Ah, the remains of the Thanksgiving meal. This is truly the time where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The staples of Thanksgiving can be pretty boring, honestly. Turkey? Unless you’re dieting and looking for some lean protein, there’s a reason most people only roast a bird once a year. It takes a lot of work — through brining, a rub, injections or my personal favorite, deep frying in around three gallons of peanut oil — just to raise the bar up to “not drab.”
Cranberry sauce? That’s the equivalent of a cranky relative you’re obligated to visit. Turkey and cranberry get paired together, grudgingly, on this holiday and then go their separate ways until next year. Spuds, green beans and roasted veggies all also fail to move the needle much.
But when all is said and done and the main meal is reduced to that lovely hodgepodge of a little this, a little that and a little more of this, now one can get creative.
Thanksgiving for me is at my in-laws house. And I’m blessed because my brother-in-law graciously awards me the turkey carcass. He carefully wraps the carcass and double bags it and carries it out to the garage where it awaits me until the end of the night. (The rest of my family doesn’t know what they’re missing — the stock I make from that is a base for gumbo, chili and noodle soup for days. Plus, the house smells heavenly while the stock is simmering on the stove the next day.)
I found a recipe from a new book, “Dinner Pies” (Harvard Common Press, $24.95), that marries all the savory staples of a Thanksgiving dinner and tucks it on top of a pie crust. (I am of the firm opinion that almost everything tastes better when it’s baked into a pie.)
The recipe calls for the creation of a standard pie crust, but for simplicity’s sake, a store-bought crust would be perfectly fine. That way you can save some time and avoid more of a mess when you’re assembling the dish. Thanksgiving can take the starch out of the most ardent cook, so the meals following the holiday shouldn’t tax a person.
One of the nice things about this recipe is its flexibility. We’re a fan of Brussels sprouts, so those go right into the mix. But if your family prefers corn, or stuffing, those can find their way into the pie, too. Leftover stuffing paired with gravy adds a creaminess and provides a texture that’s different from a traditional shepherd’s pie. If you’re a fan of the ubiquitous green bean casserole — the one with the can of cream of mushroom soup — go ahead and throw that into the mix, too. After all, it’s the remains of your big meal. If you liked it on it’s own, you should love it with a slew of the other items that graced the table.
Some of the most satisfying leftovers are the easiest. There’s nothing wrong with some mayo on turkey splashed with cranberry, of course, and the day-after meals wouldn’t be the same without some sort of casserole. The goal should be simplicity. Odds are you’ve already done the yeoman’s work in preparing for the big feast. So save your energy for the shopping season.
Take your time, relax and take note: Christmas is just around the corner.
Thanksgiving Leftovers Shepherd’s Pie
Recipe from “Dinner Pies” by Ken Haedrich
For the crust
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening (or 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white vinegar
Scant 1/3 cup cold water
Put the butter and shortening cubes in a single layer on a flour-dusted plate, with the shortening off to one side of the plate by itself. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Combine the flour cornstarch and salt in a bowl and refrigerate the mixture also. Pour the vinegar into a 1-cup glass measure. Add enough cold water to equal 1/3 cup liquid. Refrigerate.
When you’re ready to mix the pastry, transfer the flour mixture to a food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Remove the lid and scatter about 6 tablespoons of the butter — a little more than half of the total fat — over the dry mixture. Pulse the machine five times — that’s five 1-second pulses — followed by an uninterrupted 5-second run. Remove the lid and add the remaining fat. Give the machine six or seven 1-second pulses.
Remove the lid and loosen the mixture with a big fork; you’ll have a range of clods, most quite small, but a few larger ones, as well. With the lid off, drizzle about half of the liquid over the mixture. Replace the lid and give the machine three very quick, half-second pulses. Remove the lid, loosen the mixture with your fork and add the rest of the liquid. Pulse briefly three or four times, just like before. The mixture will still look crumbly, but the crumbs will be starting to get a little clumpier.
Transfer the contents of your processor to a large bowl, one large enough to get your hands in. Start rubbing the crumbs together, as if you were making a streusel topping — what you’re doing is redistributing the butter and moisture without overworking the dough. (Note: If your dough mixture came out of the food processor more clumpy than crumb-like, don’t worry. Just pack it together like a snowball, knead it very gently two or three times and proceed to the next step.)
Put the dough on a long piece of plastic wrap and flatten it into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours; overnight is fine. (You can also slip the wrapped dough into a gallon-size plastic freezer bag and freeze it for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
For the filling
3 1/2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1/2 cup gravy, warmed
1 to 1 1/2 cup cooked corn, peas, green beans, green bean casserole or chopped Brussels sprouts
3 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
Chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley, dried sage, rosemary and/or thyme (optional)
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
Paprika, for dusting the top
On a lightly floured sheet of wax paper, roll the dough into a circle 13 to 13 1/2 inches in diameter. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep dish pie pan, center it, then peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Refrigerate the shell for at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the turkey and gravy in a large mixing bowl. Mix in your choice of leftover vegetables, then add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/2 cup of the masted potatoes. Taste. If the filling needs a little flavor boost, add a few big pinches of some of the traditional holiday herbs — parsley, sage, rosemary and/or thyme. Spread the filling in the refrigerated shell.
