We had crazy warm weather in March. No snow, in Minnesota, in March. That's your March Madness, right there! The ice was off the lakes by the third week; plants were budding, too quickly in some cases - there was no sap run in the maple trees, so no maple syrup.
Then it changed, as the weather is wont to do. The wind picked up, the clouds blew in, and we were back to normal (somewhat). And on a cool, windy day -March 26th, to be exact-, I decided to make turkey chili.
I don't follow a standard recipe when I make chili; I use what's on hand, and let it all simmer on the stovetop. On this day, I had ground turkey in the refrigerator, so that was the meat base. I also had canned kidney beans, black beans and chili beans in the pantry, along with a large can of whole peeled tomatoes and a small can of diced tomatoes with garlic (fire roasted!, in fact). I also started to pull seasonings out of the cabinet - and realized I was out of cumin. Horrors! How can I make chili without cumin??? Ohhh, wait a second - I do have whole cumin seeds, just ready to be toasted and added to the mix!
Turkey Chili (inspired by a mild spring zephyr)
1 lb. ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can chili beans, undrained
1 can black beans, drained
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic
1/2 of a 12 oz. package of frozen corn kernels, partially thawed
Seasonings, what I had on hand: smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, taco mix, curry powder, whole cumin seeds, garlic powder, salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce
and finally, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. That's right, cocoa powder.
1. brown the turkey in one tablespoon olive oil, over medium flame, until no longer pink; add chopped onion and cook for several minutes, over medium-high flame, until onion is soft and translucent.
2. add canned goods, mix, then simmer over medium-low flame to desired consistency. The longer the chili simmers, the thicker it gets.
3. add seasonings to taste: anywhere from 1/8 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon, heavy on the smoked paprika, cumin (if I had ground cumin!), lighter on the curry powder and cayenne pepper (because my kids complain if it's too "hot" or "spicy"). Since I was using whole cumin seed, I added a teaspoon of the seeds first, in the middle of the pot, to toast the seeds lightly before mixing them in with the turkey; then I added the rest of the seasonings. After it had cooked a while, I tasted it and added salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste.
Then I added the cocoa powder. It gives the chili a lovely dark color, and the cocoa and hot spices complement each other, creating a complexity of flavor that can't be readily described. Add the corn, heat through, and serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and corn bread.