One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. I love them. I will eat leftover turkey and stuffing until I am ready to burst. I will take turkey sandwiches to work for lunch for a week. Turkey tetrazzini is one of my favorite comfort foods.
But I know everyone doesn’t feel that way. So, as some of you are racking your brains for a new and creative way to use that leftover poultry, I give you my post-holiday offering: turkey tacos. They’re fast, easy and — compared to everything else I have eaten this week — healthy.
The recipe comes from Martha Rose Shulman, although her original uses ground turkey. I don’t make the tacos unless I have leftover turkey because, well, there are so many other things to make during the rest of the year. But after Thanksgiving, when fall cabbage is still plentiful in stores, these tacos are great.
Here is my version:
Tacos With Turkey and Cabbage
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound cooked turkey, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon medium-hot chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 tart apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
Salt to taste
Shredded cabbage for serving (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Crumbled queso fresco for serving
Toss the shredded cabbage with the cider vinegar. Set aside.
Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.
Add the turkey, apple, spices, raisin and tomato sauce and cook until the apple softens and the sauce slightly thickens. Taste the filling, and add salt as needed.
I serve the filling in soft corn tortillas with cabbage and crumbled queso fresco on top.
We had harvested the last of the tomatoes from our garden, and I had eaten all but a few. (Reminder: G. does not eat raw tomatoes. Ever.)
After putting up jars and jars of tomato sauce, I wanted to do something special with those last few fruit because I knew that while I was sick of canning, I would be longing for fresh tomatoes in a few months. I was kicking around recipes and then it just kind of hit me: chicken paprikash.
I love it, and it always makes me think of my longtime best friend, Tara, because the first time I ever had it was during a potluck that we went to together in college. Another potluck participant made it, and I very clearly remember Tara saying how much she liked it and that her mother, too, was Hungarian. Ever since, I can’t think of Hungary without thinking of chicken paprikash.
I’m not sure how Hungarians make it. I make it using a very simple recipe from an old Betty Crocker cookbook. As with all recipes, I’ve modified it slightly to increase the amount of tomatoes and paprika and reduce the amount of onion.
Here is my version:
3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 salt (if you need it)
Heat a frying pan, add the chicken thighs and start to cook them. When partially cooked through, remove the chicken from pan and drain any excess oil. This is a good time to trim any excess fat if you have a good butcher like G. handy.
Put the onion and garlic into the pan and begin to cook it. When the onion starts to soften, add the tomato, paprika, pepper, water (or broth) and chicken back into the pan. Stir the contents so the water and paprika blend and start to form a sauce. Cook until the chicken is done, about 30 minutes. The tomato will usually cook into the sauce and disappear. Stir in the sour cream, and add the salt if you need it.
Sometimes I serve this over mashed potatoes, and sometimes with egg noodles.
I entered my condo association’s recent chili cook-off with a lot of confidence: I’m a good cook. I make a decent chili. How tough can the competition be anyway?
Pretty tough, as it turns out. I lost big time.
She didn’t rub it in, but my good friend, who doesn’t cook much but grew up in Texas, did well in the voting with a chili boasting a substantial amount of red wine. Who doesn’t like wine in their food? I certainly do.
A chili labeled simply “Mexican” and served with a side of guacamole also fared well. Who doesn’t like guacamole? I do.
In hindsight, I entered with too much confidence, convinced that I had a secret weapon. My special ingredient was a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar that I picked up in Door County. The label next to the bottles said a tablespoon or two would give chili a wow factor. It was good. I’m not sure that it was wow. At least, it wasn’t as wow as wine or guacamole, but then, what is?
Here’s the recipe:
My Chocolate Chili
1 pound ground beef
3 15-ounce cans of red kidney beans, washed and drained
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons Fat Louie’s Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
salt (if you need it)
Brown the ground beef and drain the grease. Put the beef and the rest of the ingredients in a Crock-Pot and cook on high for one hour. Then cook on low for at least two hours, or until you are ready to eat.
I thought I could never find a pumpkin pie better than Ms. Fountain’s. I was wrong.
The Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit arrived a few weeks ago, and I got all excited looking through those glossy pages. So many holiday dishes! So many things to try!
G. had been asking me for a few weeks to make a pumpkin pie, so on the day I cooked a turkey, I also made pie. Actually, I made two pies. I made Ms. Fountain’s pumpkin pie because that has been our favorite. And then I decided to try a new pie from Bon Appetit.
That’s our new favorite.
We had friends over that night (a good thing, or we’d probably each have eaten a whole pie), and everyone said the new pie was “smoother” than Ms. Fountain’s. The pie definitely has a softness in flavor that I suspect comes from exchanging sugar for maple syrup as the sweetener.
I was concerned about using 2 tablespoons of bourbon because neither G. nor I are big drinkers, but there was no heavy alcohol taste.
The kicker for G. (of course) was the chocolate crust. That man loves chocolate! I have to say, though, I loved the crust too. I had some extra dough, and I rolled it out into little circles and baked it by itself. It made a nice shortbread cookie.
