Green Turkey Chili

WHEN I COOK, I don’t often strictly follow recipes. I do when I bake, but not when I cook. (If that makes sense.) This is especially true whenever I make soups and chili. I always make it in about the same way, but I usually just kind of throw everything into the pot and it almost always turns out good.

This fearless, winging-it method of cooking is how my Grandma Losch did it. I think many of us have grandmas who cooked like that. I wish I’d spent more time at her side, taking notes and learning how she made things. Oh, for her to be alive NOW – I could record videos with my wee iPhone and post them to this blog!

Recently, I saw on some website a recipe for a green (white?) chili that used tomatillos instead of tomatoes, ground turkey, and white beans instead of kidney. But instead of printing out the recipe, I was inspired to make it my own. I have yet to turn this into a quantifiable recipe, but I’m going to describe it here and will add pictures from the process next time I make it.

This is not something my grandma would have made, but I’m posting it here because (a) I want to capture it, and (b) it is made in her style of cooking.  So without further ado, here’s how I do it. (Warning, this is going to be really long, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult. Stick with me.)

INGREDIENTS.

Tomatillos. Those little green tomato-looking things. If you have an ethnic grocer with good produce nearby, get ‘em there. If not, some traditional grocers carry them. Get, say, 3 pounds or so? Depends on how much you want to make. they also make them in a canned sauce, but to really do it right, get the fresh ones.

Peppers. You’ll want a variety of green-colored peppers. I like to mix up sweet bell peppers with cubanelles, banana peppers, poblanos, and a couple of jalapenos (more or less depending on how much heat you like). Say, two or three of each?

Onions. For the onions, you will want to chop at least one big yellow or white onion.  Last time I also used shallots because I had them. And, you’ll want at least one bunch of scallions too, for their oniony flavor and their green tops. These will either go in at the end or on top as a garnish.

Garlic. Depends on how much you like it, but you really should use fresh cloves (not that minced stuff in a jar). I love buying the already-peeled ones at the Asian grocer, but you can get a whole bulb and do it old school. Last time I used, oh, 7 or 8 cloves?

Cilantro. Either you can’t get enough of it, or else you fall into the “that vile weed” category. If you and your people are the former, I would add some when you cook it and add more as a garnish. If you are the latter, skip it. It’s YOUR soup.

Limes. while you’re in produce, grab a fresh lime or two. You’ll squeeze some lime juice into the mixture and / or can use lime wedges as a garnish.

Beans. I like a small white bean, such as Navy beans. You can use canned (say 2 or 3 regular sized cans or one of those big cans), or dried beans that you soak and soften (which is super easy to do overnight in a crock pot). Last batch I made I used a whole small bag. One can each of black (drained and rinsed) and white (undrained, unrinsed) would also be a nice variation. Or pinto beans.

Ground turkey. Or ground chicken. Or shredded chicken would be good too. But I’m really liking ground turkey with this recipe.

Chicken broth. Or vegetable broth. Buy it pre-made, or use your own chicken stock that you have in the freezer from when you cooked down that last roast chicken you made (am I the only one? please say no). Or throw some together with bullion. You’ll want about 4 cups, give or take. You can also throw in some beer to add liquid and flavor (the alcohol cooks off)… I’d use a lager as opposed to a hoppy IPA.

Other canned goods: I like to add one-half to one chili from a can of chiles in adobo sauce. It adds a nice, smoky flavor. It also adds flecks of red to your otherwise green mixture. You can get this in the “Mexican” section of most grocers. This is optional; if this is the only thing you’re missing, I wouldn’t make a special trip out just to buy it. Also, a small can or two of chopped green chiles. In keeping with the theme.

Optional - a jar of salsa verde. All this is, though, is a tomatillo-based salsa, and that’s what you’re making anyway. But if you have it and you need to add volume, this works.

Spices. You’ll want some chili powder (a smoky chipotle or adobo one is nice, such as the lovely variations available through Penzey’s, but the regular stuff works, too), ground cumin, a bit of ground coriander. Dried oregano if you have it. Kosher salt. Maybe a squirt of the green tabasco or other hot sauce? You decide. If you like to layer your flavors (and who doesn’t), you could add some garlic and/or onion powder. But that’s pretty much it. The flavors of the ingredients stand strong on their own without a lot of spices.

HOW TO.

Line a cookie sheet with sides (like a jelly roll pan) with foil. Remove the papery outer husk of the tomatillos (it’s a little sticky and feels kinda weird). Slice them in half vertically, place them cut-side down on the cookie sheet till the sheet is full. Slide them under your broiler and let them get soft and burned on the top side… maybe 10-15 minutes?  Seriously, let them get good and browned. Those flecks make this concoction good. When they’re done, pull ‘em out and let ‘em cool a bit. But leave the broiler on, because you’re going to do the same thing with the peppers.

Now, take all those peppers, cut off the tops, cut them in half vertically, remove the seeds and membranes, and place them cut-side down on another cookie sheet that’s been lined with foil. Slide those babies under your broiler and let ‘em get good and brown. This will soften them, too. Again, don’t be shy with the browning. When you’re tempted to pull them out, give them 3 more minutes. When they’re done, pull them out and let ‘em cool.

Back to the tomatillos. When they’re cool, carefully transfer them (they’re soft and juicy now) into your blender. Ideally, your quart-sized blender will be almost full to the top. (If not, we’ll supplement later with the canned stuff and/or a jar of salsa verde). Whir them till you have a smooth liquid. See those black flecks? Good work! Set that aside.

When the peppers are cool, you’ll line ‘em up on a cutting board, make thin vertical slices, then chop them across the other way, till you end up with a fun mixture of finely diced / minced peppers. If you’re using the chile in adobo sauce, pull that out and finely mince it. Set all of that aside.

(Note: You could roast the tomatillos and peppers a day or two ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until you get ready to make the soup. Just sayin’.)

Get out your big ole stock pot. Splash some olive or vegetable oil in the bottom. Brown that ground turkey… it doesn’t really “brown”, but you know – cook it through until there’s no pink.

While the turkey’s cooking, finely dice that onion and/or shallots and garlic. (We’re saving the scallions for later.) Now you have a decision to make. You can either saute them for a few minutes in some oil in a separate pan, or just throw them in with the turkey and let them soften in there. I’ve done it both ways, and it almost always comes down to whether or not I feel like washing an extra pan when I’m done.  If you do use the separate pan, use enough oil and low enough heat so the garlic doesn’t burn. Burned garlic is gross. Don’t be the person who burns the garlic.

After about 5 minutes or so, you’ll want to add the onion/garlic saute to the turkey. If they’re already in there, then throw in your chopped peppers and the can or two of diced green chiles. Stir it around. Then add the tomatillos from your blender, and if you’re supplementing, the canned tomatillos and/or salsa verde.

Now add the stock and/or some beer if you think it needs it.  Next, add the juice of one or two limes (start with one, taste it, then decide whether you want to add more).

Now you’ll want to add those beans. I would also add some of the liquid – don’t drain cans of white beans, or if you’ve cooked your own, add some of the liquid you cooked them in.

Stir it up good. Doesn’t it look nice? Now you can add the spices, and here’s where I really wing it. Proportionally, I would add about the same amount of chili powder as cumin, and about half as much coriander. I’d start with, say, a heaping tablespoon each of chili powder and cumin, half that of coriander, and see how it tastes. Salt and hot sauce to taste as well. Black pepper if you feel like it. (White pepper if you have it!) Maybe a teaspoon or more of ground oregano (optional). Here’s where you’d add some chopped fresh cilantro if you’re using it – as much or as little as you like (if I were making it for people who, like me, love the stuff, I’d chop half a bunch and add now, and chop the other half and use as a garnish when serving).

Stir it all up, bring it almost to a boil (stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot), then throw the lid on and turn down the heat and let it simmer.  Taste it when you stir and adjust seasonings if necessary. Let it cook for another, oh, 30 minutes or so? You know – till it’s READY.

If you use my quantity guidelines, you’ll have around 4-5 quarts of this hearty goodness. Give or take.

