Turkey Chili and Jalapeño Poppers

Raise your hand if you would rather watch anything other than the Super Bowl. No? No takers? Okay, let’s try something different. Raise your hand if the title of this post set your mouth watering.

Today, in order to celebrate the Super Bowl that we wouldn’t be watching, my roommate and I decided to make chili. Since my mom very generously bought us a two-pound brick of ground turkey, we decided to make turkey chili instead of the traditional beef.

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Secretly, I had never eaten turkey chili before today. I think some part of me believed it to be beef chili’s evil twin. Turkey? Pretending to be the main component of a thoroughly meaty comfort food? Yeah, right. It would be like eating a turkey burger or a slab of hot turkey off the grill. It couldn’t be the same. The turkey would only be a poorly disguised imposter ruining my perfectly rich and hearty dish. This attempt, however, proved me absolutely wrong and I am willing to admit my previous mistakes. It also had the added benefit of reducing my red meat intake! Hooray for continued healthy eating!

Oh yeah, and we also made jalapeño poppers. Which were also very healthy, because they are a vegetable? And we made them with cheese and fried them instead of…the alternative? Ah, who am I kidding– they weren’t healthy, but they were delicious. This recipe is the easiest popper recipe I have encountered so far, which made for absolute maximum popper enjoyment. We made way too many of them and ate more than we should. It was a sign of their deliciousness.

We even went all out and combined the chili with the poppers. We figured what the hell? Let’s live a little. Even though I wasn’t watching the Super Bowl, I certainly celebrated today in my own way. Next time you are feeling fancy but want some comforting food, I suggest that you whip up a batch of this chili and these jalapeño poppers and do the same.

Turkey Chili for Beef Lovers

Note: my roommate and I love leftovers, especially when they will last in the freezer. We also had two pounds of turkey to use. It made an extraordinary amount of chili, so feel free to reduce this recipe as you see fit.

2lbs ground turkey

1 large white onion, diced

3 green bell peppers, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans kidney beans, drained

3 cans crushed tomatoes

Olive oil

4.5 tablespoons chili powder

2.5 tablespoons ground cumin*

2.5 teaspoons cayenne

Half tablespoon black pepper, plus some

Salt

Red pepper flakes

Dried oregano

First sear your ground turkey in a heavy-bottomed, large pot. Put a tiny bit of olive oil in the bottom of your pan and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, breaking up the chunks as the meat cooks. Work in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the meat, adding salt, pepper, and oregano to each batch. Transfer your cooked meat to a separate bowl. If it looks like you may have overcrowded the meat and it is boiling itself in its own juices instead of searing nicely, do not panic– carefully drain the liquid from the bottom of the pot and continue on as normal.

When all your turkey is thoroughly cooked and in the bowl, put about a bit more olive oil into your pot. Add a dash of red pepper flakes for flavor and heat over medium-high heat. Add your onion when the oil is hot and cook until it starts to become translucent. At this point, add your garlic and peppers. Cook them until they start to soften, and then add the beans, turkey, and spices. Mix thoroughly before adding all three cans of tomatoes, and then mix it all again. Cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let it cook as you make your jalapeño poppers and serve hot with your favorite fixin’s.

*As mentioned previously, we only have whole cumin seeds in our apartment– this means that whatever cumin we use in our cooking is especially fragrant and strong. You may need to adjust the amount of pre-ground cumin to achieve the same taste.

Seriously Easy Jalapeño Poppers

Adapted from Stephanie at CopyKat’s recipe, found here. The basic premise is the same, but we scaled the recipe down quite a bit.

Disclaimer: these do take a bit of time to make, as they involve deep frying. They are maybe not the easiest, per se, but they are great at not dripping melty cheese everywhere. They are also delicious. I can’t promise you won’t eat more than your fair share!

8 jalapeños

4 oz cream cheese (half of one package), softened to room temperature

4 oz shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp chili powder

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup (or more) seasoned breadcrumbs

Oil for frying

First, prepare your jalapeños. Remove the stem and cut them in half lengthwise. If you do not want your poppers to be as spicy, remove the seeds and the pith from the peppers.

Mix your cheeses together to form the inside spread. I have done this two ways– once with a Cuisinart blender and once with a fork and some good old arm muscle. Both worked fine and make delicious poppers. Once your cheese mixture is done, use it to fill each half pepper to the top.

Mix the flour and the spices together until well incorporated. Add your milk to a separate bowl. Dip your popper halves first in the milk and then in the flour, making sure to coat it well. Stephanie recommends that you let these dipped poppers dry on a metal rack over a baking sheet, but I’ve also found that drying them on paper towels in a baking sheet works just as well.

Heat your oil in a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet. There should be enough in the pan to reach about halfway up the peppers.

Start again with the first popper and work your way down the line, dipping each in milk and then into the breadcrumbs. Repeat the milk and breadcrumb combination twice for each popper. When the oil sizzles (Stephanie recommends 350 degrees), add your first peppers to the pan cheese-side down. Do not overcrowd the peppers! Ideally you will want to let them fry on this side until they are golden-brown, but if they start to leak prematurely, flip them over onto the jalapeño side.

When each batch is cooked, remove the peppers from the oil and place them onto paper towels to drain. Serve them hot and enjoy!

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