For Thanksgiving we served “Smoked Turkey Breast with Cajun Infused Spices” which we cooked in my brand new tabletop smoker purchased at Buc-ee’s — that Texas mega-road gas station and convenience store highway stop. The turkey was delicious; but what stole the show was the “Chipotle Chili” made with some of the leftover turkey breast. The chili recipe is a creation of my brother and his college-aged daughter. They did some cooking while they were quarantined in their Boston home this past summer during the pandemic. I believe that this dish is a “throw in the pot” stew made with ingredients which they found while sorting through their kitchen cupboard. Well, they got the seasonings just right and the chili has a great “Cajun kick’ proving that Yankees can indeed cook seasoned dishes. And it is a very healthy recipe which includes carrots, black beans, tomatoes and ground turkey rather than beef. I made the chili using leftover turkey. Here’s what I did to make this very, very easy chili recipe. But first, I must tell the Texas Buc-ee’s story and brag about my smoker.
Texas-Style Buc-ee’s Mega Road Stop and Convenience Stores
There is a saying that goes, “everything is bigger in Texas.” And after stopping at a Buc-ee’s Convenience Store/Filling Station on a trip to Houston, I became a true believer of this quote. Our trip to Houston from Baton takes approximately five hours. So we usually stop along the way to pick up coffee, snacks and fill up the gas tank.
The first time we stopped at Buc-ee’s outside of Houston, it was an eye opening event. No more mom and pop filling stations where the attendant pumps your gas on this road trip. Huge is the only way to put it. At Bu-cee’s, there was an seemingly endless row of gas pumps and parking spaces — in the dark night it had a surreal look and feel. The convenience store housed every snack you could ever desire from jerky to fudge to dried okra. Plus this store sells the best smoked brisket and pulled pork. And the mega-convenience store boasts the cleanest restrooms in the world. It is worth it just to stop for the restrooms!
Buc-ee’s was named after the owner’s pet dog, Buck, and uses the cartoon beaver as a mascot. Beaver was the owner’s nickname when he was young.
Buc-ee’s, which has stores scattered along the interstates in Texas, has quite a reputation to uphold. The Buc-ee’s in New Braunfels, Texas, is the largest convenience store in the in the world. It boasts 60 gas pumps which can service 120 cars at a time and has a 67,000-square-foot store. It has 1,000 parking spaces, a “Wall of Candy,” a barbecue pit, and 80 soda fountains for filling their very, very large “to-go cups.” If you drive through Texas or surrounding states, stopping at this mega-filling station is something you must do, just for the experience.
Now, every trip we take across Louisiana and Texas, we stop at Bu-cee’s. In addition to countless unique convenience store items, Bu-cee’s is noted for their excellent Texas-style barbecue. On our trips, I have learned to coordinate the timing of meals to stop at Buc-ee’s and a BBQ sandwich is always one of my purchases. It has become a “destination stop.”
Several barbeque-related items for sale are strategically located by the front entrance of each Bu-cee’s store. For several years, I passed by the tabletop barbeque smokers and resisted temptation to purchase one. However, on our last trip, I gave in and we purchased a small, inexpensive smoker. How long can a person resist an “impulse buy?” I tried for several years. We christened the new smoker this Thanksgiving and smoked a boneless turkey breast.
For the recipe, I marinated the boneless turkey breast in an apple cider brine, added Cajun spices and we smoked the turkey breast for an hour. I was pleased that the little smoker held the heat for the entire cooking time without having to add additional briquettes.
This small smoker is a heavy, painted metal cylinder with a tight fitting lid, a chimney and a grate where the food is placed. It easily fit on our backyard table; so there was no bending over which was nice. The temperature is regulated by closing and opening a small door on the side of the smoker. (We placed a thermometer in the smoke stack to monitor the heat in the smoker as well as a thermometer in the turkey breast.) The little smoker is just right for cooking for two people. It worked perfectly and I can’t wait to try out smoking some other types of meats and foods in the smoker. I am proud that we got it right on our first try.
Best Ever Heisey Chipotle Chili
The turkey breast was excellent. However, Thanksgiving was dinner for just the two of us this year and that meant the we had lots of leftover turkey. And so I remembered the “Best Ever Heisey Chipotle Chili” recipe that my brother sent me this summer. This chili has just the right type and amount of seasonings and this recipe really “pops.”
Chili is a satisfying stew which makes a great casual meal especially in the winter months. This chili recipe makes a large pot — next time I will get out my Dutch oven for this stew. The ingredients include lots of chili powder as well as cumin, a smoked chipotle chili and red pepper flakes. I was concerned about adding two tablespoons of chili powder, but this is the correct amount. The chipotle chili adds a nice smoked flavor. However, be careful not to add too many red pepper flakes — a few flakes go a long way.
Rather than kidney beans, the recipe uses black beans (and optionally, garbanzo beans). Carrots, onions and tomatoes are added in the mix. Not sure how carrots made it into the chili but they add nutritional value, color and taste great. My brother substituted ground turkey in place of ground beef. I used leftover cooked turkey in my recipe modification. I also added fresh turkey broth to my recipe (not shown in the photo). You could substitute in chicken broth.
To make this very easy chili, get all the ingredients ready — chop the onion and chipotle chili, dice the carrots, drain and rinse the black beans and chop up leftover turkey. Sauté the onion and carrots in olive oil. Next add the rest of the ingredients to the pot (including the turkey and broth). Let the chili simmer, partially covered, on the stove for an hour or two — so the chili thickens and the flavors meld together. Stir occasionally. That’s it. A great chili.
There are lots of ways to use of leftover Thanksgiving turkey — don’t let it go to waste! I have accumulated several favorite “Turkey Makeover” recipes. Here is a new recipe to add to my list. Many thanks to my brother and his daughter for spending some constructive time in their kitchen this summer and coming up with the recipe. This chili is awesome.
Best Ever Heisey Chipotle Chili
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 large carrots, peeled and diced (4 cups, diced)
- 2 cups cooked, turkey, diced (or 1 lb raw, ground turkey)
- 2 (15.5 oz) cans black beans, drained and washed
- 1 (15.5 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and washed, optional
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes plus juice (or 2 (16 oz) cans fire roasted diced tomatoes plus juice)
- 2 cups homemade turkey broth (or 1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth)
- 1 chipotle chili, minced (about 1 Tbsp)
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- scant 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
- 1 tsp salt
- Crackers or corn chips
Method and Steps:
- Heat olive oil to medium heat in large, heavy pot or Dutch oven.
- Saute onions and carrots until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- If using ground turkey, add to pot, stir and cook until browned. (Not necessary if using cooked turkey)
- Add cooked, diced turkey (if using cooked turkey), black beans, optional garbanzo beans, tomatoes and turkey broth (or chicken broth). Stir.
- Add seasonings — minced chipotle chili, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes and salt. Stir.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, partially cover and simmer for one hour or longer.
- Ladle into bowls and serve with crackers or corn chips.
NOTE: Leftover chili freezes well for later meals.