Right before you serve it, I’d stir in a bunch of chopped scallions. You don’t want them cooking down – they add flavor and a pop of green color. You could also stir in more chopped cilantro here. OR, you can serve the scallions and cilantro as garnishes. A dollop of sour cream is a nice garnish here, as is a wedge of lime. And if you’re really feeling spunky, you might like to crush some tortilla chips into the bottom of the bowl and ladle the hot soup on top, or use crushed tortilla chips on top to add flavor and texture.

That might sound exhausting, but trust me, it’s worth it. It ends up looking like this:

Image

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. You guys, I’m absolutely floored that several of these posts continue to receive lots of hits! Apparently, over 700 of you found your way here the weekend before Christmas when you were searching for the recipe for Sand Tarts! Thank you for your comments and your interest.

Most sincerely,

Meg

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 57,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 13 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog. I would like to thank everyone who ended up here – most of you were first-time visitors, searching the internet for Hog Maw or Sand Tarts or Pennsylvania Dutch-style chicken pot pie. I appreciate that you all took the time to comment, sharing your memories or your gratitude that you found a recipe that was just like one your own grandma used to make.  I hope to add more posts to this blog in 2012.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, FRIENDS!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

Like my last post about stromboli, this recipe isn’t one that came from either of my grandmas. But, it’s something I must have in my kitchen at all times. I just assembled a big batch and thought I’d share the recipe here.

And yes, it probably is easier to just buy a packet of the stuff from the grocery store, but what’s the fun in  THAT? I use a LOT of taco seasoning – not only to add flavor to the ground beef we stuff into taco shells or flour tortillas, but also for tortilla soup, taco soup, enchilada casseroles, black beans – you name it. You already know I like to buy my spices in bulk from Penzey’s, and this recipe is just the excuse I need to buy their fresh, high-quality chili powder, paprika, cumin, etc. in bags.  And, while I’m lucky to live close to a retail store, you can mail order from their catalog, too.  See what my freezer door looks like because of how close I live to Penzey’s?

Anyway. This recipe makes about a cup and a half of seasoning. Which seems like a lot, but really it isn’t. To season a pound of ground beef, you add two heaping tablespoons to the browned, drained beef, plus 1/2 – 3/4 cup of water. Or you can add more or less of each, depending on your taste. That’s the beauty of making your own – you can adjust it to suit the needs of the people for whom you cook. Or yourself. Or both.

I’ve adapted this from other recipes I’ve seen floating around, so I feel safe in calling this

MEG’S TACO SEASONING MIX

Make this right in an airtight container that holds at least 16 ounces. Use a Mason jar or something plastic. Or, a zip-top plastic freezer bag.  All measurements are suggestions; adjust to your taste.

6 Tablespoons chili powder

5 Tablespoons paprika

4.5 Tablespoons cumin

2.5 Tablespoons onion powder

2.5 Tablespoons garlic powder

2 Tablespoons corn starch

1 Tablespoon oregano

1/2 Tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon (are you paying attention? Not Tablespoon - Teaspoon!) cayenne pepper

Combine all and store in an airtight container.

…Alternatively, layer spices into a 2 pint Ball jar and go “ooooh, cool, pretty, spices, in layers, now where is my camera…”

Use 2 heaping Tablespoons of mix + 1/2 – 3/4 cup water to turn browned ground beef into taco filling.

Yummy!

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Stromboli

This isn’t a grandma recipe. But it is something that I make often, and I first started making it based on a recipe card my Aunt Cathy tucked into a recipe box I received at my bridal shower one hundred 19 years ago.  Anyway, my neighbor called me from the grocery store yesterday, asking what she should buy in order to make the stromboli she’d had at my house recently, and that made me think this one’s worth sharing.

(I don’t have photos now – but next time I make this I’ll add them.)

First, you need dough. The easiest thing is to buy a fresh one at your grocery store. 99 cents at Trader Joe’s! Second easiest is to keep those frozen bread doughs in your freezer – but then you have to remember to get it out and thaw it, like, weeks  days many hours in advance, and honestly, who has time for that? When I want stromboli I WANT IT NOW.

