It’s amazing the amount of preparation that goes into one day a year! As early as summer, folks are scanning airline websites searching for the best deal for Thanksgiving flights. It’s the eternal challenge: What is the cheapest flight with the least amount of stops, in the early morning one can take from the West coast to the East coast? And if you’re anything like my sisters, you’d begin working on your Black Friday maneuvers, with a playbook filled with plays like, “Well if store A on this side of town opens at midnight, then we can make it to store C across town for their opening at 3 am and stop at store B along the way”…and on and on. And the moment turkey season opens, Danny is hard at work hunting turkey. Of course, we always have to consider an alternative if the turkey isn’t going to appear in his crosshairs. Like this year, we opted for a Diestel free range turkey from a family owned farm in the Central Valley of California…. just in case the deadline comes and goes without a hunted bird to show for his efforts.
In my private chef business, I receive phone calls as early as July from clients who try to get the jump on others as they plan their holiday parties and celebrations. They know by the time September rolls around, chefs are already booked and they’ll be out of luck for someone to cook for them. To chefs, Thanksgiving marks the busiest time of year and we know sleep will have to wait until after New Years’ Day.
Even a month prior to Thanksgiving I start planning my own dinner and working towards the day when “George”, as we refer to him in our family, will make his front and center debut at our table. No, I’m not talking about an Uncle, I’m talking about the gloriously roasted turkey, which is stuffed with a wonderful stuffing, from a recipe handed down by my Great-Grandfather. Even though I cook for a living, and I’ve made this recipe my whole adult life, I still call my Mom to walk me through it, every year. “Okay, Mom, if the turkey is X pounds, how much butter for the stuffing should I plan on?” And how many hours will it take, and at what temp?” Some things never change.
I also begin creating my table design, and choose the dinnerware and stemware I’m going to use. I send out invitations to family and friends to join us for the celebration of being “Thankful”. Then as it gets a little closer, I begin pressing my table linens, and my favorite turkey platter is taken out of storage. I search through recipes to decide which perennial favorites I’m going to prepare, as well as adding new recipes to keep things fresh. When it comes to the dessert list, both our daughters insist at least one dessert must be my pumpkin cream pie, or they’re not coming home for Thanksgiving. They always try to blackmail me with that one but I know they’d come home anyway.
So we spend months in preparation for the iconic holiday we all know and love here in America. And then the big day comes and Mom’s been up for three days baking, prepping and setting the table with her best china. Gram is complaining about Mom’s method for “lump free” gravy. Meanwhile Dad spends his time in his recliner while screaming at the tv screen while watching the game and cracking a big bowl of mixed nuts. And only occasionally gets up and walks into the kitchen for a beer (“Save my seat”, he says) and a sample of stuffing. And Grand-Pap is on the other recliner, blissfully napping until Gram yells at him for snoring so loudly. And the kids?? Well, in my childhood we’d be playing outside, or driving Mom crazy about Dad watching the game on the ONLY tv we had in the house, when we wanted to watch Miracle on 34th Street. But children today are most likely listening to music on their iPhone, posting on Facebook, texting friends, and watching a movie on their iPad all while playing a video game! lol
So why do we put ourselves through this craziness for just one day? Thanksgiving leftovers, of course! For those Thanksgiving leftovers, I’ve created a few ideas you can try to make the most of the best meal of the year!
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!
Dan, Bobbie Jo, Erica and Caitlin at He Hunts She Cooks
LEFTOVER MASHED SWEET POTATOES:
Leftover mashed Savory Sweet Potato Spring Rolls: egg-wash the edges of a spring roll wrapper, and add a few tbs. of cold mashed sweet potatoes in the center, roll up and seal then heat oil to 350 and deep fry until brown and add a dipping sauce with leftover cranberry sauce mixed with a Serrano chili, lime zest, a little water: OR make it a Dessert Sweet Potato Spring Roll by frying it then dusting the spring rolls with powdered sugar, and making a warm caramel sauce with pecans and a pinch of cinnamon (or warmed maple syrup).
