Techfest White Turkey Chili

The Gwinnett Amateur Radio Society came up with a novel idea 16 years ago- hosting an amateur radio event in January that focused on the exchange of knowledge instead of gear. Techfest, as it is called, has grown in attendance over time, with both local and regional amateurs coming together to exchange ideas on new modes of operation, revisiting classical ones and enjoying fellowship with old friends.

Did I mention there is no admission charge? And a free lunch? Part of the free lunch comes from the chili cook-off that is also hosted during Techfest. Entrants bring a crock pot of chili for judging in a heads up competition with the winner getting bragging rights for the year. Winning any chili contest is quite the accomplishment because chili to many people is more than a wintertime comfort food. Chili is religion. White or red? Beef chunks or ground meat? Chicken stock or beef stock or water? Beans? It’s religion and so rational thought doesn’t apply. To know the best chili is to believe what you’ve been taught, be suspicious of other types and have faith that yours is not only the best, but the right one, too. Like I said, it’s religion.

Chili, pardon the pun, stirs something inside people- many believe they make the best one or they’ve had the best one somewhere and you don’t make the best one and never had it, either. If you are invited over for chili, do be both careful and polite by sampling the chili and agreeing with or giving the complement that your host is inevitably fishing for. You don’t want to spoil a friendship with the wrong words such as, “it’s too hot,” or “it’s not hot enough.”

Instead of making a red chili like everyone else was going to do, I decided to make a white chili instead. I thought the novelty of my choice would give me an edge in the Techfest competition, both because the choice of turkey and cannellini beans in a bright green broth would draw the eye by its color and, more importantly, because it would have a different taste profile than what was to be a red sea of beef and cumin.

I use limes in both red and white chili because I like the acidic bite it provides; in this recipe, the use of limes is a juxtaposition against the heat of the chilies. This is a refreshing chili in the same way a cold soup like vichyssoise or gazpacho can be: bright and crisp.

The choice of turkey makes for a chili with a lighter fat content than its beef counterpart. And though I’d like to say that the turkey brought a lot of flavor, it would be more accurate to say that the turkey is complimented by the limes, ground chilies and onions which results in a harmonious dish with no one ingredient overwhelming another.

While I didn’t win the competition this year, even though mine was the only empty crock pot after lunch, I’d still count this chili a winner. Try it yourself and see. (Based on Cook’s Illustrated Recipe Published Sept./Oct. 2007 issue)


  • 1 bone in/skin on turkey breast half, ~2.5 lbs. Trim excess fat.
  • 2 medium onions.
  • 3 Anaheim peppers, stemmed/seeded with rough chop.
  • 2 jalapeno peppers- stemmed/seeded with rough chop, (see note, below).
  • 3 poblano peppers, stemmed/seeded with rough chop.
  • 6 cloves of garlic, pressed.
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander.
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth.
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (depending on season and quality, 2 to 3 limes).
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin.
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves.
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper

A note before you begin: as chilies themselves vary in strength depending on terroir, do be aware that this dish can vary in heat regardless of the size (small, medium or large- go for the size in the middle of what’s available) or number of chilies. Thus, it is important to gauge the amount of heat you prefer and adjust the jalapeno content up or down to your taste- if you like a spicier chili, use another jalapeno, minced, with or without ribs and seeds as you prefer, in step 6. If, after tasting the chili and you find the heat just right, please ignore the instructions to add such.


  1. Season turkey liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add turkey, skin-side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, turn turkey and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer turkey to plate; remove and discard skin.
  2. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, one jalapeno and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, 10 to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, jalapeno and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).
  3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding more vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.
  4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and turkey breast (bone-side down) to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until turkey registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 35 to 45 minutes.
  5. Transfer turkey to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
  6. Mince jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (see note above), and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred turkey into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded turkey, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and minced jalapeño (with ribs and seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

One Reply to “Techfest White Turkey Chili”

  1. We are having a community lunch at work at the end of February. I am deciding on which chili to bring and share. Originally, I planned on the beef chili I brought to Techfest but I might bring your variant instead. The crowd I work with is diverse and many do not eat beef. I may surprise them with a healthy variant. We will be washing all the food down with Coca-Cola beverages, and as you know, Coke goes with everything nice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *