Turkey Chili with Sage, Spinach, and Roasted Butternut Squash

Turkey Chili with Sage, Spinach, and Roasted Butternut Squash

Well friends, it’s here. December. Fa la la. Ho ho ho. Yadda yadda yadda.

That came out wrong. Let me start over. I adore the holidays. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. If it were up to me, it would start well before Thanksgiving. I love the music, the twinkle lights, the excuse to bake (and consume) hundreds of spiced cookies, have jolly parties, and sip hot cocoa in your flannel PJs. I count down the days until I return to PA to visit family and friends. I love every bit of it.

But once the holiday train rounds the corner, it comes full speed and there’s no stopping it. It can run you over if you’re not ready for it. And sometimes it hurts.

I’m a girl that likes to relax. Calm. Quiet. Serene. Peaceful. These are words that appeal to me greatly. And while there are parts of the holiday season that embody them perfectly, toward the start it can feel a bit like an impetuous child that just won’t settle down. This is when I turn to chili.

For me, there are few foods more comforting than chili. These days, my father and I have a pretty strong bond when it comes to food. We trade thoughts, ideas, and recipes, and brag to each other about our latest kitchen conquests. But when I was younger, I remember my dad making only three things, ever: homemade crusty bread, Swedish pancakes, and chili. All three are still foods that comfort me like no others.

Last week was that sort of strange space of time between the end of Thanksgiving and the start of December. It’s when the holiday machine rumbles to life and goes berserk for just a few days before it tempers out and we can all get used to it being around. It was also the first week where the weather finally dipped into something that resembled a true wintry frost, and I craved chili.

Now, after having gone on about chili for paragraphs, I reluctantly have to admit that this dish isn’t actually chili. It has no tomatoes, and it doesn’t even contain the essential spice for which chili is named. It’s a fraud. A sham. But I’m not all that remorseful about hijacking chili’s good name – because this dish lives up to it.

Listen up, friends – anytime you make anything with turkey, anything at all, you must add sage. Got it? It is a sacred rule. Something magical happens. The dish becomes greater than the sum of its parts. They pair so beautifully, and each brings out the other’s flavors in a way that you just have to taste to believe.

Turkey and sage, combined with the slightly sweet and creamy flavor of roasted butternut squash, lends the same comfort as this “chili”‘s classical predecessor. It’s hearty, cozy, warm, and wonderful – the perfect, soothing prep for a month of holiday craziness.

 

Turkey Chili with Sage, Spinach, and Roasted Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash, peeled, cored, and diced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground turkey
1 white onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 hot pepper (I used jalapeno, but you can use any hot pepper you like)
1/3 cup sherry cooking wine
2 cans small white beans
1/2 cup fresh chopped sage leaves
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups fresh baby spinach

Preheat oven to 425°F.

After you’ve peeled, cored, and chopped your butternut squash, spread it onto a baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for about 25 minutes, until fork tender and browned. Then set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pot (preferably a dutch oven) and brown turkey for about 7 minutes. Add onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, and hot pepper and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes. Once the bottom has begun to brown, add sherry and use your spatula to scrape up bits and flavor. Cook another 2 minutes or so, until the sherry cooks down.

Add beans, chopped sage, chicken stock, and spinach. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Lastly, add in roasted butternut squash.

*Like any good chili, the flavors will only deepen the longer you let it simmer. Just be careful not to add the squash too early – it’ll break down if it cooks for too long.