Tag Archives: turkey

Thay’s Secret Spaghetti Sauce

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As far as spaghetti goes, I like it fine. But I don’t have that much more to say about it . . . it’s just . . . yeah. Fine.

Until I was introduced to this spaghetti sauce. My friend Thay brought it over during our first few weeks home with Benjamin, when our lovely church friends were bringing meals.

“It’s spaghetti,” she said, handing me the containers of pasta and sauce.

I felt just fine about having spaghetti.

And then I ate some. And suddenly I felt GREAT about eating spaghetti.

And joy of joys: there were lots of leftovers–she’d sent a nice big batch of sauce.

“This are mine,” I informed my husband, fitting the lid back on the container and eyeing the remaining sauce protectively. “I claim these leftovers.”

“Uh . . . okay,” he agreed. I think my sudden passion regarding spaghetti sauce probably came as a surprise. Heck, it came as a surprise to me too. More like a surprise attack.

He relinquished any right to those leftovers immediately.

I would have too, if I’d seen the burning glint in my own eye. It was probably the fiercest, possessivest (yeah, I know that’s not a word) I’ve felt about anything since popcorn.

The next time I saw Thay, she told me how to make it. And her secret ingredient: those little containers of chili sauce you get when you order Thai delivery. But in the absence of those, I luckily discovered that a little sweet chili sauce and a little sriracha produce the same magical effect: a little mysterious je-ne-sais-quoi–a bit of a bite (but subtle), a little tang, a little something delightfully sweet but vinegary.

And the stuff in the sauce! The turkey and peppers an onion make it thick and–well, interesting.

I just made my second batch of the stuff, and I eat it all week long for my lunches, but over rice, with some spinach mixed in, and with two fried eggs on top. Like dees:

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It’s the perfect lunch–a kind of extra-fancy and delicious version of Arroz a la Cubana.

Also, you may have noticed that topping everything with eggs is a kind of obsession with me. I keep hearing about this national egg shortage, and hoping its effects don’t trickle down too far–I need my eggs. I really need ’em. To make my fancy spaghetti sauce lunch–and this salad. With no eggs, they would be naked, sad and ashamed.

But moving on to the recipe!


(Serves 8 +)

¼ cup olive oil
3 lbs ground turkey
4 large white onions
2 red bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
10 cloves garlic
2-28 oz cans (plain) tomato sauce
Generous sprinkling dried basil and thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp sugar (or more to taste)
Secret ingredients:      2 tsp sriracha (or more to taste)
2 tsp Thai sweet chili sauce (or more to taste)

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1. Dice the onions and bell peppers, and mince the garlic.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. When hot, add the diced onions. Cook on medium heat until onions are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t burn. Add the garlic and some salt and pepper; cook for another few minutes.

3. Add the ground turkey to the pot with the onions and cook over medium high heat for 5-8 minutes, crumbling the turkey with a spatula as the meat cooks.

4. Add the bell peppers and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft.

5. Add the tomato sauce, dried herbs, more salt and pepper, the sugar, and the secret ingredients. Stir, cover and simmer on lowish heat for at least an hour, stirring every now and then. If you’re able to let it cook away all afternoon, even better.

6. Taste and adjust seasoning; serve over pasta. Or stir in some spinach and spoon it over some rice with eggs. It’s a sauce worthy of being served in many ways, and as often as possible.

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Szechwan Green Beans

Hi all! Right now I am headed to Guadalajara with my boss–we’re off to visit one of the company’s big clients. Wish me luck, because last time we visited this guy we were strong-armed into going to a ‘party’ with the client and his friends, which landed us in the middle of a field with a mariachi band, about 20 very emotional men (those mariachi tunes really move them), and no working toilets or electricity. As darkness fell, the mosquitoes buzzed hungrily around us and we continued to be plied with beer after beer, my ‘needs’ drove me to an old toilet in the recesses of a crumbling structure that not only was un-operational but was also crawling with large spiders.

I’m hoping this visit is less . . . eventful.

