Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and there's a very specific reason for this. Okay, sure, it's nice to spend the day with family and friends; yes, I'm all in favor of expressing gratitude for one's blessings; and the parade is fun. But for me, there's one aspect of Thanksgiving that outshines all others.
My husband makes the turkey.
This is not a turkey; this is a masterpiece, a work of art. He follows the basic guidelines set down by the patron saint of good eats, Alton Brown, which involve curious details such as marinating the bird for several hours in a special bath of stock, vegetables, and spices, and baking it with certain fruits and herbs stuffed into the cavity. But he "tweaks" it, in his own words, and to be perfectly honest, I don't quite know what he does with it. My job on Thanksgiving is to stay out of the way, which is something I am very good at doing, and my prize for being a champion keep-out-of-the-way-er is the first bite of moist, flavorful, tender white meat.
Of course, I'm not alone in feeling like the real reward of Thanksgiving is what comes afterward, and I'm not talking about Black Friday. I am, naturally, referring to the delights of leftovers. This is where I take over kitchen duty; somehow, through a combination of volunteerism and boredom, it has become the tradition in our tiny household that I am the one to decide how best to deal with the leftovers.
Some parts of the bird are easily dispersed. Turkey sandwiches are a necessity. The wishbone must be located and placed in a safe place until it dries out enough to break. And Random and Maddy, our beloved whiskered children, are entitled to a share of the spoils. But for the rest, it becomes a puzzle.
I've experimented with a number of different things over the years. I've tried making soup stock from the bones, which has proven less successful than I might have hoped. Maybe I missed a step somewhere. But last year, almost by accident, I developed a recipe (I use the term loosely) for using up most of our leftovers that worked out so beautifully, I replicated it this year. And today, mostly out of a lack of any better ideas for what to blog about, I'm going to share that recipe with all of you.
Surely you're familiar with shepherd's pie? I call this "turkey herder's pie." It can, of course, be made at other times of the year, using the same ingredients, but I find it somehow more satisfying to make it with the leftovers.
Preheat your oven to 350. I don't know why. That's just the standard temperature for pretty nearly everything. Get a casserole dish; I can't tell you how big a dish to use, because I don't know how much food you have to put into it. Use your best judgement based on your supply of leftovers.
Into the bottom of the dish you're going to dump all of your leftover vegetables. I don't know what you ate, but any combination of the following is acceptable: corn, peas, carrots, green beans, waxed beans. I don't recommend too many other kinds, and certainly do not use your sweet potatoes. I consider sweet potatoes to be the dessert vegetable, and they don't really go in this recipe.
Add to the pile of vegetables a whole bunch of turkey cut into small pieces. White meat and dark meat are both acceptable for this purpose, unless you're some kind of purist who thinks it's an abomination to merge them in the same dish. Whatever turkey meat you use, make sure the portions are generous. Then, take your leftover gravy and pour it into the dish on top of the turkey and vegetables, and mix everything together until it looks incredibly sloppy. If you like, add a few dashes of freshly ground pepper.
Almost done. Take all of your leftover mashed potatoes (you didn't think I forgot those?) and dump them on top of the turkegetable slop. Smooth them out neatly so everything is covered. If you have a mashed potato-based filling left over, that works just as well too. Add a few dabs of butter to the potatoes, or your preferred butter-impersonating substitute, and pop the dish into the oven.
Pace around your kitchen in boredom. Smell the food. Get impatient.
The total baking time is around twenty minutes, or whenever the potatoes turn brown and crusty at the edges. It's delicious. Trust me. Serve it with your leftover rolls and have some leftover pie (or sweet potatoes) for dessert.
And I'm going to end this entry here, because I've just succeeded in making myself hungry. Happy two-month-aversary to this blog, and thank you to all my readers for finding my life more interesting than I do! ;)