December 4, 2009

Turkey Transformation

Thanksgiving was a success! The turkey got rave reviews, but I don't know how much of that really had to do with my cooking since it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. More likely it was the non-supermarket variety DiPaolo bird, of which I now have about four pounds of leftovers!

I am not a big fan of cold turkey sandwiches, so I wanted to transform the leftovers into a new dish altogether. Turkey chili came to mind, but I've always had a strange mental block when it comes to chili. Homemade versions seem so rooted in tradition - either the chili is from a family recipe or it's made in a particular regional style, and nothing else will do. Seeing as most of my exposure to chili has been via a Hormel can, I've always steered clear and left the cooking to the experts.

And yet...I still had to do something with my leftovers. I figured that since Shaun would be the only one subjected to my endeavor (and he'll eat pretty much anything) now would be a good time to test the chili waters (harharhar).

I decided not to use a recipe. I objected to something or other in every recipe I came across - I suppose strong opinions on chili are present even in a chili novice! Shaun's only stipulation was that there be jalapeno peppers, so I picked up a handful along with a few other ingredients that looked good. Here's what I came up with:

And you know what? It was amazing!! Worthy of an entry in my church's annual chili cookoff. Here's what I used, but if you plan to do something similar with your turkey leftovers, I'd suggest just seeing what you like to use/have on hand and winging it - it's pretty hard to screw up!

-About 3 cups of leftover turkey meat
-4 cans of kidney beans (although going forward I think I would use dried)
-2 cans of diced tomatoes
-1 jar of tomato sauce (in my case, Trader Joe's pizza sauce since it was an afterthought when I noticed the batch wasn't looking very stew-y)
-4 jalapeno peppers, diced
-2 onions, diced
-1 cup of red lentils (either pre-cooked or be lazy like me and add 2 cups of water to the mix as well)
-olive oil
-spices: minced garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, thyme

Sautee the jalapeno peppers in a drizzle of olive oil until they're slightly blackened. You can remove the seeds for less heat, but I left them in. You may want to keep a lid on the pot while they're cooking, or else you might have a coughing fit like me! Add the onions and a little more oil and sautee until translucent. (If you're worried about how spicy it will be, you can remove the jalapenos before sauteing the onions and add them into the finished batch a little at a time.) Add minced garlic, if using, and sautee a little more.
Then...add everything else! Mix mix mix, season season season, done. The seasoning is the only tricky part, but I just made sure not to add too much of any one thing at a time and it worked out fine. Many thanks to my slow cooker for doing most of the work - I still haven't figured out what exactly it is about heating something for an extended period of time that makes it taste better, but it definitely does! I cooked it on the low setting for about four hours, but I think you could do it in a pot on the stove for just an hour or however long you felt like.

It was also CHEAP! The non-turkey ingredients cost around $14 (some were even organic), and we got at least six individual meals out of it. Using dried beans would probably make it even cheaper. And it actually only used up about half the turkey we had leftover...I'm thinking about trying something else (a white chili version, perhaps?) but I kind of just want another batch of this!

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