November 2009


When it comes to Thanksgiving turkey, bigger is always better.  This year’s 24-pounder yielded a holiday dinner for 7, more than a gallon of stock, and easily a week’s worth of leftovers for my family of four and my in-laws as well.  Today my mother-in-law made turkey, chickpea, and sweet potato curry, and I made a simple turkey soup with barley and this hearty chili.

Making chili is a good way to use up small amounts of assorted dried beans lurking in the back of your pantry.  If you don’t have any, or want a quicker-cooking chili, you can use canned beans.  6 cans, rinsed and drained, should yield the proper quantity for this recipe.

Turkey chili

Yield:  4 -4 1/2 qts.

1 1/2 lb. dried beans, soaked overnight (I used Great Northern and pinto)

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 Spanish onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsp. ancho chili powder (or more or less, to taste)

1 tbsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled

2 qts. turkey or chicken stock (or use part bean cooking liquid)

1 15-oz. can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes

6 c. shredded, cooked turkey

Juice of 1-2 limes

Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Salt, to taste

Drain beans and place in a large saucepan.  Cover by 3-inches with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil hard for a few minutes, then reduce heat and skim froth from surface of water.  Cook beans at a bare simmer until just tender, about 40 minutes to a little over an hour (depending on type and age of beans).  Season generously with salt and continue cooking 10 minutes longer.  Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid.

Warm a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and tender, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and stir in garlic, chili powder, and cumin.  Cook another two minutes.  Add oregano, beans, and bean-cooking liquid and/or stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook 20 minutes more or until beans are very tender.

In a food processor or blender, puree a few cups of the soup, then return puree to pot.  Stir in tomatoes, turkey, and juice of 1 lime.  Taste, adding additional lime juice and salt as needed, and serve.

Chili keeps well in the fridge up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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This robust, sweet-tart jam makes a stunning appetizer spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with herbed goat cheese.  Stir leftovers into pasta or pizza sauce, or tuck into a grilled cheese or roast turkey sandwich.

Sun-dried tomato jam

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Yield:  Makes about 2 cups

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped, oil reserved

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 c. water

1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 c. red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed

Freshly ground, black pepper, to taste

Warm a saucepan over medium heat.  Drizzle in olive oil and 1 tbsp. of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil, then add tomatoes and onion.  Cook 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook,  stirring, until onion is very soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes more.  Stir in water, stock, vinegar, sugar, thyme, and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for half an hour.  Uncover pan and raise heat so that jam bubbles vigorously, and continue cooking an additional 5 minutes or until reduced and thickened.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: You can substitute dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes for oil-packed (I don’t buy them, because they’re invariably processed on equipment shared with pine nuts, but they will work well in this recipe).  Just soak them first in very hot water until soft and plump, then drain before using.  Use an additional tbsp. olive oil for sauteeing in place of the tomato oil.

Before moving to Boston, I never really gave much thought to baked beans.  It was easy enough to open an occasional can, and they weren’t bad eaten off a paper plate alongside a hot dog and a heap of coleslaw.  I didn’t love them, but they served their purpose as a cheap and decent, if uninspired, source of protein.  But if there’s a lesson in my relocation, it’s that one cook’s careless side dish may well be another’s best-kept secret.

I’d lived most of my life in New York, but leaving for New England was like coming home.  I feel warmest when it’s cold (fleece trumps fashion in the frosty north) and love the peaceful quiet of a heavy snowfall.  My urbane, walkable suburb is 20 minutes from downtown Boston and 5 minutes from two working farms.  I find New Englanders  forthright yet open-minded, austere yet warm and generous, and while there will always be aspects of the culture here I can’t embrace (Calling a water fountain a “bubbler.”  Giving one’s heart to the Red Sox.), the rest of it I have fallen for hook, line, and sinker (just don’t ask me to pronounce scallop “skawlup”).

Boston baked beans are the edible essence of New England, the perfect example of northern simplicity, economy, and tenacity.  Hand a yankee a pound of humble navys (or, rather, put them in her bean pot) and 8 hours later you’ll have a rich, earthy, sweet, and sultry bowl of creamy beans to warm you to your toes.  This simple recipe is my mother-in-law’s, and I followed it to the letter.  Leave the franks for summer — these wintery beans are best with peppery, spicy, braised greens and cornbread or slices of apple and extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Boston baked beans

If you don’t have a bean pot — or a mother-in-law to lend you hers — cook the beans in a 2 1/2 quart, covered casserole dish.

Yield:  About 2 quarts, serving at least 8

1 lb. dried navy beans, soaked overnight in cold water (cover by at least 2 inches)

1 medium onion, vertically sliced

1/2 c. molasses

4 tsp. ground mustard

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 lb. salt pork

Salt, to taste

Drain beans, then transfer to a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover beans by about 2 inches.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Let beans cook at a rolling boil for a few minutes, then lower heat and skim froth from surface of water.  Simmer for 40 minutes then drain, reserving cooking water.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Place onions in bottom of bean pot and add beans.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together molasses, brown sugar, mustard, and 1 1/2 cups of bean cooking liquid.  Pour over beans, adding more cooking water if needed to cover beans.  Tuck salt pork into beans.  Cover and bake 7 to 8 hours, checking occasionally to make sure beans are submerged in liquid and adding more bean cooking liquid if necessary.

When beans are tender, transfer to a 2-quart container.  Remove any large pieces of unrendered fat from the salt pork and discard.  (I refrigerate the beans overnight before serving — that way I can spoon off any additional, excess fat that has risen to the surface and solidified).  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Soft and light, fluffy and stretchy, these easy yeast rolls are pure pleasure.  The sweet potatoes (and the potato cooking water — yeast loves potato water!) are to thank for the supple texture, tender crumb, and amber hue of this milk-free, egg-free recipe.  I cook mine in unsalted, boiling water until very tender, then mash them with a potato ricer.  The ricer helps strain out the stringiest sweet potato bits.  If you don’t have one, a regular masher or food processor will do a fine job.

Make them at your leisure — I suggest a double batch —  and freeze them for Thanksgiving.  Thawed to room temperature and warmed briefly in the oven, they’re as good as freshly baked.

Sweet potato dinner rolls

Yield: 1 dozen

1 ¼ c. sweet potato cooking water, cooled to lukewarm

1 tbsp. packed, light brown sugar

1 envelope active dry yeast

3 tbsp. safflower or canola oil

½ c. mashed, cooked sweet potato, at room temperature

3 c. unbleached bread flour, plus more as needed for kneading and shaping

1 tsp. fine sea salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine potato cooking water, sugar, and yeast.  Swirl bowl gently to moisten yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes until yeast blooms.

Stir oil and mashed potatoes into yeast mixture.  Add flour and salt and mix well with a wooden spoon.  Dough should be soft and sticky.  Turn out onto a floured counter and knead gently, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 1 minute.  Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover lightly with plastic or a damp towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Turn dough out onto a floured counter.  Using a bench scraper or large knife, divide dough into 12 pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball (or roll into a rope and tie in a loose knot) and place about 3 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Bake rolls for 20-22 minutes, until lightly browned.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  Completely cooled rolls may be stored at room temperature for a few days or frozen for up to 3 months.