Monday, November 7, 2011

Turkey Chili with Cocoa and Cinnamon / "La Cumparsita"

There are three ways that I know fall is upon us:

1) I have an insatiable craving for warm stews and chili,

2) I get insanely busy as the concert season enters full force,

3) The kinds of dishes that make sense for me to prepare are the kind that are made in one pot. (Thankfully, the stews and chilis mentioned in 1) above fall into this category.) Concert season means that I am rarely home nights (both weekend and weekday), and cooking time generally is in short supply. Meals that I can leave on the stove while I practice, teach, or attend to emails -- that will also keep well (or improve) over the course of a few days in the fridge -- are what I inevitably turn to this time of year.

This chili is a favorite in our house. Made with turkey and whatever kinds of beans you have on hand, its flavor benefits from liberal additions of cocoa and cinnamon. Only one tablespoon of oil in the whole dish makes it quite waistline-friendly as well. I like to serve this with cornbread in addition to the toppings mentioned below.

Turkey Bean Chili with Cocoa and Cinnamon
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1/4 cup chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 heaping tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
heaping 1/4 tsp groud cinnamon
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
3 cups beef stock
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
3 15-oz cans beans of your choice (such as white, black, pinto, kidney; I like to mix what I have on hand), rinsed and drained

Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions until they turn golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Add in the oregano and cumin and stir for 1 minute. 

Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon. 

Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon. Mix in stock and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the consistency is less soupy.

Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. Serve with accompaniments like fresh cilantro, nonfat greek yogurt (or sour cream), shredded cheese, avocado, and/or chopped purple onion.

For a musical pairing, enjoy what is possibly the most famous tango of all time: Matos Rodriguez's "La Cumparsita."  Preparing this chili - specifically, adding several very different ingredients to the same pot in order to create one dish - made me think of all the work I have put into a big concert coming up (where we will be playing a new arrangement of La Cumparsita). I make my living as an orchestral performer. But as the co-artistic director of the Salastina Music Society, my responsibilities go far beyond practicing and performing. My partner Kevin and I share the entire load, from coming up with what we'll be playing to who we'll be playing with (and where) to printing the programs, handling the ticketing, dealing with the venue, advertising the event, and general event planning. It's a labor of love, to be sure. (And by that I mean, we collect not one penny of our revenue in the interest of helping our baby non-profit grow.)  Our concert is coming up this Sunday, and as the countdown begins, I always look forward to the day of -- when I can, for the most part, enjoy everything coming together in the actual performance.

Different elements coming together to create a satisfying whole... what could be more fulfilling (or just plain filling) than that?


  1. Cara Maia, ti scrivo in italiano perché e' molto tardi e non credo che sarei lucida in inglese. Il chili non e' molto conosciuto in Italia se non nei ristoranti messicani. Ma mi incuriosisce molto e vorrei provare a prepararlo. Io sono una grande amante del tango e conosco moltissime versioni della Cumparsita anche se parliamo di grandi classici del tango i miei preferiti sono Adios muchachos e Caminito. Pero' hai toccato una corda del mio cuore che e' molto sensibile. Ti mando un bacio e in bocca al lupo per i tuoi concerti. Pat

  2. Ah, this looks so delicious. Have yet to try with cocoa and cinnamon. And I adore the musicical companion, too. Autumn is here in Germany and Paris. I love being out in the green country watching the leaves fall. xx

  3. This is a fantastic, Aztec-y sounding chili recipe, Maia -- thanks! (You're just bound and determined to get me to DANCE, aren't you? LOVED the Tango music, too!) :)

    Your concluding statement reminded me of why I love to listen to symphonies -- solo instrumentalists are a delight, but an orchestra combines the "flavors," just like your chili. Hearts in tune. That's the way I feel about it. Best wishes during the busy season!

  4. OMg this looks so good! I'm actually going to make this tonight.


  5. This looks so rustic and the colour is so intense. Thank goodness I have a pot of curry on the stove brewing! :)

  6. This look soo wonderful! I've actually never made chili before and this doesn't look too complicated at all. Your food post pictures are always so divine

  7. Hmmm... do you think this can be adapted for a crock pot?