I completely appreciate cooks who create recipes based on seasonal foods and cook with what's fresh from their garden, but there's just something special about chili for me. It could be 105 degrees in the shade and I still wouldn't turn down a bowl full of that spicy comfort food.
This recipe is double happiness for me because cornbread is another one of my favorite foods and there's a comfy blanket of it over the turkey chili that's hiding underneath. See that chili trying to peek out up there? I seeeee you, beautiful chili!
When I was growing up, I think my mom made casseroles and one pot dishes more than any woman on our block. The fact that there were 6 growing kids and a stocky husband waiting for dinner must have fueled her desire to get in and out of the kitchen quickly. She, like me, adored pulling odds and ends and leftovers out of the fridge and creating masterpiece dinners from them. Mom would have rocked the Chopped baskets!
That being said, DAD was the chili master of our household. He made a mean chili, people...and he worked feverishly to assure that no one child would ever be able to watch him cook a batch from start to finish, lest we learn what his secret ingredient was! Only big Ed was allowed to know how to create his smokey, spicy not-too-thick and not-too-thin stew. Heaven forbid he fail to pass on a culinary tradition, though, so when he was given his 6-month death sentence, Dad dragged my older brother Scott into the kitchen to teach him the ways of his wicked chili. You'd think my brother had just been handed the keys to the Ark of the Covenant or something. He walked around like a proud rooster for days after learning the secret recipe, taunting those of us who weren't quite as fortunate to be the eldest son.
Although my dad lived 5 years longer than his doctors anticipated he would, he still passed away far too soon, at the age of 48. Heart disease is a horrible thing to be diagnosed with, but Dad was a stubborn German. He had the attitude of "I'll be damned if anyone is going to tell ME when and how I'll die!" After his diagnosis, and against the advice of his doctors, Dad continued to eat massive amounts of cholesterol-laden foods, smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day, and drink dry martinis like they were water.
A couple of years after we buried my dad, Scott decided that it was time for all of us to learn the secret ingredient to the spectacular secret chili. Turns out, it really wasn't all that special of an ingredient, but it sure does impact the flavor and richness of the chili in a wonderful way. What was it, you ask? One perfect square of Baker's unsweetened chocolate. REALLY?! That's it?!?! Uh huh... I was a little deflated to learn how one simple ingredient was all that stood between me and the perfect pot of goodness. Cover it in cornbread and you're going to have your hands full trying to keep enough of it on the table.
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1/2 cup red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, diced
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, membrane removed, and finely diced
- 1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened chocolate (I used Baker's)
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (8 oz.) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
- 1 cup corn & black bean salsa
- 1 cup frozen corn niblets
- 1 cup black beans
- 1 cup chili beans
- 1/2 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 (8 oz.) package corn muffin mix, plus ingredients called for on box
- Brown ground turkey in an oven safe cast iron skillet over medium heat. Drain excess fat from skillet.
- Add onion, celery, bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, chili powder, salt, and peppers. Cook until onions turn translucent and peppers are softened, about 4 minutes.
- Add in tomato sauce, salsa, corn, and beans. Cook until mixture is hot and bubbly. Turn heat to medium low and allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Heat oven to 400 F.
- Mix corn muffin mix according to directions on package. Stir in cheese. Spoon the mixture evenly over top of skillet. Sprinkle top with additional cheese, if desired.
- Place skillet in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown.
- Carefully transfer skillet to a wire rack and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before serving.