Your third option is to make your own. The lowest-impact method would be to remember 2.5 hours before dinnertime to throw the ingredients into your bread machine and run the dough cycle. Again, I’m no master of forethought, so…

I usually end up making my own. I base mine on the BH&G New Cookbook’s (and yes, that book was a bridal shower gift too) pizza recipe.  You know the one – with the red plaid cover. Anyway, here’s how I do it:

In a bowl, put 1.25 cups AP flour, 1 package active dry yeast (about 2.5 tsp from a jar) and 1/4 tsp salt. Add 1 cup warm water and 2 Tbsp cooking oil. With electric mixer, beat 30 seconds on low, then scrape bowl, then 3 minutes on high speed. Or two – I never time myself. Till you’re bored. Then, with a wooden spoon, stir in as much of 1.5 – 2 cups more flour, then turn the whole blob out onto a floured work surface and knead in the rest. 6-8 minutes of kneading, till the dough is moderately stiff and smooth and elastic. It won’t be sticky. Cover and let it rest, at least 10 minutes, as much as 30 or so – till it starts to rise. It doesn’t have to double. But if you forget about it and it does, that’s OK, just punch it down and proceed.

Now, on your floured work surface, roll that dough out into a pizza pan-sized circle. Next: Fillings! On the half closest to you, leaving room around the edge, layer sandwich-sliced pepperoni, hard or genoa salami (or both!), and lunchmeat ham, alternating with slices of provolone and mozzarella cheese.  Don’t be shy with the cheese; you’ll regret it.  Sprinkle the toppings generously with dried oregano. Fold the other half of the dough over top the fillings, moisten the inside edge of the dough, then crimp with a fork to seal.

Transfer the whole thing to a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal (or flour). With a sharp knife, make a couple of slices on the top of the dough so it doesn’t explode. Because that would be bad.

Bake this in a preheated 375 degree oven for, um, I dunno, 15 minutes? I never time myself. The dough will be golden brown and either there will be cheese oozing out the top or you’ll be able to hear the filling sizzling inside.

Remove from oven, let sit for a few mins before slicing. Serve with your favorite marinara, warmed, for dipping. My favorite brand is Don Pepino in the yellow can. It’s yummy!

Enjoy!

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Remembering Mom’s cooking

In response to my recent update and reposting of the post about my grandma’s butter brickle, my mom emailed me to say how much she enjoyed re-reading it and remembering both her mother-in-law and the delicious things she made. I replied that there’s just something about food that evokes strong memories.

Mom replied: 

Last summer I made (for different meals) fried tomatoes, and then warm cabbage slaw.  I really thought of Grandma Losch [her own mother] then.  Hmm,  will/does anything food-wise make you think of me? I think of you often when I make applesauce.

Well, yes, of course there are food memories that I tie directly to my mom in particular, and to my growing up in general! Rather than email them to her directly, I thought they deserved a blog post of their own. Here they are, in no particular order, addressed directly to my mom:

