Back before life as we knew it shut down and I was on the road a ton, I would stock the freezer with meals for David to defrost. Over the years, I have learned which ones translate well into freezer-friendly meals and which ones are best eaten when they are made. There are few that stand up as well as white turkey chili, something I have been making for years and years. (I think it first came out of a book devoted to recipes for big crowds and now is in my binder of staple recipes.) We serve it with a variety of fresh fixings (like cheese, chopped scallions and sour cream) and some not so fresh toppings (like Fritos!) but the chili itself freezes really well. I like it because it is hearty and filling but is not as heavy as traditional chili.
This also speaks to something else I love about cooking and feeding people that I have mentioned before and will continue to reinforce in future posts. It is a tangible thing you can do for others to show you care and to help them through a difficult time. So when we visited my in-laws in Maryland this past week, it was a no-brainer to fill their freezer with some portioned-out meals to add to their repertoire of frozen options. I made the NYT Chicken Verde recipe too (included in an earlier post) and included serving suggestions, such as using the Chicken Verde as quesadilla or taco filling or adding rice or beans to it.
At the risk of sounding Hallmark-y (something my kids accuse me of a lot!), I hope these meals will provide more than nourishment and a break for my mother-in-law in the kitchen. I hope each time she defrosts one, she will know that we are with her in spirit and thinking of both of them as they struggle with my father-in-law’s dementia and all that entails. I wish we lived closer to them and to my mom, who is clear across the country (a distance that feels even more insurmountable with the pandemic), and so I try to find ways to support them and let them know they are in our thoughts when we can’t physically be there to help out. Making someone a meal is, indeed, my love language, and now my in-laws’ freezer is full of love.
White Turkey Chili
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cup minced onion
1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lb uncooked turkey cutlets, cut in 1-inch cubes (I couldn’t find any so I bought these turkey wings and cut them up into cubes — a true labor of love.)
½ lb ground turkey
Heat vegetable oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, garlic and the turkey.
3 cups or more chicken stock
½ cup pearl barley
2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeno
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried summer savory
1 16-oz can cannellini or Great Northern beans
1 16-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Several dashes of Tabasco
Add stock, barley, jalapenos. Marjoram and summer savory to turkey mixture. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans to chili. Simmer uncovered for another 20-30 minutes. Season with hot pepper sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill, then bring to simmer before serving. If frozen, defrost in the refrigerator on the day of serving.
Serve chili with chopped green onions, diced tomatoes, avocados, grated cheese and Fritos. I also sometimes serve it over rice.