The Trick to Turkey: Thanksgiving Boilermaker Chili

This morning at the grocery store, I felt my ear canals pool with blood as a woman protested to a turkey-section attendant about the condition of the birds on display. She had not ordered her turkey ahead of time, apparently, thus relegating herself to the poultry rummagers to whom this attendant had been assigned to provide counsel and aid. Nothing he could say, however, could assuage this woman’s distress that she might, on the eve of Thanksgiving, be sold a frozen turkey. "It’s not fresh!" she shrieked, white knuckles choking the handle of her shopping cart, eyes darting up and over and beyond the massive product. "It’s not fresh! It’s frozen!" Broken but not unbowed — not unlike his English — the attendant carried on with his argument until "It’s not fresh!" gave way to "It’s fresh?" and finally a 15-pound-or-so turkey landed at the bottom of the woman’s cart. *

On the one hand, I get it: Thanksgiving comes once a year, and with it, the solemn responsibility for some to manufacture quality eats that both honor and advance our nation’s deep culinary tradition for their families and loved ones. On the other hand, nothing proliferates panic like a bin plugged full of fowl boulders waiting for a flood of latecomers and dilettantes to fuck them up with whatever hipster brine or organic walnut-date-chutney stuffing happens to be all the rage this year. So, in the spirit of service, magnanimity and convenience, I’m here to share the trick of how to respect Thanksgiving while avoiding the grisly fates of our culture’s lung-vacating turkey matrons:


Tomorrow will mark my fourth consecutive Thanksgiving as a practitioner of turkey chili. Not just any turkey chili, though. This is Thanksgiving Boilermaker Chili, in which beer and whiskey peaceably join like pilgrims and Indians, tucking into a zesty stew of America’s favorite feathered, wattled little buddy. Screw the cranberry sauce, skip the yams and mashed potatoes, and trade the day’s unceasing kitchen labors for a meal that allows you to focus on what matters: Family, togetherness, drinking and football (not necessarily in that order; in fact absolutely totally not at all in that order, but one thing at a time).

It goes like this:

Thanksgiving Boilermaker Chili

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 3 hours
Yield: 8-10 servings

2 tbsp. grapeseed oil (Olive oil obviously works but will just add heft)

2 lb extra-lean ground turkey (fresh! Not frozen!)

6-8 garlic cloves, sliced (Minimum; garlic sluts might consider just halving the cloves)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes

8 tbsp. chili powder (4 tbsp. for the meat, 4 tbsp. for the tomatoes)

1 tbsp. cayenne

1 tbsp. cumin

1 tbsp. paprika

1 tbsp. oregano

1 (16 oz.) can small red beans (Or black beans. Or kidney beans, if you’re unholy and weird)

1/2 cup bourbon or rye whiskey (Bourbon = sweeter; rye = spicier)

1 cup dark American beer

1 whole chili pepper, top removed (Habanero is great)

Sea salt and fresh-ground pepper

3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 bunch chives, chopped

In a large soup or stock pot, heat the grapeseed oil. Drop in the turkey, onions and garlic. While the meat browns, stir in the cumin, paprika, cayenne and 4 tbsp. of the chili powder. After a few minutes of stirring/continued browning, add the bourbon and beer. Turn the heat up to medium-high, but do not stir — let the booze and meat cook together for a few minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and the remaining chili powder. Get a good blend before stirring in beans. Drop in the chili pepper last; bury it for maximum flavor.

Reduce heat to low and let simmer for two hours or longer. Stir every 20-30 minutes, depending on how desperately you are to escape the Lions game.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with sharp cheddar cheese, chives and/or sour cream (if you must). Give thanks for a dinner that cuts your clean-up time by 3/4 and whatever else you’re grateful for. Dig in — and Happy Thanksgiving!

*I mean, it looked frozen to me, but whatever. (^ Back to top ^)

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