Sunday, March 17, 2013

North African Turkey Neck Stew





Discovering free-range turkey necks at our local butcher's sent enough light bulbs off in our minds to illuminate the entire store after hours, loving as we do working with commonly discarded livestock parts. If an animal's going to lose its life to feed humans, the way we see it we have an obligation to honor fully the entire beast or fowl (or fish). How tragic to waste a creature that was wasted to grace our dinner plates!

Of course soup was the first idea, and given turkey dark meat's powerful flavor, something rich, hearty and seasonal seemed in order. Harira, a traditional Moroccan soup of lamb and pasta and chickpeas in a gamey broth laced with tomatoes has always been a favorite, North Africa's answer to Scotch Broth basically. The recipe below is the result of our vision, successful enough to recommend to any discerning carnivores visiting this site.

Begin with 5-7 turkey neck pieces and a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Brown them on all sides in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for about 10 minutes total before adding in 3-4 whole (but peeled) cloves of garlic, a bay leaf or two and 1-2 whole dried red chilies. Cook for one more minute and then add enough water to just barely cover the turkey necks.  Toss in 2 chopped plum tomatoes, fresh or canned, doesn't make a difference. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover partially and simmer for 2 hours. Stir once in a while, mostly to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. We don't have to tell you these are loaded with the deep, complex flavors you're gonna want in the soup.

After a couple of hours remove turkey necks and when cool, shred meat from bones and return to the soup pot. Season with 2 t. or so of raz el hanout, and a bit of smoked paprika. Add to the pot 1 chopped carrot, 1 peeled and chopped potato, 1 diced onion, 1/4 cup barley and if you have then handy, some chopped turnip and rutabaga. Simmer for another 30 minutes until the root veggies and barley are soft. You'll only need to stir a couple of times. If you like, chickpeas make a nice addition as does a garnish of slivered scallions. A healthy squeeze of lemon juice also brightens flavors.

Salt and pepper to your taste and serve hot. Please note the seasonings suggested are simply that. There's no strict rule here about what to add or delete. A tablespoon of harissa stirred in to the stew at the end of cooking is delicious as with all Moroccan soups. Fresh parsley or cilantro is another excellent garnish. A cinnamon stick and/or 1 t. of caraway seeds would be appropriate to simmer with the vegetables and barley.

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