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Man, the clouds roll in and it’s time for chili.  Now, you say turkey chili and my mind rolls back twenty years ago to a hot, steamy August Sunday when I was 8 months pregnant.  Lord, I was fat.  All I wanted to eat during my pregnancy was eggs scrambled soft in butter for breakfast then for all my other meals I had to have any of the following: orange juice with ice, sautéed spinach in garlic and olive oil, sharp cheddar cheese sandwich on whole wheat with mayo or petite filet mignon.  That’s all I wanted.  It’s no surprise I gained 52 pounds!  52 pounds!   Anyway, I had been cooking and baking up a storm and then freezing individual portions so we would have homemade food at the ready when the baby came.  Jimmy had been traveling like a mad man and was often gone so I had a little time to prepare.  The baby was due the first or second week of September and by cramming in all his trips beforehand he would be home for the birth and then for a few weeks after that.  Next on my list of foods to prepare was Turkey Chili.  I had been cooking all day when Jim and Dana came over to share a few laughs and a bowl of the red stuff.  Having known Dana just about all my life I did not feel it was necessary to clean myself up or even bathe.  Cooking with onions and garlic you can only imagine how I smelled.  Like a cheap diner.  They were in the study laughing and eating and calling for me to join them.  On my way out of the kitchen I ducked into the bathroom for a quick winkytink.  When I finished I stood up and while buttoning up I tinkled.  Again.  All over myself and my clothing.  Ohmygosh!!  I felt faint.  What if it WASN’T tinkle?  What if my water had broken?? It hit me like a thunderbolt what I had read in every pregnant girl’s bible, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting”.  It was really quite lovely the way it was put.  The book said that the water, when your water breaks, smells like “freshly cut hay”.  Crazy, huh?  I smelled my panties.  Ohmygosh!! Could that be freshly cut hay?  I screamed for Dana through the locked door, “MIIIIIISSSSSSSY!!! MIIIIISSSSSY!”.  She came running. “What? What?”, she asked as I DRAGGED her into the bathroom, half naked.  “Missy”, I said.  “I don’t think I’ve ever really asked anything from you but I am now.  Look.  I KNOW this sounds ridiculous but I think my water just broke and I need you to smell this and tell me if it smells like freshly cut hay. MISSY!!!! PLEASE!!”.  I thrust the panties in her face.  She looked at me long.  And she looked at me hard.  And then she said, “OK.”  As she took a whiff her eyes got big and with an ecstatic smile on her face made her pronouncement, “Oh my gosh, Missy!  It smells like freshly cut hay!”.  That’s my girl!  I was weak with fear.  “JIIMMYYY!  It’s time!  It’s time!”,  I called.  “What do you mean?”, he asked since the baby wasn’t due for another three to four weeks.  I quickly explained and started making preparations to leave the house while my words slowly sank in.  It was about one or two o’clock in the afternoon.  With a towel shoved up between my legs off I waddled to the car.  I remember what I wore.  A pink sleeveless Laura Ashley sundress with tiny flowers on it and hot pink flats.  The ride to hospital was absolutely surreal.  Like the ride to the church the day you marry.  It is life altering.  At Holy Cross the nurses went through what I guessed to be the usual child-birth preparations.  There was weigh in… OOOLAWD!!!  An IV was started and then came a thousand questions.  Here are my favorites.  “Have you eaten today?”  “Yes.”  “When?”  “About and hour ago.”  “Okay.  And what did you have?”  ” Uh, a big bowl of chili.”  All of the nurses, assistants and techs stopped mid-task.  In unison they ALL yelled “Eeeeeww!! Chili!!  She had chili!  It’ll be everywhere!! Oh, Christ!”  Apparently many women have bad reactions to some of the anesthetics etc. given to them and barf uncontrollably.  But I didn’t!  I never did.  My doctor arrived and after a quick exam made the determination that not only was the baby breach but a dangling breach. (One leg pointing north and one pointing south.)  I would have to have an emergency C-section.  The baby would not live without one.  I didn’t care long as long as I got my baby.  They wheeled me into the operating room where all manner of machines and lights, cords and beeping things were already assembled for the performance of my life.  A tall blue cloth screen was set up on my chest to block my view of the surgery.  Jimmy was right there with me.  All along he said he wasn’t going in, that that just wasn’t for him, that he had NO desire to cut the umbilical cord or anything else for that matter.  Jimmy don’t do blood and guts.  He doesn’t even do splinters. He’s a candy-ass.  I felt nothing but knew my team was “down there” cutting and snipping away.  All of a sudden my doctor said “I’ve got ‘im.  Jim, would you like to cut the cord?”  The umbilical cord is really nasty looking.  Blue and red and thick and white.  Nasty.  I knew my man would be white as a sheet at the sight of that and ready to faint.  But that man ponied right up and cut that thing right through!  Just as calm and cool as if it was the fourth child.  They whisked the baby off to some sort of holding table and I could see by straining my head to one side that they were working frantically.  Something seemed to be going wrong.  And there was no sound.  I remember looking at Jimmy giving him the look that said, “Please!  Please!  Tell me it’s okay!! What’s wrong?  What is it?” And then I heard it.  That newborn “Wah! Wah!”!! I was thrilled!  A boy!!  A beautiful baby boy!  They placed him way on my chest wearing a little Carolina blue (how did they know?!) knit hat.  My first words to my precious angel were something to the effect of, “Hey, Buddy!  Well, don’t you just look like you held up the 7-11?  Hmm?”.  It was the hat.  He looked like a little robber.  He was so perfect.  He blinked at me.  He recognized my voice!  And he was mine.  I was the luckiest girl in the world!!

