While America may be divided between red and blue, rich and poor, east coast v. west coast, there is one thing that has bound many of us in the last few days: Thanksgiving leftovers.
I'm a friend to the leftover (you know I am thrifty as all get-out), but Thanksgiving always seems to leave one with far too many to remain animated about. For one thing, you eat the best leftovers up first, in our case, the cauliflower gratin Stephanie brought, Claire's chocolate tart, and my mom's famous pumpkin chiffon pie. Then you good-naturedly devote yourself to the other items which were just as delicious but more plentiful so therefore less fought-over: the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, and the highly addictive cheese pennies and Earl dip. And then there's the turkey.
Every year I am reminded that I don't actually like turkey that much. It's vastly inferior in flavor to the plump little chickens I roast, requires special tools (thermometers, basters, cheesecloth!), and demands serious upper body strength to hoist it in and out of the oven.
But the turkey is the thing you always end up with too much of. And what to do?
Yes, sandwiches. But then what?
You learn exactly what from your parents. Growing up in our house, the end of the turkey, after the cranberries and gravy were gone, was turned either into jook or turkey tetrazzini, a choice that in itself is a good example of my dual heritage: Chinese and mid-western.
I like jook fine but am not wild about it. Truth be told, I have mixed memories of turkey tetrazzini too. I liked the flavor fine, but for some reason my parents always made it with spaghetti or linguine, which didn't sit right with me as a kid and still doesn't as an adult. I like baked pastas with short tubes or shells--much easier to eat.
I decided to make up my own recipe, with the goal that I wouldn't buy any new ingredients for the dish. This led to mixed results. I made a white sauce, but only had low-fat milk, and so it turned out a little runny, though with good flavor because I also used stock. I set it aside to see if it would set-up, which it did a bit, then tossed it with sauteed turkey, onions, sage, and spinach. Then the noodles, buttered breadcrumbs, and parmesan, and into the oven it went.
The finished product looked like this, which I dished up like a nice little housewife and served to the huz.
He nodded his approval although with the caveat, "It's good, but it doesn't taste like food we usually eat."
I knew what he meant. I haven't really ventured into the casserole genre, and this dish, as decent as it was, screamed casserole, with its faintly-dried out turkey lumps and pale creamy sauce that could have easily been cream-of-mushroom soup. Still, I sort of liked it. But the leftover turkey tetrazzini? I may have to draw the line at leftover leftovers.