Editor-at-Large Bruce Anderson, a longtime chili fan, took the Sappingtons' version for a spin—with tasty results. On Thanksgiving Day...
Mama’s Chili from Heartlandia
Mama's Chili from the Heartlandia cookbook. (Kimberley Navabpour/Sunset Publishing)

Mama’s Chili from the Heartlandia cookbook. (Kimberley Navabpour/Sunset Publishing)

Editor-at-Large Bruce Anderson, a longtime chili fan, took the Sappingtons’ version for a spin—with tasty results.

On Thanksgiving Day, my role in the kitchen has typically been to open wine and beer at the beginning of the meal and to wash the dishes afterward.I step up to the stove only later in the weekend, when the holiday chefs are exhausted, and everyone needs a break from stuffing and cranberry sauce and funny little onions.

Many cooks will already have most of these ingredients on hand. (Claire Anderson)

Why this recipe?

Because it uses ground turkey, this dish seemed seasonally appropriate. Also, I love dishes I can make on Sunday, stick in the refrigerator, and serve midweek. And even better are dishes that actually improve as they sit in the fridge, one-pot meals like soup and chili, the quintessential Western meal. (I still have chili recipes I tore out of Gourmet, RIP, 25 years ago.)

I liked the straightforward simplicity of this chili (not too many steps, not too many ingredients) and the possibility that it would meet the approval of Claire, my 15-year-old, who will eat fish and fowl, but nothing that moves on four legs. And, finally, how can you say no to something called “Mama’s Chili”?

Bruce stirs in the corn and spices while cooking on his early 1950s Maytag Dutch Oven stove. (Claire Anderson)

What was it like to make it?

This is an easy recipe, and many of the ingredients are most likely already in your pantry and spice cupboard. I went to Whole Foods to get fresh dried beans from the bulk bins and to get diced San Marzano tomatoes. I soaked the beans overnight and then cooked them, with three tablespoons of salt, for about an hour and 15 minutes. The recipe says to cook them for an hour and a half to two hours, but if the dried beans are fresh, this will be too long, and the beans will start to fall apart.

I set aside the beans, then cooked the onion, garlic, and ground turkey in a second stockpot. I then added the corn, chili powder, and other spices to the mixture. Next came the beans, diced tomatoes, and chicken stock. At that point, I let the chili simmer for about an hour and a half, making sure to stir it frequently so that it didn’t stick. (Nothing burned—bravo!) We served it up with cilantro, plain yogurt (in lieu of full-fat sour cream), grated goat cheddar, and Sriracha.

Mama’s Chili: Perfect with cilantro and yogurt. (Photo by Kimberley Navabpour)

How did it turn out?

I made the chili once for my family and once for my colleagues in the Cookbook Club. My family found that the spices in the chili gave it lots of flavor, but they didn’t make it hot. (I forsook the Tabasco both times I made it). My daughter Luci applauded its mildness. My wife, Susan, hasn’t found a food that can’t be improved by Sriracha. And, in this case, she was absolutely right—the Sriracha gave the chili that little bit of heat that it was missing. Friends at Sunset particularly liked the way that the grated goat cheese gave the dish a bit of extra saltiness and tang.

Will I make it again?

Yes. This is an easy-to-make crowd-pleaser that gets better as it sits in the fridge. It’s also a great value meal: All of the ingredients probably cost less than 20 bucks and, though Heartlandia says that the recipe serves six to eight, it could easily serve eight to 10, possibly more. And I think it will be the perfect place to use some Turkey Day leftovers.


MAMA’S CHILIServes 6 to 8

“When I make chili at home,” Jackie Sappington writes, “I use ground turkey to balance out all the red meat in our life. This chili is great right from the pot but even better if you make it a day ahead and give the flavors more time to develop. I like to serve big bowls to Adam and our boys, with cornbread or tortilla chips alongside. If you don’t have time to soak the dried beans, you can substitute two 14.5-ounce cans of each bean in a pinch.”


½ pound dried kidney beans½ pound dried pinto beans3 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil1½ pounds ground dark turkey meat1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped3 garlic cloves, finely choppedFreshly ground black pepper1½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels¼ cup chili powder1 tbsp. ground coriander1 tbsp. ground cumin1 tbsp. garlic powder1 tbsp. onion powder1 tbsp. sweet paprika2 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes, with their juices2 cups chicken stockTabasco sauce (optional)½ cup fresh cilantro leaves½ cup full-fat sour cream

  1. The day before serving, sort through the kidney and pinto beans and get rid of any rocks. In a large bowl, combine the beans with enough cold water to cover by 2 inches and soak overnight.
  2. The next day, drain the beans and transfer them to a large stockpot. Fill the stockpot with enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Season the water with the salt and bring to a simmer. Cook the beans, stirring occasionally, until tender but not falling apart, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours. Drain the beans and set aside.
  3. In a large stockpot set over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the turkey, onion, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the turkey, until the meat is browned and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the corn, chili powder, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika and stir to incorporate. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spices are well incorporated and the corn starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and stir to combine. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices and the stock and stir to combine. Bring the chili to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors taste nicely melded together, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours. (If the chili is sticking and scorching on the bottom of the pot, reduce the heat slightly.) Add Tabasco for extra heat, if desired.
  5. Scoop the chili into six to eight bowls, garnish with the cilantro and sour cream, and dig in.
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