Leighto Greato here, your resident expert on all things Texas up here in Newwww York City. Today, we’re going to talk about a few facts that every good Texan knows:
- Friday Night Lights is basically a documentary. (And my mom is a real-life Tammy Taylor, which hopefully makes me Gracie Bell and not Julie because I’d rather be an alien baby version of Woody Harrelson than a boring floozy.) #texasforever.
- Shiner beer is The Best Beer. And at this, the most wonderful time of the year, they sell Shiner Cheer — brewed with Texas pecans and peaches — which is, in fact, the most wonderful beer of the year. It’s so Christmas-y it almost tastes like Christmas tree water, but in a good way.
- Jalapenos make everything better. (Especially cornbread.)
- Whataburger is a state of mind.
- HEB is life. (As in, it is the greatest thing in life, but also where most Texans spend the majority of their lives.)
- Chili does not have beans in it.
So, about that last one. You might have noticed that this chili does, in fact, have beans in it. Technically, I should probably call it “turkey bean stew with tomatoes and chili powder,” but I am a crazy rule-breaker. Like Kevin Bacon in Footloose. This “turkey and white bean chili” is me fleeing John Lithgow (?) and his oppressive no-dancing regime to a warehouse on the edge of our little Baptist town to rebelliously dance it out. (Sidenote: the plot of Footloose is just really weird and funny to me.) Also, for what it’s worth, I don’t know of any towns in Texas where dancing is actually banned. Though I recently saw this article about the law in New York that bans dancing unless a bar owner has a cabaret license which was crazy, but even crazier that the author didn’t even mention Footloose, which seems like such an obvious cultural reference and a treasure trove of puns for a pithy headline. What was he thinking?! Please discuss in the comments.
Anyway, this chili is great just the way it is, which is very bean-heavy and flavorful, without being too spicy. It froze beautifully, so we’ll be eating it all winter. But really, you would too, if it made you feel like this:
- 1 lb. dried white beans
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 c. bread crumbs or 2 slices of sandwich bread, roughly torn up
- 1 c. milk
- 2 lbs. ground turkey
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 T. vegetable oil
- 4 T. chili powder
- 1 T. tomato paste
- 1 can of tomatoes
- Avocado, for garnish
- Soft-boiled egg, for garnish
- First, you'll need to soak your beans. Put the beans and bay leaf in a pot (not the pot you're planning to cook your chili in!) and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Don't salt the water! We'll get to that later. Bring the water up to a boil, let it boil uncovered for 2 minutes, then cover and turn off the heat. Let the beans soak in the hot water for at least 2 hours.
- While the beans are soaking, start the chili base. Soak the breadcrumbs or roughly torn pieces of bread in the milk for 5 minutes. Once soaked, break the bread up with your fingers, and work the milk-soaked bread, some salt, and pepper into the ground turkey until it's evenly distributed.
- In the pot you're going to use to cook the chili, heat the oil and saute the onions on medium heat. After 5 minutes, the onions should be translucent. Add the chili powder, garlic and tomato paste, and cook for another minute or two. Add the turkey mixture, and cook until browned. Once done, stir in the can of tomatoes.
- At this point, your turkey is ready for the beans. If the beans aren't done soaking, just turn the heat off under the turkey mixture until the beans are ready. Once the beans are done soaking, pour the beans -- and their soaking liquid -- into the pot with the turkey mixture and stir to combine. Bring the chili up to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer and allow to lightly bubble for 90 minutes to two hours -- until the beans are tender. I usually taste a bean every 15 minutes or so after the one-hour mark because the exact time depends on your beans and how tender you want them to be.
- Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, and garnish with sliced avocado and a soft-boiled egg. Serve hot.