Turkey Chipotle Chili

Turkey Chipotle Chili with a dollop sour cream

Turkey Chipotle Chili

It’s a few days past Thanksgiving Day and, as usual, I’m already pretty sick of turkey.

Because I’m an idiot, I made a 14lb. bird for just two. Last year I did an even larger one for, essentially, just one. I’m sure I’ll do it again; I just like making the whole turkey including the neck (my personal favorite, when it’s cooked tender) and the giblets for the stuffing.  Still, for Thanksgiving dinner, we ate only the drumsticks, so there are a lot of leftovers, including nearly the whole turkey breast.

The goal with this chili was to have it taste as little like turkey as possible; it’s a twist on chicken chilis that I’ve had, significantly spiced with chipotle peppers and cumin. Ingredients include:

  • diced turkey breast
  • one medium yellow onion (small dice)
  • one green pepper (similarly diced)
  • olive oil, (generously, for sautéing)
  • soup stock (turkey)
  • crushed tomato (1 20 oz. can for two breasts)
  • black beans (I used rehydrated dried beans that had been frozen)
  • Mexican oregano (dried, crushed)
  • cumin (powdered, used generously)
  • chili en adobo (~1/2 can, minced; use sparingly to taste as these can be quite spicy)
  • chili powder
  • salt (to taste)

I found the tomato paste and fresh serrano pepper, shown in the photo below, to be unnecessary so didn’t use it this time.

Turkey Chipotle Chili ingregients

Turkey Chipotle Chili ingredients

Chili is an easy flexible recipe so I won’t bother with all the details, except a couple tips that I find useful. First, I like to sautée the fresh vegetables until tender and then stir them with the dry spices before adding liquid. Second, it’s best not to simmer pre-cooked meat (leftover, here) or beans too long as it can cause them to disintegrate due to overcooking and/or stirring.

Whole turkey breast

Whole turkey breast

I cut turkey breast into approximately 1/2 inch cubes.

Preparing Turkey Chipotle Chili

Preparing Turkey Chipotle Chili

Add the beans toward the end of the simmer and stir carefully thereafter to avoid mashing them.

Turkey chipotle chili

Turkey chipotle chili

That’s it: in about an hour, a simple delicious chili to dispatch with the leftover turkey white meat.

Turkey Chipotle Chili

Turkey Chipotle Chili served with a dollop of sour cream

I’m interested to know your Thanksgiving turkey leftover suggestions; I did the typical pot pie last year. one friend made enchiladas; I may try that with the dark meat.

Another friend posted this recipe for fritters made with stuffing: Latke-Crusted Turkey Stuffing Fritters With Liquid Cranberry Fritters with Liquid Cranberry Core and Schmaltz Gravy.

Happy belated Thanksgiving and peace to you and yours!

Chipotle Carnitas

Chipotle carnitas and avocado taco

Chipotle carnitas and avocado taco

First off, if you landed here expecting an approximation of the carnitas from Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant, you’re in the wrong place. Instead, it’s my slight twist on traditonal carnitas, the mexican pulled-pork staple.

Carnitas is one of my favorite taco and burrito fillings, but I’d not made this delicious meat at home.
I decided to start with Rick Bayless’ recipe that employs a two-phase cooking method: first moist, then dry[ing]. My variant uses chipotle peppers for flavor, rather than other spices or smoke flavoring.

Truth be told, my newfound inspiration to  actually make carnitas was that I found a lean 2 pound pork rib end roast in my freezer; I’d bought it some time ago on sale for less than $3 per pound. Also, I happened to have a broiler pan with rendered bacon fat from yesterday’s breakfast. Bacon fat is typically quite salty (compared to lard), but I had accidentally purchased low-sodium bacon, so I decided to experiment with using the bacon fat in place of salt and lard, or oil, that you typically find in carnitas recipes.

Soaking dried chipotle peppers

Soaking dried chipotle peppers

First, I soaked two large dried chipotle peppers, rinsed them, removed the veins, seeds, and stems, and then liquified them with some of the soaking water (~1 cup) in a blender.

Blended chipotles and soaking water

Blended chipotles and soaking water

Next, I cut the pork into approximately 2″ cubes and placed them in a baking dish. Because the rib end roast was quite lean, I added the warm rendered pork fat (~1/3 cup) from cooking 1 pound of low-sodium bacon (left from yesterday’s breakfast).

Boneless pork end rib roast, cubed and topped with rendered pork fat.

Boneless pork end rib roast, cubed and topped with rendered pork fat.

I poured the chipotle and water mixture over the pork, covered the dish, and put in a preheated 375° F oven for 1 hour.

Cover the pork with fat, and water mixture, in a covered dish in preparation for moist cooking phase.

Cover the pork with fat, and water mixture, in a covered dish in preparation for moist cooking phase.

After this, I uncovered the pork, placed the baking dish on a foil-covered pan (in case of spatter), and “dry cooked” until the water mostly evaporated, leaving just the rendered fat. During this phase, be sure to turn the pieces regularly, e.g., progressively more frequently to every 7-15 minutes, both to keep the pieces moist and to prevent burning on top.

Beginning dry cooking phase, uncovered.

Beginning dry cooking phase (uncovered)

Total cooking times was 2 hours 15 minutes: 1 hour moist cooking (covered) at 375° F and 1 hour 15 minutes dry cooking (uncovered, turning occassionally) at 450° F. Afterwards, I used two forks to pull the pork into small pieces.

Finished carnitas, pulled into small pieces with two forks.

Finished carnitas, pulled into small pieces with two forks.

I served the carnitas in tacos, on warmed tortillas, topped with a homemade chipotle garlic salsa and slices of fresh, ripe avocado.

