Ground turkey doesn't make the most exciting hamburgers or meatloaf, and that's exactly why it's perfect for a quick skillet dinner. Its subtle flavor and low fat content make it a better choice than ground pork or beef, both of which can be dense, brawny and assertive.
Ground turkey is the ideal backdrop for bold seasonings, fresh herbs and bright vegetables. Dark meat turkey has more flavor than white, but regardless of which you choose, the key to cooking it is to brown it well. That means sizzling the meat in chunks until it's a nutty, mahogany color. Film a skillet with oil and get it sizzling, add the turkey and do not toss it around; rather, let it settle into the pan for a few minutes. This buys time for chopping onions and garlic. Once the meat has achieved a deep ruddy crust, flip the pieces and continue browning, then add a little liquid and scrape up the dark bits that cling to the bottom of the pan to make a rich sauce.
This skillet ground turkey chili comes together in minutes. While it doesn't pretend to be authentic, it is just the thing for a night when the wind rattles the windows and hungers rage. It's also the place to make use of one of our locally made prepared salsas, to provide a quick blast of assertive flavors. There are plenty of varieties to choose from. I'm partial to the chipotle, or corn or black bean salsas with mild balanced levels of heat. Adding kidney or black beans or hominy to the skillet gives it more heft.
This is a recipe that's easily doubled for leftovers and freezes especially well. A sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro and a dash of lime make a fine finish to this quick dish of comfort on a cold night.
Skillet Turkey Chili
Fresh cherry tomatoes and red peppers give this a fresh bright lift. Serve over rice or with a big hunk of warm cornbread. Or, roll it into a flour or corn tortilla. Use whatever prepared salsa you'd like — tomato, chipotle, corn or black bean — there are plenty of locally made brands available. From Beth Dooley.
• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 lb. ground turkey
• 1 small onion, finely diced
• 2 cloves garlic, diced
• 1 c. prepared salsa (see Note)
• 1/2 c. cooked or canned kidney beans, rinsed
• 1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
• 1 c. sliced cherry tomatoes
• 2 tbsp. lime juice, to taste
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley
• Lime wedges for garnish
Film a large, deep skillet with the oil and set over medium-high heat. When it's sizzling, add the turkey in chunks and cook until very browned at the edges, about 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and continue cooking until browned on all sides, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, and continue cooking another minute, then stir in the salsa and stir to scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, adding a little water if it seems too dry.
Stir in the beans, red pepper and tomatoes and continue cooking until the peppers and tomatoes are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with the lime juice and salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the cilantro and lime wedges.
Beth Dooley is the author of "In Winter's Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.