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White Chili

While we battle through a late season cold-snap, the calendar says that winter’s strength will soon be behind us. In the meanwhile, the cold weather continues demand slow-cooked comfort foods and I’m happy to comply. Nothing seems to warm as well as those one-pot dishes that cook for hours and warm you from the core of your palette all the way out to your extremities.

So a few months ago, I prepared a rather traditional chili con carne which was exquisite in all its richness and flavours. As you may recall from that recipe, I ran short of black beans, and so scrambled to find something else. But this got me thinking: what if I had used only white beans? What if I made a non-tomato based sauce? What if I used veggies with little colour? What if I made a white chili?

White Chili Plated2The answer was simple as it was comforting and it was an easy filter to use as I selected each ingredient. The only one I chose to not navigate was what to do about chili powder in the dish? I didn’t debate it long — it was essential and I rationalized that even the bit of ‘ruddiness’ that it would bring wouldn’t be a bad thing — that a totally, creamy white would lack the essential warmth of the dish and would be less appealing to the eye.

The celery, yellow carrots, orange and yellow peppers all worked exceptionally well to keep the dish’s colour ‘muted.’ And together, when caramelized, they brought a richness of flavour to the chili and a bit of colour as well. They tasted awesome. To build the sauce, I opted for chicken stock which would work with turkey and allow the turkey to be more than a nondescript protein and actually be a flavour. I still wanted beer in this chili to mellow the stock, so chose a beer light in colour and flavour: a light lager whose hops wouldn’t get in the way. Without the add of tomatoes, tomato paste, or their natural pectin, I wavered on the decision to add a thickener, but ultimately decided it was necessary so that the dish felt more like a chili and less like a bean-soup. The cornstarch blended beautifully and kept it gluten-free. Finally, the secret ingredient to giving this a hint of something “hmmm” was a dash of ground cinnamon. Omit it if you want and you’ll still have a grand chili, but, trust me, it works, and just like the Mexican chocolate works in my chili con carne, the cinnamon warms the dish, makes it richer, and pulls the flavours together as one.

Finally, I highly recommend serving this with the wine pairing found at the end of this recipe. The Gewürztraminer was a match made in heaven.

Prep Time:  15 minutes (plus more as you cook)
Cook time:  45 minutes

Total time:  1 hour (+ additional 30-60 minutes to simmer)
Servings:    8

White Chili

INGREDIENTS:

  • White Chili Ingredients2-2½ (900-1100g) lean ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons (30mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium white/yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery (1 cup), chopped
  • 1 yellow/orange bell pepper (1 cup), chopped large
  • 2-3 yellow carrots (1 cup), chopped large
  • 1-2 parsnips (1 cup), chopped large
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons (45mL) cornstarch
  • 1 bottle (350mL) of lager beer
  • 19 ounce (540mL) can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • 19 ounce (540mL) can white kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons (30mL) ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2mL) ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 3.5 cups (1 litre) high-quality chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
    + plus additional cilantro leaves (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat a 5 quart/litre pot or Dutch oven over medium heat-high heat and add the chopped onions. Sauté for about 3 minutes.
    White Chili Onions
  2. Lower temperature to medium heat and add the the celery and bell pepper and continue to sauté another 3 minutes.
    White Chili Celery and PeppersAdd the chopped parsnip and carrot and sauté for another 5 minutes.
    White Chili Carrot and ParsnipAdd the diced jalapeño and minced garlic and sauté for another minute.
    White Chili Jalapeño and Garlic
  3. Raise the temperature back to medium-high and stir in the ground turkey. Continue to fry for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly to break up the turkey, until all pinkness is gone.
    White Chili add turkeyStir in the cornstarch and mix well.
    White Chili cook turkeyPour in the bottle of beer …
    White Chili add beer… and stir it in.
    White Chili mix in beer
  4. Add the beans and chickpeas now ….
    White Chili add legumesStir in the spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and optionally the cinnamon.
    White Chili add spicesAdd the chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, and add 1/2 cup (125mL) chopped fresh cilantro.
    White Chili add cilantroLet simmer 30-60 minutes, uncovered and allow all the flavours to comingle.
    White chill simmers… until thick, flavourful, and reduced slightly. Taste for a final bit of seasoning, and serve.
    White chill ready
  5. Serve with fresh cilantro leaves and enjoy.
    White Chili PlatedWine pairing: While this would pair very well with the same lager you use in the cooking process, if you’re looking to tantalize your taste buds then I highly recommend a Gewürztraminer like the the exceptional Red Rooster of the Okanagan Valley, whose medium sweetness pairs perfectly with the poultry and spices.