Chipotle carnitas and avocado taco

Chipotle carnitas and avocado taco

This was a satisfying first effort at carnitas, having mild smokiness both from the bacon and from the chipotles. I’ll definitely make it again. I’ll caution you about using bacon fat here, though… it definitely had a generous amount of salt, so don’t add any more. A less-lean cut of pork would be a better option, obviating the need for added fat to get the moist consistency that one expects from carnitas.

Here are the recipes I consulted for preparation ideas:

UPDATE (March, 2013):

I made this again, this time with pork shoulder roast ($1.99/lb.), just its natural fat and a bit of salt, but with many more rehydrated chipotles and an ancho chile.  This was great too, and less salty than the prior experiment with rendered bacon fat.

Carnitas taco with white onion, cilantro, and hot sauce.

Carnitas taco with white onion, cilantro, and hot sauce.

UPDATE (March, 2014):

I tried this same preparation with beef shoulder roast. Unfortunately, this isn’t a great technique for beef; it just wasn’t tender. Once cooked, I had to chop the meat into tiny pieces. It tasted good, and is not unlike the texture of the finely chopped steak some mexican kitchens serve, but isn’t tender the way pot roast or barbacoa would be. For that, you’ll have to slow cook for longer time.

Beef shoulder roast prepared by this wet, then dry method; it's not the same.

Beef shoulder roast prepared by this wet, then dry method; it’s not the same.

My Favorite Salsa Recipe: Salsa Romesco

Four canned salsas based on Salsa Romesco with (left to right) pasilla, chipotle, habanero, and cayenne

Here’s a spectacular salsa that I’ve been making for 15 years – Salsa Romesco, with a surprising ingredient: almonds!

If you’re a friend to whom I’ve given salsa, it almost certainly was this one.
It’s a spanish recipe from chef Mark Miller’s excellent guide, “The Great Salsa Book.”

The particularly nice qualities of this salsa are its sweetness from red pepper, its relatively smooth, thick consistency (e.g., for dipping chips or as an enchilada sauce), and its easily adjustable heat simply based on the amount of powdered cayenne pepper. I’ve included the original recipe below.

In a moment of farmers’ market enthusiasm, I bought a 25 pound box of tomatoes for $10. It turns out that’s a lot of tomatoes! I oven-roasted about half of these large, wonderfully red tomatoes to make 4 slightly different salsas.

To oven-roast tomatoes, simply cut them and lay them out on a sheet in a 250° F oven for 2-3 hours.  I put a bit of salt on on them beforehand. Large tomatoes can be quartered and roma tomatoes, as the original recipe called for, halved.

Quartered, and salted, tomatoes ready for oven-roasting.

The roasting removes some of the moisture, setting up for a nice blended salsa of a thick consistency and water doesn’t separate so much as with raw tomato-based salsas. (Of course, those salsas have their place; who could live without pico de gallo?)

I’ve made this Salsa Romesco many, many times (recipe below), spiced just with cayenne. This time I also rehydrated some pasilla and chipotle (meco type) peppers while the tomatoes were roasting, and finely minced one seeded, deveined fresh habanero. This was to make salsa variations with differing hotness and flavors. My pasilla peppers happened to be considerably hotter than the chipotle… many pepper varieties’ hotness is somewhat unpredictable.

Soaking dried pasilla and chipotle peppers

Once the tomoatoes are roasted, you can simply blend them in a food processor or blender for sauces and salsas.

Oven-roasted tomatoes, after about 3 hours at 250° F

After the passive hours of roasting tomatoes and rehydrating peppers, you’re ready to make this salsa; everything is blended, so there’s not much chopping.

Ingredients, in addition to tomatoes, needed for Salsa Romesco.

There is a bit of work; you will need to remove the skins from red peppers. I suppose removing the skin is optional, but it does two things: (a) it makes the salsa sweeter since the skin imparts a little bitterness, and (b) it keeps the skins (mostly) out of the resulting salsa, so it doesn’t get stuck between your teeth.

Red bell peppers, roasted for peeling

For me, the easiest way to roast and peel bell peppers has been to place them on a foil-lined sheet very near the heat in the broiler, watching them carefully and rotating them until all sides are blackened as shown.  Place the roasted peppers in a plastic bag or covered bowl for a while to steam them (helping the skin to separate), and then peel them (as best you can), remove core and seeds, and rinse the pepper.

Here’s Mark Miller’s recipe (my comments in parentheses… I approximately tripled this in quantity):

  • 10 Roma tomatoes, oven-roasted
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne powder (careful! … to taste, make separate salsas for different palates)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and purée.
Variation: Add 1 anchovy filet to the food processor.
Note: This is a classic Spanish salsa.
Serving suggestions: A versatile salsa, good with tortilla chips or as a dip for vegetables; with grilled meats fish or eggs; or as a soup garnish.
Yield: About 1 3/4 cups
Heat: 5-6 (of 10, it solely depends on how much cayenne powder you add, it’s even nice and sweet with almost no cayenne… but I usually make it spicy.)

I made 4 variations, canning some of each for wintertime and keeping some fresh in the refrigerator (for days, at least), shown left to right in the top photo:

  • Hot pasilla and red pepper
  • Medium chipotle and red pepper
  • Hot habanero-garlic and red pepper
  • Mild sweet red pepper

I shared them with friends and all were popular but my favorites were the hot pasilla and the hot (fresh) habanero and garlic.

Fresh prepared salsas based on Salsa Romesco recipe

As I said, this salsa is my favorite to make myself and is a great foundation for creativity.
It takes a few hours, but most of that is not active time; it’s just waiting.  Maybe make a nice meal in the mean time, while the kitchen has the pleasant smell of roasted tomato. :)