27 November 2007

For Love of Leftovers

"I guess I should wait until you leave to lick the plate." – Emma

If you hadn't guessed, my very favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is the stuffing. My great-grandmother's herb dressing recipe, my aunt's James Beard dressing, traditional cubed stuffing cooked in the bird like my dad's. It doesn't matter the form, they're all beautiful and unique. Like snowflakes, except, you know, delicious. I love stuffing so much that I ate it (not leftover dessert or even cranberry sauce) for breakfast until Sunday, when I had to leave the leftovers behind and come back to school.

There's pretty much nothing that needs to be done to stuffing for it to be enjoyable leftovers. Microwaving's the most messing with it that I'll allow. The turkey on the other hand, that is prime for remixing. Turkey is not my favorite fowl. Cooked right, it can have a crispy, succulent skin like duck and rich dark meat reminiscent of a nice capon chicken. Yet I can't find an apt description of good turkey without heavily relying on comparisons to other bird flesh. On Thanksgiving, there's plenty of cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, and yes, of course, stuffing, to lend it flavor. After Thanksgiving, all of its compliments run away to reinvent themselves as breakfast solo acts. And then you're left with literally pounds of neglected turkey. That's when the creative remixing comes into play.

Of course I know that I'm not alone in my quest for new methods of turkey recycling. After I found the following curried apple pita recipe in my copy of Fast, Cheap & Easy (discovered at a Pennsylvanian Amish market last summer) and served up the fragrant lovelies with an extra twist of sweetness in the form of vanilla yogurt and some drizzled Fireweed honey, I snooped around the internet to find other solutions to extraneous Thanksgiving bounty. I didn't have to look very long.

Over on Slashfood, leftover remix recipes have been featured with their own tagged category. This week, Bob Sassone asked

"But what's the fun of making a big turkey if you're not going to make soups and sandwiches and pot pies with the leftovers?!"

Here, here.

He was responding to this Jill Hunter Pellettieri article over on the Slate magazine site, which posits:

"In some ways, the leftover feast is as sacred as the meal itself. The guests have left, you've cozied up in your PJs, and the only remaining company is your closest family, the people you love most. There's the huddling around the Tupperware as you all seek the perfect bite of cold stuffing; the soft hum of the microwave in the otherwise quiet house as it warms the mashed potatoes; the smell of toasted bread slathered with mayo for the perfect turkey sandwich (sandwiches are, in my mind, the only acceptable use of leftovers)."

Well, partially. She's spot on about the stuffing. It would be sacrilegious to mess around with that. But earlier in the article, she also claims that the turkey itself is "often dried out" and that chicken is "more flavorful, more manageable." I don't think that finding new use for turkey need take anything away from the day itself. Although it is the centerpiece of the table, the Thanksgiving turkey is still just one symbol out of many, eaten for tradition, not for flavor. And isn't it better to find ways to enjoy all of it, rather than rehashing the same meal in microwaved form until you are so sick of it that you toss whatever's left?

I'm certainly a proponent of finding new flavors to accent leftover turkey. Last night I made this for a gathering of friends hanging out in the suite. We weren't in our PJs, and I definitely needed more than the microwave, but I think we found that cozy, thankful, meditative place to which Pellettieri aspires.

Curry Apple Turkey Pita

(recipe adapted from Fast, Cheap & Easy)

Things you can pocket at the dining hall:

1 cup sliced onion

16 lemon wedges (or 2 lemons)

½ pound cooked turkey

4 pita bread rounds

Things you could buy at the store:

1 Tablespoon yellow curry powder

½ cup vanilla yogurt

4 Tablespoons Fireweed honey

1 apple (Stayman Winesap variety)

  1. Zest and juice the lemons, discard seeds. Warm oil over medium to low heat.
  2. Add lemon juice, zest, and onions, stirring continuously until onions are limp (or "tender" as a cookbook would call them).
  3. Shred cooked turkey and mix it and the curry powder into the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Move pan away from the heat, slice and mix in your apple.
  5. Spread vanilla yogurt inside pita pocket (or cut pitas into sandwich slices and spread like mayonaise if they have no pockets, like mine). Drizzle honey inside (not outside, unless you want honey all over your face), close pita, and eat.



Patricia Scarpin said...

Olivia, what a great recipe!
I love making sandwiches with pita bread.

AJ Star said...

it's so amazing that you always find ways to make the most out of food in the dining hall. they ALWAYS have pita pockets lying around, but how many days a week can you eat tuna or chicken salad that has probably been the same tuna or chicken salad all week long? oi. thank gawd for ABS!!!!! and Olivia!

Alisha said...

Sounds delicious... wish I had some turkey leftovers.

Emma said...

This was, I think, my favorite of your recipes after cheesecakes. At least until the next awesome one. And to think I was ready to chuck that turkey! And the apples, too, for that matter.

Library Lindsay said...

Those pitas were absolutely delicious!!! I licked my plate clean :)