Warm the remaining 3 cups mashed potatoes just a bit — the microwave is the easiest way — then stir briskly to smooth them out. If they’ve become quite firm overnight, stir in a few tablespoons hot milk or broth. Smooth evenly over the filling. Dot the potatoes with bits of the butter, then sprinkle a little paprika on top.
Bake on the center oven rack until the edge of the pastry is golden brown and the top is well crusted over, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Serves 8
Per serving: 523 calories; 24g fat (10g saturated fat; 41 percent calories from fat); 52 carbohydrates; 2g sugar; 76 mg cholesterol; 795 mg sodium; 23 g protein; 3g fiber.
Turkey Noodle Casserole
If you are looking for something delicious for your turkey leftovers, yet simple and easy to throw together, this is your recipe.
8 ounces dried egg noodles
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped sweet onion (about 1 small onion)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus extra for seasoning
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar, divided
2 cups cooked, shredded turkey
3/4 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce (optional), to serve
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery; saute until tender and softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Whisk in the flour and stir until it is absorbed (and the “raw” taste cooks out), about 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups shredded cheese and stir until melted. Add the cayenne, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cheese sauce, shredded turkey and sour cream to the noodles. Season generously with cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.
Grease a 10-inch round baking dish (or a similar size baking pan). Pour noodle mixture into baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake until casserole is warm and cheese is bubbling, about 25 minutes.
Serve with lots of hot sauce, preferably Frank’s RedHot. Serves 8.
Per serving: 365 calories; 24 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 50 percent calories from fat); 20 g carbohydrates; 7 g sugar; 70 mg cholesterol; 545 mg sodium; 16 g protein; 1 g fiber.
Green Bean Bundles with Garlic Browned Butter
This green bean recipe is impressive-looking, but simple to make.
1 pound thin green beans or haricot verts, trimmed
24 long, thin slices red bell pepper
8 long, thin scallions
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large pan fitted with a steamer basket. Steam green beans and bell pepper until tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Trim whites off scallions and place the greens on the vegetables in the steamer during the last minute of cooking to soften. Transfer the vegetables to a large plate.
Divide the beans into 8 portions (10 to 14 beans each). To make a bundle, lay a scallion green on your work surface and place 1 portion of beans and 3 pieces bell pepper across it. Wrap the scallion green around the vegetables and tie a knot to secure the bundle. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining vegetables.
Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat; smash garlic flat, add to the pan and cook, swirling often, until the butter is nutty brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Discard the garlic. Stir in oil. Serve the bundles drizzled with the butter/oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
To make ahead: Keep assembled bundles warm in a 225 degree oven for up to 15 minutes; brown the butter and hold until ready to serve. Reheat if necessary. Serves 8.
Per serving: 73 calories; 5 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 61 percent calories from fat); 7 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 63 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 3 g fiber.
Roasted Turkey Stock
From Lynne Char Bennett of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Making a good stock just takes time, especially if you continue simmering to reduce it. You can cut some of the cooling time by pouring it into a large shallow pan such as a 9-by-13-inch glass or metal baking pan set atop a rack. Direct a fan to blow across the counter and top of the pan. It won’t be long before the stock is cool enough to refrigerate (a skin will start to form, and any fat present will begin solidifying).
Turkey carcass, about 2 pounds
Oil, if needed
1 small carrot
1/2 small onion
1 celery rib
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 thyme sprig
Few parsley stems
Break the carcass up into smaller pieces, using a cleaver if you have one. Try to cut the pieces as flat as possible. Scrape out and discard the kidneys (inside the carcass, along the backbone near the hip area) and any other loose stuff.
Pull off the skin from the carcass, then arrange the skin, fat side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Otherwise, coat the baking sheet with oil.
Place the carcass pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, arranging for maximum contact with the baking sheet. Chop the vegetables into medium-size pieces, and place at one end of the baking sheet.
Arrange the oven racks on the bottom third or near the bottom of the oven; preheat the oven to 450 to 500 degrees. Roast until the bottom of the bones and the vegetables become dark brown (check at about 25 minutes).
Turn the bones and vegetables over, and roast on the other side. Remove the skin after it renders and becomes crisp; reserve these skin cracklings for recipes as needed. Sections of skin with less fat will need to be removed earlier so they don’t burn.
Place the roasted carcass and vegetables into a stockpot or Dutch oven. Cover with cold water by at least 2 inches, bring to a simmer and skim at least once before adding the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and parsley stems, if using.
Meanwhile, add enough hot water to the rimmed baking sheet to loosen the browned bits, scraping with a flat wooden spoon or spatula. Add this liquid to the pot.
Continue simmering, turning carcass over occasionally, until bones separate easily when lifted from the pot, about 2 to 3 hours. Continue cooking until stock has really reduced and bones are above level of the stock. Drain through a colander, then pour a little fresh water over the bones to lightly rinse off any more stock before discarding the solids; pass stock through a fine mesh strainer, if needed.
Rinse out stockpot and reduce further if desired.
Cool to near room temperature before refrigerating. Refrigerate for several days, or freeze for later use. Makes about 1 quart.