February 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

Flavor-packed turkey chili is meant to be with cornbread

Use dark turkey meat ground into a chili grind (larger holes) to give this chili that extra texture. (Maren Caruso)

Friends, family, chili and cornbread. What could be better?

The television is on in one room, and the dining room has my favorite music playing in the background. Large cereal bowls or chili bowls, big spoons and napkins are all you need to put out on a table and let your guests help themselves. And one more thing: The cornbread can be made a day ahead and the chili can be frozen a month ahead, so you will have little to do the day you have company over.

This flavor-packed chili, made with turkey meat and pinto beans and redolent of a rich Mexican mole sauce, is long on flavor but light enough to enjoy guilt free. Here are a few tips to make this extra easy. Have your butcher grind dark turkey meat into chili grind (larger holes) which gives the chili extra texture. Measure out all the ingredients ahead so you can cook it quickly. If you are having a crowd, you can double the recipe. Make sure to use two large pots.

I am not one who uses canned ingredients often, but in this homey and very substantial cornbread recipe the canned creamed corn adds some moisture and texture to the flour and cornmeal. The caramelized leeks elevate this classic chili companion. I use light sour cream and canned jalapenos that have been very well drained for ease and flavor. Be sure to have a variety of very cold beer on hand. Start with your favorite guacamole and chips, and serve a variety of the fresh salsas now available at the supermarkets.

Turkey and Pinto Bean Chili

¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
3 pounds chili ground turkey meat
3 large onions, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chili powder
2 to 3 teaspoons chipotle chili powder, or ½ to 1 can chopped chipotle chili in adobo sauce
1 (12-ounce) can of beer
2 ½cups water
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (16-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup jarred sweet red and yellow roasted peppers, finely chopped
½ ounce unsweetened chocolate (½ a square), grated
Sour cream, tomato salsa, grated sharp cheddar cheese, chopped scallions or red onions, jalapeno chilies, seeded and finely chopped

In a large, 6-quart pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the turkey in batches until it is well browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. (Don’t crowd the pan or the meat will steam.) Remove to a side bowl and reserve.

Add another 2 tablespoons of oil and sauté the onions until soft and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, oregano, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and chili powders or chopped chipotle chili. Sprinkle over the onions and sauté another 2 minutes or until the spices have mixed together and there is an aroma in the air, stirring constantly.

Add beer, water and tomatoes, and bring to a low simmer. Return the meat to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and simmer, partially covered, for about 25 minutes, or until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally.

Add pinto beans, sweet peppers and grated chocolate to chili mixture on medium heat, uncovered, and continue simmering for 15 more minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove the cover the last 5 minutes of cooking to reduce the liquid. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve in pottery bowls surrounded by small bowls of sour cream, salsa, grated cheddar cheese, chopped onions and chopped chilies. Makes 10 servings (3 quarts).

Advance preparation: Can be prepared completely up to three days ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before reheating. This may also be frozen up to 1 month ahead, defrosted and reheated gently. Adjust seasonings.

Per serving: 360 calories; 15 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 38 percent calories from fat); 29 g carbohydrates; 72 mg cholesterol; 527 mg sodium; 28 g protein; 9 g fiber.

Spicy Cornbread

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 leeks, light green and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
4 large eggs
2 cups or 1 16-ounce container sour cream
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ pound shredded sharp cheddar or Mexican cheese combination, reserving ½ cup
1 (14 ¾ ounce) can creamed corn
½ to 1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapenos, well drained, or 2-4 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped, depending upon how spicy you like it

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and salt, and mix to blend. Reserve.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat and add the leeks. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly caramelized, about 7 to 10 minutes. Reserve.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together. Add the sour cream, oil, all but ½ cup of the shredded cheese and the creamed corn, and whisk together until completely blended. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture and mix until completely blended. Add the cooled leeks and jalapenos and mix until blended.

Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Pour in the mixture and then sprinkle on the remaining cheese evenly. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool slightly and cut into small squares. Serve warm. Makes 14 servings.

Advance preparation: This can be made two days ahead and brought to room temperature. Reheat in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minute or until heated through.

Per serving: 370 calories; 25 g fat (10 g saturated fat; 61 percent calories from fat); 25 g carbohydrates; 98 mg cholesterol; 497 mg sodium; 11 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks and a James Beard award-winning radio show host. seriouslysimple.com