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An almost accidental stew. Turkey, tamarind-date paste, and some root veggies simmered together to form lovely, deep flavors. Sitting atop a jazzed up cauliflower puree. Originally, I wanted to make this stew with organic lamb, but organic turkey was on sale, so I got that instead. You can make the Tamarind Date Turkey stew in a slow cooker or on the stovetop. It's super easy and flavorful either way. Vegetarianize it by leaving out the meat and increasing the mushroom content.

Sometimes random things inspire my cooking. Often enough, it’s a combo of simply using what’s in the pantry and/or fridge, finding an ingredient on sale, and getting a bit creative.

This Tamarind Date Turkey stew came about when I had a jar of tamarind chutney laying about after a dinner party. I’m the queen of use-it-up (I hate to waste!)  Of course, I also adhere to my mom’s rule “When in doubt, throw it out.” 😉 So don’t worry, we eat safely at my house.

I figured it’d be easy enough to give this stew a Middle Eastern flair, and that’s just what I did. It turned out richly flavorful–quite hearty and satisfying. Yet not greasy or heavy, if that makes any sense. That’s how I like to cook in these colder months–food with oomph, but not anything that’s gonna drag you down.

Speaking of which–my original intention was to make this stew with lamb chunks, not with turkey. But when I got to Whole Foods to buy some organic lamb, organic turkey was on sale. In the spirit of being flexible, and budget-minded, I opted for some lovely turkey thighs. The lamb version of this stew can be posted another day.

Tamarind is a pretty interesting ingredient. It grows in pods, and its pulp (edible) has a sour flavor with a hint of sweetness. It’s popular not just in Middle Eastern cookery, but in the cuisines of South Asia, Thailand, and in Latin America, to name but a few. So if you’re not sure where you can find tamarind, try your local Middle Eastern, Latin or Asian mart. Or look for an interesting tamarind chutney in the grocery store.

Tamarind can benefit the body in numerous ways. It’s high in vitamin C as well as B vitamins. It can aid in digestion and has a mildly laxative effect. Gargling it can ease a sore throat. It’s anti-inflammatory when applied topically to the skin.

Tamarind and Date Turkey Stew with Root Vegetables

Serves 4


Ingredients

1 pound turkey thighs or legs, bone in and skin removed

6 ounces tamarind date chutney, or just tamarind chutney

1 medium onion

2-4 large garlic cloves, grated into small bits

Pinch each of ground cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and cardamom

1 pound of root vegetables of choice such as carrots, parsnips, turnips

8 ounces of sliced mushrooms

2-3 cups of filtered water

Neutral cooking oil of choice

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1.  In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat until shimmery.  Season turkey thighs with salt and pepper, and brown in the oil, approximately four minutes per side. Make sure both sides of the meat have good color. As the turkey sears, peel and then slice the onion into half moons. If you have extra time, begin peeling the root vegetables and cutting them into large, uniform chunks.

2. Remove turkey from pot, and set aside. Add the onions, and cook for 3 minutes, adding water as necessary to deglaze pan. Continue cutting root vegetables as the onions cook. Add the spices and garlic to the onions, stir, and cook for another 30 seconds to one minute, until their aromas start to rise.

3. Remove pan from heat. At this point, if you’re using a slow cooker, all of the ingredients go into the slow cooker. However, if you opt to make this on the stovetop, you scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, and then add everything into the pot.

4. If using the slow cooker, cook for a minimum of 4 hours on high, or up to 8 hours on low.  If you’re cooking on the stovetop, bring the stew to a boil, then bump it down to a slow, gentle simmer and cook for an hour or more. Add water as needed if the sauce starts to get too thick.

Curried Cauliflower Puree

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower, rinsed and cut into florets

8 cups of water

2 teaspoons of salt

2 Tablespoons of curry powder

Optional: Oil or butter of choice (just a bit–no more than a tablespoon)

Directions

1. Add cauliflower florets to the water in a large pasta pot. Add salt and stir. Bring to a boil, then drop down to a slow boil for 15 minutes, or until florets are fork tender.

2. Drain and remove florets from the heat.

3. LET COOL until you could handle them with your bare hands if you wanted to. Not that you’d want to, but it’s seriously important to LET THEM COOL. Not doing so could bust your blender or food processor. No joke!

4. Add cooled florets, 1/4 cup of water, oil or butter (if using) and curry powder to a blender or food processor.  Let it all whir away until well-mixed into a smooth puree. Check seasoning and adjust salt, pepper, and curry powder to your taste, re-blending as needed.

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