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Dinner Rush! Winter White Turkey Chili

Aside from being painfully chic – what with its “winter white” moniker and all – this recipe is a particularly sentimental one for me as it’s one of the first things my now husband made for me when we first started dating.

You see we both went to culinary school – met there in fact – but he took the road less kitchen-y in favor of other aptitudes (basically, he’s a fantastic marketer and a terrible cook [his words not mine]). Keeping a few culinary tricks up his sleeve, though, he loves making chili and, being that we started dating mid-winter, this recipe has always been a big ol’ seasonal heart-warmer for me.

We call it a white chili because there’s very little tomato in it, but the addition of cumin, beer, tons of beans and a topper of creamy avocado keep it just as satisfying as a traditional red chili. It’s a nice change to help wean you off from the football season barrage.

And take it from a culinary school grad who (claims that he) can’t cook. This recipe is super flexible, welcoming into the pot whatever vegetables you have in the house, and is delicious with the addition of a chopped up sweet potato or chipotle in adobo.

Just make sure to serve it in something chic to keep the momentum going for me, would you please?

Winter White Turkey Chili

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Active Time: 45 minutes

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
3 to 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (all lean or a mix, whatever you prefer)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 (14-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can small white beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (4-ounce) can fire-roasted green chilies
1 (12-ounce) bottle light beer, such as lager or ale
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and ground black pepper
Fresh cilantro, to garnish
Ripe avocado, chopped, to garnish

Place a large pot over medium heat with the oil. Add the bacon to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and then add the turkey, onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, cumin, and chili powder to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the chili, stirring occasionally, until the liquids have thickened and the chili is very aromatic, about 20 minutes.

Serve the chili garnished with chopped cilantro and avocado.

Note: I find there are two schools of thought when making chili – “to brown the meat or not to brown the meat?”. As you’ll see here, I prefer not to brown the meat ahead of time – I just add it in with the vegetables. Neither method is right or wrong, I just feel you get a more tender finished product when the meat cooks more gently along with the vegetables. It’s also easier to break up into smaller pieces so that you don’t end up with a giant hunk of cooked ground turkey on your spoon.

I also opt not to take the bacon out after it has been browned – I want to simmer that bacon flavor in with the chili. You could certainly take the crisped bacon out of the pot if you wanted to and reserve it to be a crispy garnish for serving.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars like Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.

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