Anyway, today I’m sharing an amazing recipe. It’s an America’s Test Kitchen wonder adapted from their cookbook ‘The Best International Recipe.’

With the best of intentions, I checked this book out of the library because I didn’t want to add another cookbook to my collection unless it was spectacular beyond belief. But after making 3 recipes so far with simply incredible results, I realized that it is spectacular beyond belief. So I’m ordering it on amazon. And you should, too. The writers are thorough, clear with their explanation, and their recipes never fail. Yes, I am proselytizing–but it’s from a very sincere spot in my heart. I’ll be sharing my adaptation of their Thai Chili Beef recipe tomorrow from the same cookbook, and if that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

Anyway, this is an awesome weeknight recipe. Unlike some stir fries which require tons of chopping and a good 30 minutes of prep work, this is an extremely effortless little dish made entirely with ingredients available at a regular supermarket. It packs just the right amount of spiciness for my palate, and it’s also just the right amount of food for two hungry individuals.


(Serves 2)

For the sauce

2 TBS water
2 TBS light soy sauce
1 TBS Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dry mustard

For the stir-fry

2 TBS vegetable oil
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut in 2-inch lengths
1/3 lb ground turkey or pork
4 garlic cloves
1 TBS grated or minced ginger
3 green onions, sliced on the bias
1 tsp sesame oil

At first it may look like there are a lot of ingredients involved–and a lot of ingredients usually = a lot of effort.

However, most of this clutter is for a quick sauce, so mix all the sauce ingredients up in a bowl:

Don’t forget the dry mustard! I forgot to pose him with the family picture, and there were many hurt feelings all around.

I’m sorry Colonel Mustard! Please don’t murder me with a candlestick in the ballroom.

And voilà. With the sauce out of the way, the remaining ingredients no longer look like a threatening army.

Now wash the green beans and snap off the stems.

If you want to make this dish an even faster affair, just buy pre-trimmed and pre-washed green beans. I almost did . . . but then I didn’t.

Chop ’em into 2-inch lengths.

Heat the oil in a 12” cast iron or nonstick skillet over high heat until it just starts to smoke. Add the green beans . . .

. . . and cook them for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are dark, shriveled and spotted in places.

In between stirrings, mince the garlic and grate the ginger.

Based on recommendations from you all, I have started freezing chunks of ginger. I take the pieces straight out of the freezer and grate them with my microplane. It’s so easy I almost cried.

You can also quickly slice the 3 green onions. Slice ’em on the diagonal for pretty pieces, like so:

By now the green beans should be quite shriveled and blackened.

Perfect! Remove the beans to a large plate for serving.

Don’t worry–they won’t have time to get cold. The rest of the stir fry takes almost exactly 3 minutes.

Next up: la carne. If you’re using ground pork, add it directly to the hot skillet on medium-high heat. If you’re using turkey like I did, add another 1 TBS of oil since it’s a less fatty meat. Plop in the pink mass:

Immediately start breaking up the clumps with a wooden spatula.

Stir fry that stuff for 2 minutes (until the meat is no longer pink) stirring almost constantly.

Add the ginger and garlic, and stir constantly for 30 seconds.

Quickly re-whisk the sauce with a fork (since the cornstarch falls to the bottom as it sits) and pour it in:

Whoops! There went a giant glop of cornstarch. Oh well. I’m just here to make you feel good about yourselves, after all.

Continue to stir and toss the sauce with the meat for another 30 seconds (if you stop, it will burn).

The sauce will thicken quickly. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the sesame oil and green onions.

Pour the meat mixture over the green beans onto the serving plate . . .

. . . grab a big ole serving spoon and some chopsticks . . .

. . . and serve the whole happy pile over white rice.

The house smelled incredible for the rest of the night.

Okay, the next morning there was still a lingering scent as well. It’s one of the byproducts of an apartment with zero ventilation.

The combination of these green beans with the sauce and the ground meat is pitch-perfect.

This is so good, guys. Do yourselves a favor and whip up a batch!

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