Cooking With Nicole: Turkey Tacos, or “Put a Bunch of Shit in a Pot”

For those who have followed me here or on Twitter, you know I love tacos of all kinds. I’ve tweeted a lot of pictures of tacos in my day: chorizo tacos, tongue tacos, goat tacos, tacos in fancy restaurants, tacos from trucks, tacos for Taco Tuesday, the list is endless. But when I make tacos for myself and my friends, I usually make my Turkey Tacos.

Why? Because I like to put a lot of really unhealthy shit in my tacos. I want to slather on the sour cream, pile on the cheese, and add a healthy dollop of guac. And I want to eat two, till I’m bursting at the seams with taco goodness. And yet, I don’t want to feel too guilty, or feel like I can only make tacos once or twice a month, because they’re just piles of fatty goodness.

So I’ve learned to make a healthier filling, which mitigates my guilt about eating tacos as often as I can. It’s also a great way to use up leftover veg (something I’m terrible about).

Basically, my tacos are filled with ground turkey (obviously), and then Any Veg I Find In My Fridge. Hence the “bunch of shit in a pot,” part. For this outing, I had a of couple droopy carrots, a zucchini, a ginormo red pepper, an onion (you always want an onion), garlic, and what I thought were shelled edamame, but were actually pods of edamame, so they didn’t end up in the tacos.

Your first step is to cut up your veg, adding it to a pot over medium flame, into which you’ve added a generous few tablespoons of olive oil.

You can see that I’ve done quite a chunky dice on my veg. I’m an adult; I’m doing the cooking; I don’t need to be fooled. If you are cooking for kids who don’t necessarily want to know they’re eating veg, don’t forget you can always grate a carrot or grate a zucchini into a sauce, and they’re usually none the wiser. Chop the red pepper up fine, and it pretty much melts into the salsa-like texture of the final product, so they think it’s tomato. As they get older, you can stop grating and start slicing, so this is a great way to “thin edge of the wedge” some vegetables into their lives.

While I’m softening my veg (not browning, just softening), I usually cook the turkey meat (and this time I am going for a little browning) in a separate skillet to save time, while not overcrowding my pan. Rule number 4 of cooking meat is never overcrowd you pan! As liquid’s released in the cooking process, if you’ve got too full a pan you end up releasing too much liquid and steaming, rather than browning, your meat.

When both the turkey and the veg are done, combine and add a shit ton of taco spice. I buy the little jars of spice, rather than the individual packets. But if you buy the packets, to figure out how much you need, think in terms of pounds of meat and pounds of veg. And then add some extra, to make it even tastier.

After adding the spice, remember to add a cup or two of water that you’ll simmer off. This is especially important with the vegetables: if you don’t do this you have what’s more like fajitas than tacos. Which is delicious, but when you want taco meat, you want taco meat, and no fajita will do the trick.

While your filling is simmering away, you can pull out yer good stuff. Mmmm. Creamy.

And here’s the final filling. It’s actually about half vegetables, but you’d never know by the taste or the texture. Granted, some of that’s probably from all the MSG in the taco spice, but let’s not get persnickety! 😉

Other good news: It freezes like a dream. So this is a good trick for making guilt-free tacos that are really, really tasty. And remember the grating vegetables trick: it works especially well in spaghetti sauce. So you can be feeding your kids the marinara they like, but spiking it with grated carrot and/or zucchini.

For those of you who are entirely vegetarian, or want a vegetarian option, do everything I did up until the turkey part. Instead of browning meat and adding it to the mix, open up and rinse three or four cans of beans. I like a combo of chickpea and kidney, OR cannellini and black beans. But obviously you can go nuts. Just add the beans, add the spice, and add the water (probably a bit more than with the meat) and boil the fuck out of it, till it’s the right consistency. I used to make this a lot in Edinburgh, as my former partner loved it and we didn’t have to worry about it being halal. You can eat it like a stew or as a taco filling.

This isn’t a fancy recipe, and it’s not even a recipe, really. But it’s a good way to think about cooking–use what’s in your fridge, try to sneak in vegetables wherever you can, and try either different meats than beef, or no meat, whenever possible. I’ve got nothing against the moo-cow, however Bessie isn’t very good for us on a daily basis.

Coming up next on Cooking With Nicole, I’ll teach you how to make a tomato rose garnish. How is THAT for seventies chic?

Posted by Nicole Peeler

Author, Professor, Lover, Fighter

13 thoughts on “Cooking With Nicole: Turkey Tacos, or “Put a Bunch of Shit in a Pot””

  1. I put grated baby carrots and celery in my spaghetti sauce and in my meatballs.

    And 'shit ton'…I remember that measurement from home ec….right after a 'weence' or 'smidge' of something….

  2. yah yah yah…'cept edamame is not a vegetable, it's like shit that you feed the stock when the hay's done run out. maybe a little extra cheddar right? i cannot WAIT to go out to eat with you…

  3. @NicolePeeler Oooh, my favorite method of cooking. I'm trying to figure out what in the pantry I can combine, while I wait until payday.

  4. @NicolePeeler And I'm not sure that orzo and quinoa go together all that well. Maybe some canned corn?

  5. Vickie: I do that too! And it helps keep the meatballs tender, especially if you're using a non-fatty meat like chicken or turkey. Great to bring that up, thanks!

    Sophie: Hahahahahaha! See, you're right, but that's a good thing. The edamame pushes everything out. It's like colon blow!

    The British comedian Jonathan Ross once talked about how he eats way too much cheese at Xmas, so that year he was going to cut to the chase, and just sit down with a wheel of brie and a head of lettuce, taking alternate bites of each. The brie because it's delicious, the lettuce to push out the brie. 😉 Hilarious!

  6. I love tacos too 🙂 We had some Pita tacos recently–basically, fill 1/2 a pita pocket like you would any taco. It was fantastic and the kiddos had a much easier time eating it because the filling didn't fall out as bad 🙂

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