Lowering the fat, keeping the flavor

Health: Red beans and rice prepared with a smoked turkey wing instead of higher-fat alternatives still tastes very good.

Sunday Gourmet

April 01, 2001|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Show me some red beans and rice, and I begin to salivate. A dish of hot, flavorful, creamy beans on a bed of rice is my idea of the perfect comfort food.

Unfortunately, it's something I eat infrequently. Although red beans and rice would seem like a healthful dish, since the beans are high in fiber and the recipe calls for very little meat, it's a hidden land mine. Bacon is usually the culprit. The meat that gives the beans their distinctive smoky taste also adds a good amount of fat -- about 9 grams in three slices. Ham hocks, also traditional additions, aren't lean, either.

But recently I learned about an alternative that offers all the flavor and about half the fat of pork products. It's smoked turkey wings. Dietitian Jeanette Jordan at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston has been teaching her clients to use turkey.

"If you want to get that meaty taste with your vegetables, turkey wings are a good choice," she said. When she substituted turkey wings for ham hocks in a traditional Southern beans and greens recipe, she was surprised at the response.

"I did taste tests using turkey or ham hocks, and people preferred the turkey," said Jordan, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, based in Chicago. That was enough to convince me.

The meat in a turkey wing has about half the fat of bacon but delivers the full flavor of a piece of ham or bacon. I used Jordan's suggestion to make a robust dish of red beans and rice. My version of this recipe uses plenty of jalapeno chili for punch. You'll want to remove the turkey skin before serving to save more fat. Let the turkey cook until the meat is falling off the bones. The skin will be easy to discard.

Red Beans and Rice

Makes 2 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 jalapeno chilies, cored, seeded and minced

1 small onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup dry kidney beans

1 (1-pound) smoked turkey wing

3 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons minced green onion, green parts only

1 cup cooked rice

Heat oil in medium pan. Add 1 minced chili, onion and garlic and saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add kidney beans. Cut turkey wing through the joints into 3 pieces and add to pan. Add broth and bay leaf and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low.

Cover and cook 3 hours until beans are tender.

Remove turkey wing. Meat should be falling off the bones. Return meat to pot and discard turkey skin and bones. Remove bay leaf. Season beans with pepper. Sprinkle with remaining minced chili and green onion.

To serve, spoon half of rice onto each of 2 plates. Top with bean mixture.

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