LEFTOVER MASHED POTATOES:
You can use leftover mashed potatoes for Spring Rolls also by mixing in some shredded cheddar cheese, a few tablespoons green onions, and crumbled bacon and filling spring rolls wrappers, then deep fry and dip them in ranch dressing or creamy peppercorn dressing: OR make Potato Pancake for breakfast by mixing cold mashed potatoes with some shredded gruyere cheese, crispy bacon crumbles, a beaten egg and coating the patties with a little flour and frying in a pan with a bit of oil and top with eggs.
LEFTOVER STUFFING/DRESSING: Make a Stuffing Patty Eggs Benedict by forming a patty with leftover stuffing and then coat each side with Japanese bread crumbs and sear it in a pan with oil and serve it as a base for eggs Benedict and Lemon Hollandaise: OR Stuffing Balls by shaping stuffing into small balls, coat in flour, then egg, and bread crumbs then deep fry and dip in cranberry sauce: OR Stuffing Dumplings on top of Pheasant Stew, make the stew then roll the stuffing into balls to create dumplings poaching them in the broth for a few minutes: OR one of my favorites!! SCOTCH EGGS!! Partially boil eggs until the yolk is still runny inside and the egg white is just set, then peel the eggs, then flatten out some stuffing in your palm, then place an egg in the center and wrap the stuffing around the egg, coat in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs, deep fry until golden brown and serve with a salad and Caesar dressing or mustard horseradish vinaigrette.. BOOM!
LEFTOVER CORN: Ravioli: Mix corn with ricotta and some canned crab meat, a pinch of cayenne pepper and wrap in spring roll wrappers or pasta dough to make corn crab ravioli. Boil for a few minutes, drain and then sauté ravioli in butter, cream and freshly grated parmesan, with just a touch of brandy or cream sherry, and top with chopped chives and serve alongside sautéed chanterelle mushrooms: OR Corn Soup: OR make some Corn Risotto and add leftover corn and a half cup mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese) at the end and top with a butter poached lobster tail.
LEFTOVER CRANBERRY SAUCE: The Dipping Sauce can be used for the sweet potato spring rolls listed above: OR as a Savory BBQ Glaze by mixing together with a bottle of chili sauce some onion flakes, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar and heat in a pot for 3 minutes until the brown sugar is melted through, then brush on to glaze bacon wrapped grilled dove or other game birds, or chicken:
OR Make a Cranberry Pound Cake or Bread by mixing it into pound cake batter, then pour into a loaf pan and bake: OR for a post holiday Libation (let’s face it, we usually need one after the day), add a tablespoon cranberry sauce to vodka, cranberry juice, ice and shake, not stirred.
LEFTOVER ROASTED VEGETABLES LIKE BROCCOLI AND CHESTNUTS: Make a Morning Hash with fried potatoes and add the broccoli, and/or other roasted vegetables and top with leftover gravy, scrambled eggs and cheese: OR make a Quiche by whipping eggs, some half and half, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and add the vegetables and chestnuts and pour into a ready made pie crust and bake 350ºF until set.
LEFTOVER CARROTS: Use in soups or stews: OR add to Carrot Coconut Soup by adding chicken stock, bay leaves, fresh thyme leaves, sautéed onions and puree into a soup and add some coconut milk.
LEFTOVER PUMPKIN SOUP: Use it as a base for some amazing Pumpkin Risotto by replacing some of the stock normally used and do half soup, half stock.
LEFTOVER PEAS: Use it in Soups and Stews: OR add to pasta to make an Alfredo with shredded turkey and an Alfredo sauce made with butter, heavy cream and parmesan cheese.
LEFTOVER TURKEY!!!: Well there are soooo many but a couple that I like are: Open Faced Turkey Sandwiches with gravy and french fries: Turkey Rice Soup: Turkey Hash by frying leftover vegetables with fried potatoes and eggs: Homemade Turkey Lasagna with béchamel (white sauce) and three cheeses: OR how about a wonderful Turkey Strudel!! Made by layering 3 sheets of phyllo dough and brushing with melted butter, and adding some turkey, roasted peppers, sautéed mushrooms, and a little goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes, then fold over and bake until golden brown: OR my favorite, a Sandwich made with turkey, stuffing, a little gravy, cranberry sauce, and cream cheese!!!! I once described this sandwich to my daughter, Caitlin, and one day she went to a sandwich shop and she called me and said, “Mom! they have your favorite sandwich on the menu and… wait for it…. it’s called “The Bobbie Jo!”…true story.