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Today: Tom cooks his way through Thanksgiving weekend one Food52 recipe at a time -- and adds a new one to the canon.
I freely admit it: I am a devotee of the Thanksgiving bird. Not just the Thanksgiving bird. I roast whole turkeys several times a year. I like turkey, and I like it served in a multitude of ways. And I really like leftover turkey.
I know, I know, there are those who say turkey has no flavor. Bah humbug. Get your Black Friday on, go away, and leave me to my delectable leftovers.
The Big Day
I like the requisite roast bird, a lot, but I enjoy all the one-time-a-year sides dishes too. Most Thanksgivings I start by filling my plate with the sides sans turkey. There is a good chance I won’t even eat turkey at the table because I have probably snagged the oyster (you know, that little bit on the bottom side of the bird near the thigh?). I call it the cook's prerogative, along with a couple other choice pieces I snag while I'm carving. Because I love the side dishes as much, at the table I concentrate on them.
Leftovers, Round 1: The Perfect Turkey Sandwich
Not to worry though, because before the lights go out for the night I will find myself at the counter in the peace of darkness and quiet of night, a jonesing turkey addict, removing the homemade pullman loaf I made the day before from its bag. The loaf made specifically for turkey sandwiches, perfectly square slices with a crisp brown crust and a delightful white crumb that has a little bit of stretch and chew from good gluten formation.
The bread that on one side gets butter slabs laid on like yellow terracotta porch tiles, and mayonnaise schmeared like frosting on the other. The butter side sea-salted and the mayonnaise side peppered. Slabs of white meat fanned out, then topped with a couple of fresh and very crisp pieces of iceberg lettuce all entombed by the bread and smushed together with palm of your hand. Yeah, that sandwich. Even if I am full I can’t resist it.
Leftovers, Round 2: The Classics -- Shepherd's Pie, Tetrazzini, Soup
For me the sandwich is the traditional Round One, a given. From here though, the course taken, as I see it, is wide open; cook's choice. The obvious go-tos are turkey shepherd's pie layering the meat under leftover bacon-laced collards and sweet or regular mashed potatoes, or tetrazzini with lots of garlic, cream, mushrooms, and parmesan. You can then move on to making stock from the carcass, followed by creamy wild rice and turkey soup or a much more creative approach, turkey pho.
All of these are great. Depending on my mood and the quantity of leftovers, I will make one or more of them. What they all have in common, what makes them good and what saves the turkey from the nay-sayers being right, is fat. All of the dishes with the exception of the pho add cream or some sort of other fat, essentially barding the cooked turkey, thus preventing it from being dry.
I’m good with that. But by Round Three, when I am at turkey's end, I am either ready for lighter fare or something more exotic.
Leftovers, Round 3: Turkey's End
A little known Food52 cook, Bob the sea cook, has just such a recipe. One that caught my attention and hauntingly so. For the last two years I’ve gone to Country Captn’ Soul Gravy for Noodles (the post Thanksgiving feed) like a pirate desperate for rum.
It’s nothing fancy, a simple Southern-style dish patterned after the classic Country Captain, but somehow it is more mysterious. I thought it to be more Indian, then realized why I liked it so much. It is very much retro-American style curry from the late 1960s to early 1970s in all the best ways possible.
1 pound linguine or spaghetti noodles
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/4 cup yellow onions, medium dice
1 cup green pepper, seeds and core removed, medium dice
1/2 cup celery, medium dice
3 tablespoons Caribbean style curry powder
2 bay leaves
2 cups thick tomato sauce
1 cup turkey or chicken stock, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
2 cups leftover turkey or chicken, shredded into bite-sized pieces
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup crushed, salted dry roasted peanuts or butter-fried almonds
Cilantro for garnish (optional)
Photos by Tom Hirschfeld