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A Little Chiltomate Raises The Underappreciated Turkey Thigh


If you've got any beer left over after your Fourth of July barbecue and picnic, we've got a delicious recipe for you - beer-braised turkey thighs. NPR's Noah Adams tracked down the recipe in Dayton, Ohio.

NOAH ADAMS, BYLINE: We drive out to a house on a country road to meet a woman who's the chef and the owner of two of Dayton's top restaurants. They're called The Meadowlark and Wheat Penny. She is also the everyday cook for her partner and her father, and a couple of dogs.


WESTERVELT: That is Josie, the redtick coonhound. Dogs are easy. It's people food that needs real attention. This chef tries to take two days off each week - Wednesdays and Saturdays - and that's her special time for the kitchen at home.

ELIZABETH WILEY: My name is Elizabeth Wiley, and today, we're going to cook a beer-braised turkey thigh.

ADAMS: Braising, I learn, is just cooking with a lot of liquid, a lot of flavor, a lot of oven time.

WILEY: Depending on the size, between two and three hours. And boy, when they're done, the meat just pulls away from the bone just so beautifully.

ADAMS: This is a Chef Wiley favorite that you won't find on her restaurant menus. She loves it for home, the long-simmering meat and the enticing aromas. The recipe includes a bright, spicy sauce called chiltomate.

WILEY: It's a sauce from the Yucatan, and it's nothing but roasted tomatoes, a little olive oil, a little onion that you saute to golden.

Now as soon as that softens I'll put the tomato in, and then I'll put this habanero chili in. Its orange and its fruity, and it's super hot.

ADAMS: She shakes the onions over the flames using a large, nonstick skillet. Her restaurant kitchens gleam mostly with stainless steel. At home, it's plenty of nonstick.

WILEY: I know that's kind of not cool, but it works us, so...

ADAMS: You had the look on your face, like, life's too short.

WILEY: Life's too short not to use nonstick pans. Yeah, I agree.

ADAMS: Time now to talk about the turkey. It's been salted. It comes right out of the refrigerator into a pan deep enough for the chicken stock and beer - today that's Stella Artois. Almost any spice for fun, including cinnamon. Two turkey thighs - that's about three pounds - will make a meal for four people.

WILEY: You get individually-wrapped turkey thighs. Sometimes they're frozen because they don't sell super well. Freezing is a fine art these days. People shouldn't be afraid of the frozen.

ADAMS: Chef Wiley calls turkey thighs overlooked, underappreciated. She buys hers at a supermarket. There's a big free-range producer in this part of Ohio.

She's also making a vegetable hash to cozy-up to the turkey on the plate - shiitake mushrooms, spinach leaves and Yukon Gold potatoes boiled then cooled a bit.

WILEY: And then I just take them and I just squish them between my fingers and kind of crumble them up.

ADAMS: In the quiet mid-afternoon kitchen, it's time for the braising pan to be lifted from the oven, carried to the prep island. It's time for the chef's tasting spoon.

WILEY: I think it's good. It's really good. And you saw what I threw in there - six garlic cloves, half a cinnamon stick, three cloves, a plum tomato cut into quarters and a half a bunch of cilantro. That's what did that, was beer and stock.

Here, try one of these mushrooms.

ADAMS: The turkey thighs will rest for a time. And then Chef Wiley takes out the bones and divides the meat into four servings. And I'm wondering what's it cost to serve this meal at home? Total for four people?

WILEY: I'd say maybe $16. You could afford a nice bottle of wine then after that.

ADAMS: Elizabeth Wiley, cooking beer-braised turkey thighs for us at her home near Dayton, Ohio. Noah Adams, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noah Adams, long-time co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, brings more than three decades of radio experience to his current job as a contributing correspondent for NPR's National Desk., focusing on the low-wage workforce, farm issues, and the Katrina aftermath. Now based in Ohio, he travels extensively for his reporting assignments, a position he's held since 2003.