Since I spent $200+ dollars on Thanksgiving groceries, I've been trying to squeeze as much longevity out of the leftovers as possible. As comforting and delicious the traditional combo of turkey, gravy, stuffing and pulverized spuds tastes once at the table (then several more times in sandwich form), you get a little tired of the same lineup after a few days. So I've been trying to get crafty with the "secret ingredients" in the fridge, with what I've lovingly called the Iron Chef America Chopped Super-Challenge Thanksgiving Edition!
First up, a rather common leftover solution: turkey pot pie. Although most pantries are stocked with the staples to make perfect pastry crust right now after prepping those pumpkin and apple pies (flour, butter, shortening, a little ice water), you can also pick up a premade pie crust on seasonal sale at most grocery stores. They were going for only $2.00 at Safeway yesterday. And if you've got a coupon? SCORE! Sorry, I've been trying to extreme coupon lately. I'm not good at it, though. I just end up buying a bunch of garbage I never would've touched otherwise. BUT in this case, it could be a good thing.
The filling is a simple mix of leftover turkey, and the veggies that got left out of the cavity: carrots, celery, onion, whatever herbs you have stuck in the fridge (I had sage and thyme in this mix). Saute the onions and veggies to soften slightly before cooking. Toss it with a can of cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup and a scoop of sour cream, salt and pepper. I also added some dried oregano. Top with the second crust (with a few slices atop the crust for ventilation) and bake for about 75 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and you can see the inside filling bubbling from the ventilation slits. Allow to cool about 15 minutes before slicing. It'll be messy, but as long as you get some crust and filling on the plate, you'll be happy.
Two nights ago we were watching Mario Batali explore the beautiful world of pasta, and risotto was brought up. "I bet I could make a yummy turkey risotto," I challenged.
"With mushrooms?" Matt asked. Alton Brown had just cooked some crazy-good looking sauteed mushrooms.
Turkey and mushroom risotto utilized, of course, leftover turkey, the surplus of stock, and the last little bit of white wine in the fridge. Again you can throw in herbs still lurking around. I just opted for parsley on this one. Also, feel free to play with your cheese. Parmigiano reggiano is the traditional cheese of choice in the dish, but risotto is something you should feel comfortable to be creative with. I used the leftover Yodeling Goat Gouda that was on our cheese tray. Grated fine and stirred in at the very last moment before serving, the gouda's nuttiness played marvelously with the woodsy mushrooms.
Then the challenge had to take a night off, because I came down with strep throat. I was feeling kinda off making risotto, but I powered through (along with decorating the Christmas tree). But yesterday, I was down for the count. Literally. I think I was awake for about five whole hours yesterday, which rivals Mehitabel in sleepiness. But tonight I was ready to make up for it. We still had a ton of turkey from the 20+ pound bird roasted up for a party of 6, and lots of veggies from the crudites tray. Why don't people like to eat crudites? It's like you'd feel dirty not to have veggies and dip out, but come on. Everybody wants those deviled eggs and chips! Maybe next year I'll give up. We'll see.
At lunch I picked up a jar of Maya Kaimal's curry simmer sauce, the best curry starter you'll ever, well, start with. Whole Foods has a great variety of flavors, and I opted for the Kashmiri Curry flavor. With tomato and nutmeg flavors, I thought it would tame the turkey flavor and morph it gently into something new and exotic. I sauteed onion, leftover mini bell peppers and diced baby carrots and then slowly simmered turkey, chunks from the sweet potato casserole (minus streusel topping) and peas in the sauce.
Sure, I could have placed this leftover menagerie atop a bed of fluffy white rice. But instead, I opted for EXTREME UTILIZATION. Curry atop fluffy leftover mashed potatoes. Would I consider it any other day? No. Did it work? Freakishly well! It was creamy and velvety on texture-sensation, flavorful topping. Dinner was all the yummier knowing I'd been a resourceful fiend.
While I was waiting for the curry to simmer up, I mixed up a turkey salad for tomorrow's wraps: a variation of traditional chicken salad with leftover celery and cranberries. Just under a week later, and we'll put cling wrap on this reusing rampage. At least I can honestly say I did that gobbler proud.