freezer and was able to piece together a few other things to make chili.

My earliest chili memories center around my mom's dad, who made chili each winter. What was so special about his chili was that he used all his garden canned veggies to make it, so it was full of delicious tomatoes, for example, that we'd helped to pick over the summer. It was a thin, tomato-y, beany chili that he served with Saltines, and it was one of the most special things I remember about being at Grandpa's house. However, Grandpa's favorite part about chili day was getting all of us to come "see the brown bunny under his blanket" after dinner, which meant he'd just passed gas for us to smell.

My dad's dad also made chili, but he made the meaty chili with those XLNT bricks of unknown origin chili meat that are congealed in fat and oil. It was equally good, but totally different. So light on beans that you could count them on one finger, this chili was beefy and comforting. He was making it into his early 90s; it's the one treasured recipe I'm lucky enough to have from my dad's side of the family. The other rumored recipe is a coconut cake that used melted ice cream in the batter--have had no luck tracking down anything like that.

So anyway, here is hodge podge/cupboards were bare chili. Helmut, our cat, isn't going to one day blog about memories of us making this.

Desperation Chili

1 lb. really old, frost-covered ground turkey
2 cans beans, rinsed (I used cannelini and red because that's what I had, but whatever works...)
1 c. chopped, frozen pepper
3/4 onion, chopped
Generous shakes chili powder--to taste
1 t. dried cumin
1 t. dried garlic powder
1 t. fresh chopped garlic (I could be a smart alec and tell you that having both garlics makes a difference, but I doubt it does--read at your own risk!)
2 t. dried cilantro
3 pinches dried beef broth
1 T. greek salad dressing (I go for layers of flavor in chili)
1 t. olive oil
2 chopped, peeled medium carrots
2 ribs limp celery, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
4 packets hot sauce from drive through (I know--go with it; it's what I had!)
2 T. ketchup for sweetness
Salt and pepper to taste
Water to make it as soupy as you'd like
Red pepper flakes to taste

Saute turkey with oil, salad dressing, and spices. Add peppers, onions, carrots, and celery. Cook for 20 mins. Add beans, tomatoes, hot sauce, and ketchup. Add water to suit however thick you like your chili. Cook on low heat for up an hour or a minimum of 30 more mins. Let's face it--chili's an all-day thing, and shorter cooking times are no friend to flavor for soups and stews. You can quote me on that. I know you won't--you'll quote me on calling for "limp celery".

Regardless of the desperate or not so desperate nature of a chili, one thing that always brightens any day is smell of it cooking away on the stove. Of course, you could use fresh veggies and meat that wasn't shoved into the freezer because it was about to expire. Chili says family to me. It also says home. Once we pull out the Saltines, this meal will take me back, just for an instant, to the ones I remember with grandfathers long ago.

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