If you’re staring at your huge turkey and dreading the idea of hours of watching the bird in the oven, why not chop up your turkey and make turkey paella?

I’m a big fan of paella, and while this isn’t an authentic Spanish dish, I like the versatility of paella where you can cook your seasonal ingredients all in one pan and enjoy the flavors blending together. Recently I thought how fun it would be to use some of the basic ingredients of Thanksgiving dinner and put them into a paella.

So when you look at the recipe, the ingredients are meant to make you think of Thanksgiving. There’s the turkey, of course, cut into easy-to-cook pieces, butternut squash (for the color of pumpkin), string beans (in case you miss the bean casserole) and sprinkling of dried cranberries.

And for those who think the turkey skin is your favorite part, I reserved a few pieces from my turkey meat and made turkey crackling to garnish the paella.

Paella takes an average of 20 minutes to cook on the stovetop, so isn’t that a better alternative to 4 hours of roasting? This recipe can also be good for turkey leftovers. If you’re making the dish with cooked turkey, then I really recommend you use turkey broth to get the turkey essence in the paella rice, and then add the cooked turkey meat in the last five minutes of cooking time to warm up the meat.

So if you’re thinking of mixing it up this Thanksgiving, try a turkey paella. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

The finished dish

The finished dish

Turkey Paella with Butternut Squash and Cranberries Recipe

Makes 3 to 4 servings

1/2 turkey breast and drumstick, bone and skin removed (about 6 oz.), cut into pieces
1 small butternut squash (or half), roasted in oven
1 cup paella rice (best is bomba rice)
1 shallot, skin removed and finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tomato, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, seed removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup string beans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 cups turkey broth (or chicken)
1 generous pinch of saffron threads
1 T pimenton (smoked paprika)
salt for seasoning
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cut butternut squash lengthwise, remove seeds, and cut into quarter strips and coat with olive oil. Season with salt. Place in small roasting pan. Add a few strips of turkey skin that you removed from the turkey pieces. Put tray in oven and roast till squash gets almost soft, about 45 minutes.

Season your turkey pieces with salt and set aside until ready to start cooking the paella.

In a small paella pan (about 11” diameter), warm 2 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add turkey and brown pieces for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from paella pan. Then add bell pepper, tomato, shallots, and garlic, mixing everything up, and cook over medium-low heat (add more oil if needed). Season everything with a pinch of salt, and cook until everything gets soft (about 5 to 10 minutes).

I roast butternut squash separately from the paella to add a smokey flavor. It also gives you a chance to roast the turkey skins for garnish.

I roast butternut squash separately from the paella to add a smokey flavor. It also gives you a chance to roast the turkey skins for garnish.

Add broth and turn heat up to medium. (Tip: use a spatula to scrap the pan to loosen any turkey bits that might have been stuck to the bottom of the pan.) Season broth with a teaspoon of salt, pimenton, and saffron. Then add paella rice, spread around the pan in the broth. Return turkey pieces to the pan, nestled throughout.

Cover pan with aluminum foil and cook with the broth slightly bubbling for about 20 minutes. (If broth isn’t bubbling, increase heat and then lower to a simmer.)

Half way through the cooking process, add the string beans by slipping it into the rice throughout the pan without disturbing the rice. Sprinkling cranberries around the pan (using the spatula to pat them down if necessary).

When the butternut squash is done, remove from oven and cut into 1/4 inch wide pieces. Set aside the turkey skin for garnish.

When paella rice is ready, turn off heat and then add the cooked butternut squash. (If your butternut squash isn’t really soft, you can add it to the paella as it cooks the same time you add the cranberries.)

Cut the roasted turkey skin into thin strips and sprinkle to garnish. Serve by mixing all the rice together with the ingredients (making sure to scrap some of the crispy rice that might have happened at the bottom of the pan).

The turkey paella, all mixed up on my plate

The turkey paella, all mixed up on my plate

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4 Responses to Thanksgiving or After, Try My Turkey Paella Recipe

  1. hungry dog says:

    This sounds great! Hope you had a great thanksgiving, Ben!

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    Love the turkey skins as a garnish. It’s so restaurant-y! Hope you had a wonderful, delicious Thanksgiving. 😉

    • Ben Ben says:

      It was amazingly easy to make the turkey skins, just in the oven for an hour and it just crisp up on its own. (I did baste it with some butter half way through though.) Hope you had a great Thanksgiving too!