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we are so merry and bright…and a little gassy

You know how sometimes an experience has to marinate a while before you want to pick it apart? Nate’s holiday party was a week ago, so we got all dolled up and took on the town. I wore “the dress,” which I bought–along with its matching clutch and heels–six years ago while working at Ann Taylor Loft. “The dress” has been my uniform for most weddings and cocktail parties since then. I plan to continue to don it until it falls apart or goes on strike. See here:

Although my inner frugality nearly always wins the debate of whether to purchase a new evening wardrobe, I secretly still rock and moan in the pre-party hours, worrying I’ll stand out in some wrong way that my fashion-challenged sense won’t pick up on. What to do during the fretting hours? Make chili!

I’ve been wanting to try out an Emeril chili recipe, and his turkey and hot sausage chili was wonderfully simple, hearty and satisfying. A great way to use up our hot Italian sausage from our CSA, I might add.

I finally made a jar of Emeril’s Essence, which is so big it will now likely follow us in our next six moves. Who knows? Maybe I’ll spice up our standard beans and rice with it. Seems like a useful spice mix to have on hand. But never fear, Tony Chachere’s, you will always have a place in the seasoning of my heart.

So yeah, when I should have been curling my hair or doing some other prettifying pre-party ritual, I made chili. And then, when I should have been putting on make-up or jewelry, I ate some chili. Because when lipstick isn’t enough, an orange stain around your mouth adds that little extra something.

To save money and the potential leeching of BPA in canned beans, I cooked my own beans from a bag of dried ones. I only recommend doing that if you’re cooking on the weekend or if you’re a home ranger like me. They take forever and are kind of a pain. Of course, of course, I had to say “BAM!” when pouring in the Essence. I wholeheartedly recommend this delicious chili. As for eating it prior to a night on the town, that could probably be avoided to everyone’s liking, particularly your girlish figure.

Update (2-13-12): I made a quick chili tonight with no recipe to follow, just using up leftovers from my fridge, and it turned out great! Nate said it was the best he ever had, so I decided to share it below my adaptation of Emeril.

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Emeril’s turkey and hot sausage chili
serves 4

1 Tbs. oil
1 pound ground turkey
3 hot Italian sausages, removed from casings and crumbled
2 tsp. Essence (BAM!), recipe follows
1 1/2 c. onions, diced
1/2 c. chopped, roasted and peeled green poblano or Anaheim chiles
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. Mexican chili powder (I like this kind because of the oregano)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (12-oz.) beer
1 (28-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes with their juice
2 c. cooked small red beans, or canned beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro 
Corn muffins, accompaniment

To roast the poblano chile, broil it in your toaster oven for 8-10 minutes on each side until it is sufficiently charred. Let it cool and then peel off the skin. (A more step-by-step version with jazzy photos can be found on the Inspired Bites blog).
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, sausage and Essence, and cook, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the onions and chilies and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and salt, and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans, beer, and tomatoes, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Remove from the heat and season to taste. At serving time, sprinkle each bowl with 1/4 cup of cheese and a pinch of cilantro. Serve corn muffins on the side.

Emeril’s Essence
yield: 2/3 cup 

2 1/2 Tbs. paprika
2 Tbs. salt
2 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. black pepper
1 Tbs. onion powder
1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 Tbs. dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Justine’s “leftovers chili”
serves 2 with leftovers

2 c. dried small red beans
1 tsp. bacon fat*
handful of chopped celery heart
1 small onion, diced
1/3 c. leftover cooked and chopped bacon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. Essence
1 Tbs. Mexican chili powder
1 1/2 c. leftover cooked sausage, ground pork, or beef
1 c. diced tomatoes in juice

Rinse and pick over beans. Put in a Dutch oven and cover with 8 c. water. Boil for two minutes, remove from heat, and let sit for 1 hour. Drain, rinse, and set aside. Add bacon fat, onion, celery, salt, and pepper, and saute over medium heat until translucent, about five minutes. Add bacon, 4 c. water, beans, Essence, and chili powder, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Add sausage and tomatoes and cook another 30-45 minutes, removing cover for the last 15 minutes.

*I use leftovers throughout this recipe, but you can always use fresh ingredients instead.