Creamy White Beans with Smoked Turkey

Yesterday was the perfect day to make this.  My kitchen smelled like comfort food all day.

Several years ago while living in Charleston, S.C. I learning the joys of cooking with smoked turkey legs and wings. It's a nice alternative to the more commonplace ham hocks. Economical, easy, and delicious beyond words would be my description of this stew.

Creamy White Beans with Smoked Turkey
4-6 servings
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2 pounds smoked turkey legs
8 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups small-diced onion
3/4 cup small-diced celery
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon crush red pepper
1 pound dried white beans (great norther or navy is fine), rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight
8 ounces butternut squash, diced (2 generous cups)
6 ounces fresh spinach, cleaned and any tough ribs removed (See Note)

1. Place the turkey legs, 4 cups of the stock, the water, 2 of the bay leaves, and the cayenne in a 6-quart Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat so that the liquid just simmers, cover, and cook until the meat is falling from the bones, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove the turkey legs from the broth and, when cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-sized piece. Discard the bones and skin. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard any solids. Set the broth and turkey meat aside.

2. Clean the Dutch oven and dry well. Add the oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Drain the beans and add them to the pot, along with the reserved turkey broth and the remaining 4 cups chicken stock and 1 bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Partially uncover the pot and continue to cook until the beans are nearly tender, about 30 minutes longer. Add the squash and continue to cook until the beans and squash are tender, about 30 minutes longer.

3. Remove the lid and smash some of the beans against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until reduce and slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the reserved turkey and the spinach and heat through. Serve hot, in shallow bowls.

Cook's Note: You can substitute kale or chard, but these tougher greens should be coarsely chopped and added a bit earlier than the spinach so that they're tender by the time the stew is done.
 

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