This chili is super good.  I have a special ingredient that just makes it rock!  Chipotle peppers in adobo.  They’re sold in all supermarkets in the Hispanic, (AKA “taco”) section.  And like all dishes with tomato involved, it’s better the next day and freezes well.  And can be pretty low in fat.  I wouldn’t say the chipotles are screaming hot but they’re considerably spicy and that’s from someone who likes really spicy, hot food.  So hold back a little bit and taste as you go along.  You can always add more but if you add too much…well, good luck getting it out!

Turkey Chili (or Beef)

yield: one big pot

  • 2 20 ounce packages ground turkey or the equivalent for beef.  I use Jennie-O ground turkey.
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 cubanelle peppers or two green bell peppers, chopped
  • 7-8 finely chopped fresh garlic cloves
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, I use San Marzano
  • 3 15 ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot spray insides with nonstick spray.
  2. Heat pot to medium high and add ground turkey.  DO NOT break up the pieces!  You want the turkey to brown and stay chunky so don’t mix the turkey yet.  If using ground beef if can be broken up as it keeps its shape better.
  3. After 4-5 minutes gently turn the meat over to brown the other side.
  4. When the turkey or beef has cooked through add the onion, chopped peppers and garlic. Lower heat to medium and stir as needed.
  5. Empty chipotle peppers and sauce into a deep vessel or deep bowl.  Using the empty chipotle can, pour 2 cans of water into the bowl and puree very, VERY carefully.  I use an immersion blender but a regular blender or food processor is just fine.  Be very careful not to get the mixture on your fingers and please don’t touch your eyes!  This stuff is hot and you’ll cry for days.  Well, maybe not days but for a while anyway.
  6. To the pot add 1/4 of the chipotle mixture.  You can eyeball it.
  7. Add the whole tomatoes with juices and break up the tomatoes with your mixing spoon.
  8. Add kidney beans and tomato paste.  Break up the tomato paste, mixing well.
  9. Taste for any salt or pepper needed and add any chipotle mixture needed, again tasting as you go.
  10. Add water if you want it thinner.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of cornmeal if you’d like it thicker.
  11. Simmer on low for 30-45 minutes or until flavors have melded.