Fall Dinner: Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Turkey pumpkin chili warms your heart on a chilly fall night.

Halloween is over. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The leaves are flaming out and falling to the ground in droves. In other words, it’s November. November would be my favorite month if it were not for the sense of foreboding that I feel this time of year. It may be sunny and in the 50’s now, but I have spent the past week making my kids try on their parkas, snow pants and boots from last accutane winter to see what fits and what needs replacing. (Verdict: Zuzu can get another year out of her baby blue Lands End parka and snow pants, but needs new boots. JR needs new everything. Apparently a crappy attitude has not stunted his growth.) We may have missed out on the freak Halloween snowstorm that buried our friends on the East Coast, but we know that winter can hit any time now and we had better be ready.

In the meantime, I am trying to live in the moment and enjoy this month that brings my mother’s birthday, my birthday — turning 31 again! — and Thanksgiving. At least it’s a great time of year to cook. I’m working my way through the fall fruits and vegetables that I bought at the last farmers’ market and enjoying some other fall favorites like winter squash and pumpkin. I love pumpkin anything. I love pumpkin pie. I love the pumpkin apple bread recipe from the Gourmet cookbook. I love these pumpkin whoopie pies with cinnamon icing from Cheryl’s Cookies — I can’t wait to buy some at Cheryl’s new retail

store opening in Oak Park soon.

Savory pumpkin recipes are pretty delicious too and less guilt-inducing. I was planning to make a white turkey chili for a family dinner this weekend but when I asked my friend Chef Druck for a recipe recommendation, she mentioned seeing a recipe for turkey pumpkin chili on Blogcritics. I was intrigued by the idea so I formulated my own recipe, drawing a little on the tradition of Mexican mole — that’s the cinnamon and cocoa powder — and omitting beans because Zuzu cannot stand them. The result was delicious and healthy — a nice addition to my fall repertoire. I served this chili over rice with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream as garnishes. For dessert, try something that also cries out “fall,” like an apple-cranberry crisp.

Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Serves 6

3 TB olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 hot peppers, such as jalapeño or habañero, seeded and minced*
1 lb. ground turkey, preferably dark meat
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 cup beer
2 TB chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large, deep sauce pan or stock pot. Add onion, hot peppers and garlic and cook over medium heat until softened. Add ground turkey and cook, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink. Add chili powder, cumin and cinnamon to the meat and vegetables and cook until fragrant. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomatoes, pumpkin and beer and bring mixture to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Add cocoa powder and combine well. Cook 10 more minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve.

*As always, use caution when working with hot peppers. Wear gloves or wash your hands immediately.