Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Talking turkey: Leftovers

Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday.  For me it's all about the gathering.  I love the coordinated cooking of way more dishes than you'd have at any other meal, the drinks and laughs shared in the kitchen throughout the day and then later into the evening.  I delight in the sampling of each dish throughout preparation, then the tipsy gluttony while huddled around the table.  Turkey day may have larger meanings, but to me it's the epitome of home.

While the holiday itself is delicious, so are the leftovers and all the beauty one can create wtih them.  My go-to is turkey pot pie.  I always make stock to use & freeze, some sort of muffin with leftover cranberry sauce, and some kind of turkey soup.  This year I decided to color outside the lines and transformed the first batch of leftovers into a post-thanksgiving pizza and turkey chili.

The key to this turkey chili is getting the cooked turkey into a superfine chop so that it can be added into the sauteed onions and peppers and seasoning.  Use the aforementioned stock in lieu of water or canned broth and eat with plenty of green onions and shredded cheese. Oh, and of course, fritos or your favorite corn chip.  My current favorites are the Trader Joe's version that's organic and shaped just for scooping up the yumminess!

Make sure you have:
1 large onion
1 large green bell pepper (I used half of a green and half of a yellow this time)
2-4 cloves garlic
cooking oil
chili powder
dried oregano
sugar (optional)
cayanne/red pepper
2-3 cups leftover turkey (mix of light and dark meat is best)
4 c. turkey stock (or canned broth if you don't have any)
2-3 15oz cans of beans (I used 1 can kidney and two cans black beans)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes or tomato pureee
green onions
sharp cheddar cheese
corn chips

And then:
Open your beer, pour into a frosty glass and get to work.  The decrease in stress that happens with that first hoppy sip is directly proportional to the deliciousness of the finished product.

  1. Chop the onion and bell pepper into a small dice (size dependant upon pickiness of little ones, I go pretty small)
  2. Heat oil in heavy dutch oven and sautee' the onion/peppers for 10mins or until soft and transluscent
  3. Add a dash of salt and the spices, then the finely diced garlic

One hour, once a week

That's how I handle the family menu for the week! I grew up watching my parents plan out the meals for the week and make the corresponding grocery list every Sunday.  Typically, Daddy would be making the potato salad to accompany our weekly BBQ Sunday chicken, and Mama would sit at the kitchen table as they talked their way through the calendar for the upcoming week. Not only did it make nightly dinner prep easier, it was an affordable way to get god food on the table fast. I've emulated their method throughout my adult life, but even more so since having a household of four.

Each week, as the cupboard begins to look bare, and the leftovers supply diminishes, I check the kitchen chalkboard and put out a call to my boys for meal requests and shopping needs.  There are the standard household needs that are inevitably on the list: milk, bread, stinky cheese, dried fruit and apples.  Anything else, depends on the season and meal thoughts.

I envision the calendar for at least the next five days (are we all in town?  are there any specific dinner plans with friends? is it a full school week? etc.).  Then I'll consider anything we already have in the fridge that needs to be used up (veggies on their last leg, anything in the freezer that's been there long enough).  I am conscious of centering meals around vegetables and this is a shift from my childhood.  While Mama and Daddy used the meat as the main character and a starch and vegetable were supporting roles, I find that when I think first of how to make the veggies delicious, the protein source is usually there, but generally plays second fiddle.  While I write out the plan for specific days, I don't usually stick to it in the order which I initially planned.  For example, while I'd planned to make prosciutto wrapped salmon for dinner on Friday, the boys had leftover and I went out with friends.  Salmon then became the large lunch on Saturday afternoon.

I've found a system that works for me for laying out the list based on things I've liked about grocery pad layouts I have used in the past.  I usually take a standard 8.5x11" piece of paper and fold it in half like I'm making a paper airplane.  The meal layout goes to the bottom and then I make the list in two columns, subdivided by sections of food groups - produce, dairy, fish/meat, dry goods, frozen goods, bulk items etc.  I can never keep up with a shopping cart and a pen (let alone two kids!), so I write the needed items right along the edges of the paper. This way, once I've put the item into the cart, I tear a notch on it's name in the list.  Then, I'll move on to the next section of the store. Putting the items in the same section of my list helps me visually as I can quickly glance back over the group to assure I've gotten everything.

Roughly, think of a few different cuisine types for variety:
Pasta night
Curry (Thai or Indian)
Pizza & Salad

Then I try to incorporate one new recipe or meal a week-- maybe something that caught my eye in a magazine, something I came across in a cookbook etc.