  • I remember when you would bake pies, you would give me the scraps of dough to roll out, then we would prick them with a fork, place them into a small tin pie plate and bake them. I loved eating those homemade “crackers.”
  • Of course, I remember you making sand tarts at Christmas! That’s why I attributed this recipe to you. You can’t imagine how tickled I was to learn that my future mother-in-law made the exact same cookies. That was another indicator that I was marrying the right man.
  • I remember when you tried to convince me that tossed salad tasted so much better when I cut up the ingredients. I am sure that was your way of getting out of making a boring old salad, but it was my early introduction to the kitchen and, even though I suspected I was being conned, I enjoyed slicing carrots and placing them atop iceberg lettuce. (Back in the days before arugula and field greens and balsamic vinaigrette.)
  • I remember how most of our family meals – and we mostly ate dinner as a family – included a meat, a potato, and a vegetable, with a fruit for dessert. I also recall you saying that was what dad preferred, and how he really didn’t like “one-dish meals.”
  • I also remember that on the infrequent occasions he was out of town and it was just “us girls” for dinner, you would always fix something “one-dish” like hamburger pie, chicken pot pie, spaghetti with meat sauce, or lasagna. Or pizza!
  • During dinner prep, being asked to go down to the basement and get a vegetable and/or a fruit out of one of the freezers, or off of the canning shelf, to prepare for dinner.
  • Wrapping meat in freezer paper, so that the side of beef we’d just purchased would last for months and months.
  • I also have memories of food that I would not eat. Liver & onions comes to mind. Or pickled tongue.  (GAH.) Scrapple, puddin’, and all those butchering by-products. I was not a fan of the gamey birds that sometimes showed up.  Venison was a push – OK in baloney and ground, but not as a steak. Giblets in gravy, yuk! And – sorry to say this – I was not a huge fan of that canned “Swiss steak” you made lots of in an attempt to salvage some particularly tough beef.
  • And let’s agree not to talk about the liver pate, OK?
  • I remember that you insisted that “jelly was too hard to make!” which was really your cover story, told in a convincing enough fashion that your mother-in-law kept you supplied with black raspberry jelly year-round.
  • Doing corn.
  • Gardening! Looking back on it now, I was less impressed then than I would be now. Then, the garden was, to me, the thing that stood between me and a ride to the pool. You would make us brave heat and humidity and gnats and sweat bees and pull weeds in order to “earn” our ride. Of course, it was that garden that made me love yellow wax beans and limas.
  • Pork & sauerkraut for good luck on New Year’s Day. I can’t not make this each year – it’s a must.
  • Making milkshakes in the workhorse Waring blender on Saturdays for lunch. That blender is still going – I use it now to make smoothies for the kids.
  • Turning Aunt Vivi’s grapes into juice.
  • That year that you had all those apples and were elbow-deep in turning them into freezer-ready apple dumplings, such that you decided Richelle’s grandma would be entirely qualified to take me for my driving test. I came home, giddy at having passed the test the first time, and you immediately dispatched me to drive over to Uncle Bill’s store for some ingredient that you need. Was that a legitimate need, or just a chance to let me go do what you knew I was dying to do (drive!)?
  • I can totally picture the kitchen at our farm house. Every cupboard, the stove, the sink, the wallpaper – all of it. And if I try really, really hard – I can smell it.

It’s one thing to reminisce about things you remember from long-gone grandparents. But this is cool because I get to share my memories while my mom’s around to read them! I hope my mom will weigh in with memories of her own that I may have forgotten to include.

Thanks for the memories, Mom!

Posted in Farm, Mom, Recipe | 12 Comments

My Inspiration

Presenting, the ladies who inspired this blog:

Grandma Sara, with my sister (r) and me (l)

Grandma Sara died five years ago at the age of 89, and I ended up with her recipe box.  My initial thought was to collect her favorite recipes into a cookbook and distribute it to family members, but then I thought a blog would be better… because I can add posts as the spirit moves me, and it’s interactive.  I grew up not three miles from her farm, and as a result we gathered ’round her dining room table for many holidays and birthdays.

The best memories I have of things she made are her Amish-style sugar cookies and molasses cookies and chicken corn soup (link is to Grandma Losch’s recipe, with rivels – I don’t recall Grandma Sara’s having rivels), and how she always made my dad an angel food cake for his birthday because she knew how much he loved it.

Baby me with Grandma Losch, 1967

The more I considered the blog idea, the more I thought it should be a plural possessive Grandmas’.  Grandma Losch cooked more by feel than by actual recipe, and lordy, could she ever cook for a crowd.  Aside from the fact that she had to feed five kids, she also made a living as a cook for a fraternity house at Susquehanna University and had her own restaurant in Millerstown PA for a time.  She was her own worst critic in the kitchen – she’d serve up a slice of lemon meringue pie so good it would bring tears to your eyes with the disclaimer that “it got a little weepy” and maybe wasn’t her best effort.  If you looked up “comfort food” in the dictionary, her picture would illustrate the entry. Food was love to Mary Losch, and if you didn’t sit yourself down at her kitchen table and eat – no matter the time of day or your current state of hunger – it was practically an insult.

Some of her recipes are captured in cookbooks of recipes collected by the members of her church, and I’m pulling out some of the best ones here as time allows.   My favorite food memories connected to Grandma Losch include that she would make me a red velvet cake each year for my birthday, and made the best pig stomach and chicken pot pie. She also made some delicious pork & sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, as is the tradition in Central PA.

I wrote about them yesterday on my other blog, Soup Is Not A Finger Food, but this tribute more fittingly belongs right here, where their recipes live.

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