Save room

Thanksgiving lives on through leftovers

Thanksgiving has always been Henri’s favorite holiday, unladen as it is with the ambiguities and guilt of religion and the stress of gift giving. It’s about reflecting on the value of our relationships, and of their tenuousness and brevity—indeed of the tenuousness and brevity of our own journeys, and so a reminder to make them meaningful.

It’s also about eating, of course, not only the traditional roast turkey but the side dishes—from bread stuffing to jambalaya, Brussels sprouts to sweet-potato pie. Not to mention drink and dessert.

And in fact, the meal is often just the beginning, tables and kitchens piled post-prandially not only with empty glasses and plates but leftovers. Lots of leftovers. Nothing better for breakfast Friday morning than a turkey sandwich on toasted sourdough with leftover cranberry sauce and a dash of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale mustard—and a glass of Chenin Blanc.

My favorite dish made from leftover turkey, though, is the lasagna-like Turkey Tetrazzini, named for the Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, who, according to epicurean lore, gave her family recipe to a New York chef around 1910. This recipe is adapted from Michael Field’s Culinary Classics and Improvisations, Creative Leftovers From Main-Course Masterpieces, first published in 1965.

Turkey Tetrazzini

1/2 lb. of spaghetti or linguini
1 1¼2 sticks butter
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons flour
1 1¼2 cups turkey stock (or canned chicken broth)
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Medeira
2-3 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta eight or nine minutes (to al dente), drain and transfer to large bowl. Stir in two tablespoons melted butter and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sauté mushrooms in two or three tablespoons of butter, and place in small bowl. Melt another two or three tablespoons butter in saucepan, turn off heat, and stir in flour to make a paste. Stir in broth, return to heat, bring to boil (keep stirring), and cook until smooth and thick; turn down heat and simmer for five minutes. In small bowl, mix egg yolk and cream and stir in two tablespoons of simmering sauce. Then stir cream mixture back into remaining sauce. Remove from heat, stir in more salt and pepper, add Madeira and fold in mushrooms and turkey meat.

Place half the pasta in the bottom of a 1-1/2 quart buttered casserole dish; add half the turkey mixture, then the remaining pasta. Spoon the rest of the turkey-mushroom sauce over the top; add almonds and last of melted butter. Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese; sprinkle over mixture.

Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and top begins to brown. Serve immediately.

You’d also be remiss not to take advantage of the turkey carcass to cook up a big pot of soup, which is also a good way to clean out the refrigerator of various vegetables and other odds and ends: There’s very little that you can add to the broth that won’t make the soup better.

Turkey soup

Basic ingredients for stock:
Turkey carcass
2-3 onions, quartered
3-5 cloves garlic, halved
1 celery base and leaves from top of stalks (save the individual stalks for the soup)
Various herbs—basil, oregano, thyme

Boil all ingredients in large stock pot with plenty of water until meat is falling from the bones, at least two or three hours and up to four or five. Strain broth. Let ingredients cool, pick meat from turkey carcass and add back to broth.

Boil broth with meat, adding any of the following: sliced carrots, the remaining celery, more onions, garlic, beans (navy, garbanzo, kidney, black), bell peppers, and, about fifteen minutes before it’s done, any kind of grain, from white rice to various pastas and/or wild rice. Serve with fresh French bread and a light salad.