The recipe below uses Bon Appetit’s crust verbatim. The filling is a mix of Ms. Fountain’s and the magazine’s. I couldn’t go exactly with the magazine’s directions because it used canned pumpkin, and I had fresh pumpkin puree, which has much more liquid. In summary, I added cornstarch, reduced the heavy cream and eliminated sour cream from Bon Appetit’s recipe.
The pie took over an hour to bake in my oven. I would start watching it at about 45 minutes and look for the center to just solidify before removing the pie from the heat.
Maple and Bourbon Pumpkin Pie with a Chocolate Crust
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar (this is equal to 3 tablespoons and 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter, chilled
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup ice water
Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, butter and shortening into food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pour that into a bowl.
Whisk together the egg yolk, vinegar and water. Add that to the flour mixture and knead into a dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll it out into a pie crust.
15 ounces pumpkin puree, fresh not canned (2 cups)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon mace
Beat the eggs. Add the maple syrup, heavy cream and pumpkin. Beat some more.
Add the cornstarch, salt, spices, bourbon and vanilla. Beat some more.
Pour the filling into the pie crust.
Bake the pie at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, but don’t over bake. When the center jiggles just a bit, it’s done.
I love my mother’s stuffing just about more than anything. It says “home” to me in a way that no other food does.
Turkey and stuffing has always been my favorite meal, and when I was a child, we had it three times a year _ Thanksgiving, Christmas and my birthday. If I visit my mother around my birthday now, she still makes turkey. Or, like this year, if I visit her near her birthday, which is also close to Christmas, we’ll have turkey. It’s the special meal that marks our family gatherings.
I know there are a lot of fancy recipes for stuffing that involve gourmet bread, dried fruit and wild rice. I don’t want that. When I go home, I want the carb-laden, made-from-overly-processed-white-bread stuffing that would give my doctor a heart attack if he knew what I was eating. I figure, it’s a couple of times a year at most that I eat this, so why not feed my soul?
I made my own turkey recently because we had one in the refrigerator that we needed to eat. G. gets two turkeys each year, one from a client at Thanksgiving and one from his employer at Christmas. But the Christmas turkey comes soon after Thanksgiving, so we can easily end up with two birds in the freezer. When we received a recent note about the Thanksgiving bird’s impending arrival, I decided we needed to quickly roast last year’s Christmas foul. I did that a week or two ago. To keep the freezer relatively clear, we plan to give our Thanksgiving turkey to G.’s mom, who usually hosts that holiday. Then I will make this year’s Christmas bird sometime around Christmas _ or at least, plan to. That was the plan last year too, but then I was changing jobs and moving and gardening and . . . it’s always something.
You would think that I would know my mom’s stuffing recipe by heart now, but I don’t. I have to call her every time I make it to check on how much milk, celery, onion and sage to include. I’m posting my notes from this year so that I will have them available next time, although in truth, I don’t think she minds the calls.
My Mom’s Stuffing
1 loaf of cheap, white sandwich bread, broken into pieces
1 cup celery, chopped (about 4 stalks)
2/3 cup onion, chopped (1 small onion, or half of a really big one)
1/2 cup mashed potatoes (I use the fake ones, or you can microwave and mash a small potato)
dried sage (a lot)
1 egg beaten
Break the bread into pieces in a big bowl.
Saute the celery and onion in a bit of butter just until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the vegetables to the bread.
Add the potato, egg, dried parsley and sage. Mash it all together with your hands. Add just enough milk to make the stuffing moist, but not wet. Mash it some more. Add more milk if needed.
If you need to, and you probably will, add more sage. You should be able to smell the sage.
Stuff the turkey and roast it as directed for your oven.
Every once in a while, being a journalist is really cool. About two months ago, I got to interview Lisa Kivirist, who owns an inn in Wisconsin. She was helping lobby for legislation that would allow home cooks and farmers to sell small amounts of baked goods without jumping through the hoops to get a commercial food preparation license.
I got her name from a farm organization, started talking to her and realized that she was THE Lisa Kivirist, who invented my beloved (and G.’s beloved) zucchini cake.
Here’s how much we love that cake: I had just spent a day covering first lady Michelle Obama during her visit to Wisconsin. G. was not impressed. I told him I had talked to Lisa, and he was so excited.
“Did you tell her Jeffrey has made three of them?” he asked.
Jeffrey is G.’s nephew, and a new convert to the zucchini cake brotherhood. I failed to tell Lisa about him. I will rectify that next time.
Anyway, we got talking, and it turns out that Lisa recently published a new cookbook. I bought a copy. (Of course I did; I’m a cookbook addict.)
It took me a while to get around to sending my check, so the book only arrived recently. I dove right in and made Lisa’s winter squash spice muffins, which are one of the most popular things she serves at her bed and breakfast.
G. was in heaven! I made them right before we took off for a dance event, so we’d dance for a few hours, eat a muffin and then go back and dance more. We figured the calories don’t count that way. But even if they did, we’d still eat the muffins. A lot of them.
Lisa Kivirist’s Winter Squash Spice Muffins
1 cup winter squash puree (I use fresh pumpkin.)
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Grease 12 standard muffin cups. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine eggs, squash and butter in a big bowl.
Add spices, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar and flour. Stir well.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Fill the muffin cups until they are almost full. Bake the muffins for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.