Turkey Tacos

Happy fiesta friday!  Even though it was a short week it sort of felt long so I hope everyone has a great weekend.  We are almost at a month of A Capitol Contessa and it’s really been a challenge but also so much fun.  Next week I will launch the menu calendar that will have weeknight menu suggestions along with a printable shopping list so stay tuned.  Also one more housekeeping note – our camera broke so the picture quality has been less than ideal of late.  Hope to get it fixed this weekend but if you were wondering why all the pics looked like cell phone shots it’s because they are!  Now on to the post…

Poor turkey – cousin to the oh so popular chicken, usually overcooked and dry, blamed for making you sleepy and relegated to the 3rd thursday in November and then forgotten about the rest of the year.  No longer!  Making turkey doesn’t have to be an all day affair partnered with heavy sides and family drama.  Don’t go for a whole bird – just buy a breast or cutlets and use them in place of chicken to spice things up.  Or totally throw tradition to the wind and try these terrific turkey tacos.  Here you use turkey legs as they can do a long braise, the flavor stands up to a punchy sauce and they are CHEAP.  I changed up the recipe a bit to impart more of a smoky, chili flavor and to cook down the sauce even more so it becomes thick and mole-like.  I also included chipoltes in adobo (which I should have had in the pantry blog post).  These are smoked jalapenos stored in a vinegary sauce that you can buy in a can at really any supermarket these days.  They pack some heat so you will probably never use the whole can at one time – that’s fine, just transfer to a plastic container and store in the fridge indefinitely.  I like to puree the whole chilis with the sauce and keep that on hand as well to stir into sauces or mayo for sandwiches.  For zero effort you can add a smoky, spicy, tangy flavor to practically anything.  Thanks to Pati’s Mexican Table for this excellent pic to you see what the chipoltes look like and a recipe to make your own (which I am now dying to try).  If you aren’t familiar with Pati Jinich she is an incredible Mexican cook from the D.C. area who does lots of fun local food events and has her own cooking show so please check out her website.

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I really like these tacos served simply with chopped onion and a squeeze of lime.  If you wanted to skip the taco route you could serve this as a main course with rice and beans or in a sandwich sort of like pulled pork.  It freezes really well so make the whole batch and freeze the left overs in smaller portions so you can have a slow braised meal any night of the week.

Turkey Tacos (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   Beer Braised Turkey Tacos by Food and Wine Magazine

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • one 2 to 2 1/2 pound package of turkey drumsticks, skin and fat removed
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 large oregano sprigs
  • 2 to 4 chipoltes in adobo depending on how much heat you like
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bottle of Mexican dark beer, such as Modelo Negro
  • 1 cup water

In a large dutch oven or pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle the turkey drumsticks with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes until all the sides are brown.  Transfer them to a plate and add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic, onion, oregano springs, chipoltes and tomato paste.

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Cook for about 5 to 8 minutes until the onion is softened and beginning to deglaze the plan. Add the canned tomatoes, ancho pieces and the cinnamon stick.  Now add the beer and water and scrape up any last brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  Return the turkey to the pot and nestle them in among the liquid and veggies.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for about an hour, turning the drumsticks once.  Take the drumsticks out – you can tell they are done when the meat easily falls off of the bone.  Here see the before and after:

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Dont be a hero – let the turkey cool off before shredding it, otherwise you will seriously hurt your fingers speaking from experience.  While the turkey cools turn the heat up on the sauce and discard the cinnamon stick and oregano sprigs.  Cook the sauce until thickened about 20 minutes or until it’s the consistency you want.  This is why I subbed the whole fresh tomato in the original to canned tomato plus tomato paste.  The way it was originally written I felt it was a little too weak but look at how rich the sauce turns out with the tomato and chili flavor amped up.  Shred the turkey and stir it back in with the sauce.

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Now you can eat it right away, keep it warm on the stove for a while, or store it in the fridge or freezer for later.

Turkey Tacos

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Print
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • one 2 to 2 1/2 pound package of turkey drumsticks, skin and fat removed
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 large oregano sprigs
  • 2 to 4 chipoltes in adobo depending on how much heat you want
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bottle of Mexican dark beer, such as Modelo Negro
  • 1 cup water

In a large dutch oven or pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle the turkey drumsticks with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes until all the sides are brown.  Transfer them to a plate and add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic, onion, oregano springs, chipoltes and tomato paste.

Cook for about 5 to 8 minutes until the onion is softened and beginning to deglaze the plan. Add the canned tomatoes, ancho pieces and the cinnamon stick.  Now add the beer and water and scrape up any last brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  Return the turkey to the pot and nestle them in among the liquid and veggies.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for about an hour, turning the drumsticks once.  Take the drumsticks out – you can tell they are done when the meat easily falls off of the bone.  While the turkey cools turn the heat up on the sauce and discard the cinnamon stick and oregano sprigs.  Cook the sauce until thickened about 20 minutes or until it’s the consistency you want.  Shred the turkey and stir it back in with the sauce.  Now you can eat it right away, keep it warm on the stove for a while, or store it in the fridge or freezer for later.

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