White Bean and Turkey Chili... With Tater Tots

When Mike and I went on our epic cross-country road trip adventure in the fall of 2009, we had to make a stop at Sonic since there were, at the time, none of these unique drive-in fast food stops in our area. Now they're popping up everywhere, but at the time it was a real treat.

I'd had the good fortune of being a veteran Sonic customer, but Mike was completely new to the place. And Mike has a great talent for ordering - it seems that whenever we go out to eat, I'm always wishing I had ordered whatever ends up on his plate. And when it came to Sonic, things played out much the same as usual. Mike saw the chili cheese tater tots on the menu and his mind was made up and I was left wishing I had noticed them before.

So chili cheese tater tots - it sounds a little bizarre but it actually is quite sensical. Chili cheese fries are a common enough menu item, tater tots and fries are both made from a form of fried potatoes, and tater tots are, to my mind, more fun than french fries. We actually tried to re-create this meal when en route to the west coast at a small town mid-western dinner. When we ordered just a side of chili and a side of tater tots, we got a strange look from our waitress but I guess she'd just never been to Sonic.

Once we made it home and moved in together, chili cheese tater tots became a staple meal in our place. I love chili and I love to make chili. And it's easy to find huge bags of store-bought tater tots that will keep forever in the freezer. Thus, it's a fun and easy go-to meal for us.

I assume that you can figure out how to do the assembly - just prepare the tater tots however you wish (fried, baked, etc.) and add the warm chili over top, then sprinkle with cheese. But I will provide you with a winning chili-recipe that I use again and again. It comes from one of the best birthday presents I've ever received. My friend Sheela gave me The Bon Appetit Cookbook (which also featured a free 1-year subscription to the magazine!) and I use it all the time. Any ingredient, any type of dish, I just open up to the index and can find something delicious to make that is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. And this chili is no different.

I think what makes this chili so delicious is the 1/4 cup of chili powder. Don't worry - it is not a spicy chili at all! Rather, the abundance of chili powder provides greater depth of flavor and more warmth than spice. This chili is a perfect way to warm up on a cold day or to add a little something to your tater tots! And the recipe is really flexible. It calls for beef broth, but I usually opt for vegetable stock instead. Any type of ground meat will do and I usually lighten up on the beans, using 2 cans instead of 3. Just stick as closely as you can to the major seasonings and flavors and you'll come out with a stellar chili!

White Bean and Turkey Chili Cheese Tater Tots
chili recipe from The Bon Appetit Cookbook

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 lbs leans ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 15-oz cans small white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Tater tots (optional)
  • 1/4 cup cheese per serving (optional)

1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Add oregano and cumin, stir about 1 minute.
3. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground turkey. Cook until no longer pink, being sure to break up with spoon.
4. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon.
5. Add tomatoes with juice, breaking up with spoon.
6. Mix in broth and tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
7. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, occasionally stirring.
8. Prepare tater tots according to package directions so that they will be ready a few minutes after the end of the 45 minutes of simmering time.
9. Add beans and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
10. Place tater tots in bottom of bowl and ladle chili overtop. Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy!


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