Friday, September 14, 2012

Turkey Tomatillo Chili

I’d like to take a minute to tell you how happy I am that fall seems to have arrived. It’s been a hot summer, but right now, the days are sunny but cooler and the nights are crisp. I know it’s still possible for the temperatures to soar again, or for there to be a Hot-tober for a third year, but for now, I’m comfortable. Sigh.

This cooler weather and the beginning of the televised football season (I’ve had another grumpy baseball year, so have more or less given up on that sport for now) means chili, of course. It also means bratwurst and bean dips and grilled potatoes and such, but my most recent indoor tailgating meal involved a light and tangy chili with ground turkey, peppers and tomatillos.

This recipe is based on the Turkey Chili Verde recipe from The Ultimate Cook Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. I suppose you could find other similar ones out there, but these authors publish reliable recipes. I’d made this one before, keeping closer to the original, which contains poblano chiles. Again, I had nice bell peppers and jalapenos instead, so I substituted them with good results. I also skipped the step of roasting the peppers. I think I must have just done that because I was too tired to include the extra step.

While I’m sure roasting (or grilling) the peppers would have added more deliciousness (I can’t remember whether I did that when I made this chili a few years ago), my chili was quite good with plain peppers. I used a red bell pepper, which erases the “verde” part of the original, but which is also nice and sweet (and was what I had on hand). This time of year all the peppers seem to be excellent, so I think any bell pepper will do.

Really, the tomatillos are the most important part of this chili recipe anyway.  I just love them. They’ve got a texture and acidity like extra-firm tomatoes, but also an especially tangy, kind of fruity punch that goes so well in a light chili. The original recipe gives permission to use canned tomatillos, and I’d say that if that’s all you have available, they make a fine substitution. I had some lovely fresh ones from the farmer’s market. They were so delicious and really didn’t require much extra preparation. Yes, the papery husks need to be removed, but they come off easily. They should also be scrubbed or rubbed well with a brush or cloth to get the slightly sticky residue off their skins.

Since this is basically the same as any other chili or stew, there’s just a lot of chopping and simmering and waiting. Waiting while it slowly bubbles away to make a rich, meaty, tangy, spicy and satisfying bowl of hot and comforting goodness to celebrate the arrival of fall.

Turkey Tomatillo Chili
Adapted from The Ultimate Cook Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
½ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt, plus more to taste
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 (more or less to taste) jalapeno chiles, stems removed, minced
1 to 1 ¼ pound ground turkey
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed, scrubbed and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or about 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked white beans (about 2 16-ounce cans), drained and rinsed
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and salt and sauté until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds more.

2. Add the turkey to the pan and cook, stirring to crumble, just until it is all no longer pink. This should take about 5-8 minutes. Add the tomatillos, oregano and cumin and cook about 1 minute more, stirring frequently.

3. Add the chicken broth and beans. Bring to a gentle boil. Cook, uncovered, at a very low boil for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

4. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Taste for salt and add more if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings


  1. Tangy soup! Great with fresh Tomatillos from our garden! I cooked the turkey separate and blended it in a blender and added it all back at the end! It needs more hot chile,,

    1. Ha ha! I love that you like it HOT! That's a hard sell in my neighborhood, although we like "the spicy" in our house.