Sloppy Kathleens & Hot-To-Trot Turkey Soup & WTF Leftover Turkey and Trimmings Pie

30 Nov

Thanksgiving packs a bipolar wallop.

All of the anxiety associated with cooking for extremely judgmental and picky eaters/public speaking/creepy things like spiders/bathing suit season, combined with the joy associated with extremely quiet and giggly newborns/fluffy puppies that you aren’t personally responsible for training/unlimited top-shelf happy hours/eating with your favorite people in the world, goes into the preparation and consumption of the Thanksgiving meal.

The Harvest Festival was created for and by rugged, religion-crazed pilgrims hell-bent on carving a Puritanical life for themselves out of a hostile environment half a world away from their hometowns and everyone they know.

One must proceed with caution when walking in the footsteps of (possibly insane) giants.

I’ ve always felt that if you don’t emerge from dinner with a goofy smile on your face, in addition to a few new burns, cuts,  knife blisters and hurt feelings, you’re doing something terribly, terribly wrong.

This Thanksgiving, my husband and I headed up to my parent’s house in Connecticut to cook and break bread with my parents, three of my mother’s siblings, Stephen’s father, Stephen’s brother, our dog Penny and my parent’s dog (and Penny’s best friend), Sadie.

We arrived with a batch of my Coconut Yum Puffs, cranberries candied in a basic simple syrup (we ate them over ice cream and as garnish in drinks) and the most incredible Deep Dish Pecan Pie I have ever made or eaten. (Recipe adapted for The New York Times from The Diner in Brooklyn.) Aside from setting off a Pecan Pie-related fire alarm at 4:30 am in our White Plains apartment and forcing my non-insomniac husband out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn to casually fling open the windows that I had been ineffectually clawing at for 30 endless seconds, my morning was as smooth as a good, homemade, buttery gravy (just a few lumps here and there to give it character).

Then we arrived at my parent’s house.

A quick hello, a few hugs? No time!

My dad had to run out to buy corn for the corn pudding, Stephen had to run out to buy ice for the homemade ice cream, one aunt was napping, the other aunt was cooking sausage for stuffing, my mom was cubing toasted and herbed bread for stuffing, I was told to dry-brine the turkey, my in-laws were still on the road (and lost) and my uncle was sitting at the kitchen table giving pointers to anyone who would listen and watching Mom and me chop, laugh, plan, argue over details and wonder aloud when we could crack open a bottle of something tasty without seeming like total lushes.

Seven hours of cooking, feverish debates over degrees of done-ness for absolutely everything and a few cocktails later, we were ready to sit down to a surprisingly delicious feast of countless dishes, courses and tall tales.

Three hours later, we all left the table, stuffed, sated and sleepy.

The best part? Leftovers: the memories will last a lifetime (cue the Lifetime Holiday Movie music), but the food, not so much. The next day, my Mom and Dad weighed us down with parcel after parcel of carcasses, meaty bits, butter-logged casseroles, oil-slicked veggies and countless empty carbs.

Even when I’m throwing together the most rudimentary of meals, I feel like some sort of medieval wizardess cooking a meal from scratch. But when I’m creating dishes from cobbled together remnants of a meal made by a team of my favorite people? I feel like I’m gathering bits of their essences too — good karma to pile in the pot.

First, I conjure up a picked over carcass, some chopped veg, spices and a few gallons of water; I heat the materials I’ve gathered; I fuss; I wave my wand spoon around; I shriek and cackle; I threaten and cojole. Finally, I pour my creation into a bowl, sit down with my husband and sup.

Ta da!

Humble, paltry, bland ingredients brought to heel and transmorgified by little more than fire and a pinch of know-how. Below, a few items I threw together for a Harvest Festival Part II.

