Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey Leftovers...

I have been teaching people how to prepare the Thanksgiving feast for as long as I have been teaching cooking classes.  But during all of that time I think I have only had the privilege of preparing the entire spread for my own family a couple of times.  This turned out to be one of those years.  I of course love it when I have the opportunity to enjoy someone else's cooking, but there are a lot of things I miss when I don't get to prepare the meal.  I think the thing I miss the most is having left over roast turkey.  Since there were just seven of us at my table this year, and I roasted a fifteen pound bird,

 I had lots of leftovers....and I have been enjoying every bite.  We are still working on them, but I thought I would take a moment to share what I have made so far. 

I think everyone starts out their first round of "leftovers" with a reheated plate of everything they had at the main event.  It's a way of truly savoring the meal—knowing that such a spread really only happens once a year...and you have to make it last.  Next up is the roast turkey sandwich.  My perfect leftover turkey sandwich includes lettuce, slivers of cheese (something like a sharp Cheddar is good—but I wouldn't turn my nose up at a bit of Brie), leftover cranberry sauce and plenty of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.  My bread of choice is a nice artisanal loaf of Rosemary Olive Oil bread from a local bakery.  It is substantial enough to stand up to all of the filling, but not so much so that it overpowers the sandwich.  Since it is also the bread I like to use to make dressing, I have it on hand any way. 

Another favorite—albeit old-fashioned (maybe I should say "retro" sounds much more cool)—is Turkey Tetrazzini.  A simple baked casserole of spaghetti, turkey, cheese and mushrooms, bound in a rich velouté and topped with breadcrumbs,

there are literally hundreds of versions of this recipe floating around.  Mine is a variation of one that ran in Gourmet magazine several years ago.  Besides the classic ingredients this recipe includes some sherry and scallions.  When I make it, I make my velouté with turkey stock and, if there is any left, some turkey gravy—which truly makes this dish a once a year treat.

This year I also had a lot of leftover sweet potatoes.  I knew from the start that there were only going to be a couple of us at the table who would eat sweet potatoes, but since it isn't Thanksgiving to me without the sweet potatoes—and I was in charge of the meal—I made them.  They were delicious.  They were also the perfect "glue" for some lunchtime quesadillas.  Besides a thin layer of the sweet potatoes, I added some caramelized red onion,

a scattering of chopped turkey and some Monterey Jack cheese. 

With a spoonful of cranberry sauce on the side, they were quite a treat.  The purée that I made this year was a combination of sweet potatoes and carrots, but any simple sweet potato purée would work—just make sure you don't pile it on too thickly (or your quesadillas will ooze). 

For dinner this evening—to go with the last of the sliced turkey breast (there are still lots of chunks and shredded pieces that will be great in soups, casseroles, quick pastas...)—I made a big salad that was loaded with some of my favorite Thanksgiving ingredients.  To baby lettuces, I added diced roasted sweet potatoes, blanched green beans, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.  I dressed it with a simple sherry vinaigrette (1 small shallot, 1 T. sherry vinegar, 3 T. olive oil) and piled it on top of the turkey that had been warmed up in a bit of leftover turkey stock.  It was a very good salad.  Even if I don't have any turkey on hand to serve it with, we will be having this salad again. 

There are so many ways to use up roast turkey that I know I will run out of turkey long before I run out of ways that I want to eat it.  Earlier this month I posted a soup and a casserole that would both be excellent places for some of those leftovers.  Other simple ideas include quiche, frittatas, quick pastas and grain pilafs.  It isn't necessary to reinvent the wheel or do something wildly unusual.  As a chef I am sometimes a bit dismayed as I look at the same old things on my family's holiday table year after year.  But the same things show up every year for a reason:  they are the favorite foods that everyone grew up with...they are well-loved.  And as a friend said to me this morning (as we were comparing turkey leftover notes over the pews), it is the same with Thanksgiving leftovers.  They are all about combining turkey in a variety of different ways with your other favorite holiday foods.  

Turkey Tetrazzini

3 1/2 to 4 T. butter, divided
1/2 c. coarse breadcrumbs
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 green onion (including most of green), trimmed and thinly sliced
1 to 2 T. dry sherry
8 oz. (1 1/2 to 2 cups) shredded roast turkey
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1 c. turkey stock (or use chicken stock)
1/2 c. leftover turkey gravy (or use 1/4 c. milk plus 1/4 c. stock and increase butter and flour in the roux by 2 t. each)
8 oz. spaghetti
2 oz. grated Gruyère (1/2 cup)
1/2 oz. grated Parmesan (about 3 T.)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter a 1 1/2 quart gratin or casserole and set aside.

Toss the bread crumbs with 1/2 T. of melted butter and set aside.

Sauté the mushrooms in 1 1/2 T. of butter in a non-stick sauté pan set over medium-high heat. When the mushrooms are browned, tender and any liquid that they have given off has evaporated reduce the heat and add the green onions. Cook briefly to wilt. Add another 1/2 T. of butter if the pan seems dry. Add the sherry and reduce to a glaze. Transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Add the turkey to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Prepare the velouté: In a small saucepan, bring the milk and stock to a simmer; keep hot. In another small saucepan, melt 1 1/2 T. of the butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, whisk in the flour. Cook stirring constantly for a few minutes—the roux will be bubbly and straw yellow. Remove from the heat and pour in half of the hot milk/stock, whisking constantly until smooth—it will thicken immediately. Add the remaining milk/stock mixture. Return to the heat and stir constantly until the sauce returns to a simmer. Add the gravy and bring to a simmer. Taste and season as desired with salt and pepper. Keep hot while you cook the pasta.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling water seasoned generously with salt. Stir and cook until the pasta is al dente (since it will continue to cook as it bakes with the sauce, it can be left quite firm). Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta and velouté to the bowl with the turkey and mushrooms and fold in. Add the cheese and quickly fold in—the cheese does not have to melt. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Scatter the buttered breadcrumbs over the top and place on a baking sheet.

Bake until hot through (it should be bubbling around the edges) and lightly browned—about 25 minutes. If necessary, place under the broiler (about 4 inches from the heat) until the top is golden. Serves 4.

• This recipe doubles easily to feed a larger group. Use a 13- by 9-inch (3 quart) baking dish.
• If you prefer a looser, saucier version, reduce the quantity of spaghetti to 6 oz.


Anonymous said...

I made your pasta shells with turkey and kale last night, and even my family members who swore they were sick to death of leftover turkey (what is wrong with them, anyway?), swooned. I reheated it for lunch today, and it was wonderful. I'll make it again and again.

Paige said...

Thanks for letting me know! We just finished the last of our leftover turkey tonight :(

Mary said...

Yesterday I made turkey and cheese quesadillas with sharp white cheddar and salsa from the freezer to add a little of last summer's snap.

Thanks for the great ideas! I have a hard time with the concept of turkey tetrazzini, due to the hundreds of church suppers I attended as a child, but I will try this.

Paige said...

Hi Mary, I think most of those church supper tetrazzini's are made with canned soup... If you like baked pasta dishes, I think you will like this one!