Divine Dining

Healthy, hearty turkey chili — little effort for much deliciousness
Sep. 24, 2013 @ 04:50 PM

One might make the assumption that, because I happen to be an unabashed foodie and write this little weekly column, everything I eat is homemade and carefully thought out. One would be wrong, y’all! I am frequently finding myself in the dietary desert that is a drive-through line after this pastoral visit and that meeting. Supper sometimes consists of a simple bowl of cereal instead of a spectacular coq au vin.

I’ve never really been one to plan ahead in my meals (kudos to you folks who actually use your freezer for more than just peas and ice cream). Creating a delicious, homemade meal only occurs when three important factors collide: 1) inspiration 2) time to run to the grocery store to scoop up the necessary ingredients, and 3) time to actually prepare the meal.

Last week I managed to outsmart #3 on my essential factors list. I was craving healthy, hearty turkey chili, but time was short after work and before my Zumba class (yes, this Rev. likes her Zumba dancing). Attempting to cheat time, I got out my trusty dutch oven and went to work. Fifteen minutes of browning the meat and sautéing veggies was all it took; after that I tucked the simmering pot into a cozy 250 degree oven and let it hang out and turn into something glorious while I exercised.

The smell that greeted me when I hungrily returned through my door was heavenly, laced with earthy cumin and a hint of exotic cinnamon. I removed the lid from my dutch oven with the same reverence Indiana Jones showed when opening up a sacred treasure, and inside was a perfectly balanced soup-like chili, with a kick from jalapenos, a creaminess from great northern beans and layers of flavors all happily bubbling away in that pot. It was fantastic, and the only real effort it took me was fifteen minutes. Now, who doesn’t have time for that?

Hearty Turkey Chili

Serves 4 generously.


1/2 lb. ground turkey, at least 15% fat (a lower fat content is not very flavorful)

1 small onion, chopped3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and membrane removed, chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch dice

1-15.5 ounce can great northern beans, drained and rinsed well

32 ounces chicken stock (the boxed variety is perfect)

1 tablespoon cumin

a pinch of cinnamon

1 teaspoon black pepper

salt as needed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil on medium-high heat in a large dutch oven. Add turkey, onions and cumin and sauté until meat is cooked through and onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add garlic and jalapeno. Cook another couple of minutes, until you begin to smell the garlic. Add chicken stock, sweet potatoes, beans, cinnamon and black pepper. You do not add salt because of the inherent saltiness of the chicken stock. (Cinnamon may seem like an odd choice, but I promise it doesn’t taste like apple pie — it gives a fragrant undercurrent to the flavor of the chili that is wonderful.) Stir well and cover. Cook in oven for one hour. Remove from oven and puree about 1/3 of the soup to thicken it into a chili. I used an immersion blender, but if you do not have one, take out some soup and puree in a food processor or blender. When pureed, white beans give a creamy texture and thickness to any soup or chili. Adjust salt as needed. This chili is delicious all on its own, but a topping of crushed tortilla chips and avocado would jazz it up even more. 

Share your beloved recipes with me at heraldfood@gmail.com.

The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.