Sloppy Kathleens

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1/3 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 pound organic ground beef (the fattier the better)
  • 3 TBSP ketchup
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 TBSP mayo
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano and parsley
  • 1 tsp old bay seasoning
  • 2.5 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 16 sheets organic phyllo dough
  • Melted butter (about 2 TBSP)
  • Vegetable spray

Method:

  • Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, salt and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  • Salt and pepper the beef, add to pan, breaking up into chunks. Add more salt, pepper and the other seasonings. Brown the meat over medium high and cook until there’s just a touch of pink. Turn heat to low and add pasta sauce and ketchup, cook until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the mayo; allow to cool to room temperature. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Line counter with wax paper, take out defrosted phyllo dough (defrost according to instructions on package) and place one sheet on wax paper, keeping the rest of the dough covered with a damp kitchen cloth. Brush phyllo with melted butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo.
  • Place 4 spoonfuls of burger mix in the middle of the phyllo. Top with melted cheese. Roll up into a vaguely attractive bundle, set aside.* (This can be done two days ahead of time and stored in the fridge, covered; three days ahead of time or more and store in the freezer).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray parchment or foil-lined pan with vegetable spray, top with Sloppy Kathleens and brush with more melted butter or spritz with vegetable spray.
  • Bake until top is golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with ketchup and a knife and fork. And lots of napkins.

* My phyllo rolling skills are nonexistent so any tips I provide you with would be counterproductive. Check out this how-to guide and good luck!

Hot-to-Trot Turkey Soup

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

For the stock:

  • 3 pounds of turkey bones, preferably with lots of meat and skin bits.
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped in 2.
  • 1 medium sized carrot, peeled and chopped into 2-inch sized chunks
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped into 2-inch sized chunks
  • 6 sprigs parsley
  • A few sprigs of any other fresh herb around (I used cilantro and mint)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt, lots
  • Biggest stock pot available
  • Water to cover

For the soup:

  • 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/3 medium yellow onion, large dice
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced thin
  • 1 roasted red pepper (roast under broiler until black, let cool, peel off skin), seeded, large dice
  • 1 cup corn (frozen is fine)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 TBSP turmeric
  • 1 tsp old bay
  • 2 TBSP fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp adobo seasoning
  • 1/4 cup chardonnay
  • Strained turkey stock
  • 2 cups pulled turkey meat (grab some from the bones after making stock, plus leftovers)

Method:

For the stock:

  • Place bones in the largest stock pot available, cover generously with water (you’ll want plenty, this cooks down) and bring to boil.
  • Reduce to simmer, season generously with salt and add the vegetables and herbs. Skim any foam off. Simmer for about an hour and taste. Season with more salt if necessary and continue to periodically skim off foam. Cover.
  • Continue to simmer, checking and skimming occasionally and adjusting hit lower as you go to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until it tastes hearty, buttery and delicious (it took me four hours). Strain over large bowl, reserving bones.
  • Allow to cool, skim of some of the fat (leaving a lot for taste). Store any you won’t be using for the soup (about 8 cups) in quart containers for another use.

For the soup:

  • Wash and dry stock pot.
  • Pick any delicious looking meat from the old stock bones and set aside. Add another few cups of pulled, bite-size turkey meat from leftovers. (Roasted chicken would work too).
  • Heat oil until it shimmers, add onion. Season with salt and cook for about 7 minutes until golden.
  • Add carrots, salt, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add celery, peppers, corn and the rest of the spices, and cook for another 5 minutes until celery is soft.
  • Deglaze the pan with wine and cook until liquid has evaporated.
  • Add the strained stock, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and add meat.
  • Cook until everything is heated through. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.

WTF Leftover Turkey and Trimmings Pie

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 -2 cups leftover turkey meat, diced
  • 2 slices of bread, cubed and lightly toasted in skillet with 2 TBSP melted butter plus salt, pepper & oregano to taste, tossed to coat
  • other random leftovers to taste (I used a 1/2 cup corn pudding and a few dollops of candied cranberries)
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1/3 cup gravy
  • 1 large baking potato, sliced thin on mandoline and held in acidulated water
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheese (I used sharp Cheddar and Gruyere)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable spray

Method:

  • Grab a big pie dish or other shallow baking vessel, coat with vegetable spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pile in turkey. Add the bread and other goodies. Dot with mashed potato.
  • Douse with gravy. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Top with potato. Season again. Dot with butter.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until potato is tender.
  • Cover the potato with cheese, remove the foil and cook until cheese has melted.
  • Let sit for 10 minutes and serve.

Cost/nutritional breakdowns: I have no clue, and frankly, I think it’s better for everyone involved that I don’t.

Verdict: Moaning and requests for Tums. Both are always an excellent sign.

Make again: Hell’s yes!

In the future: I will try to make the Sloppy Kathleens less hideously sloppy.

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