Dinner for One: Fancified Leftover Thanksgiving Dinner

If you are anything like me (read: made a Thanksgiving feast large enough to feed 8 lumberjacks when only feeding yourself and your No. 1), you still have LOTS of leftovers to work through. This I expect.  But I don’t expect my readers to simply *hate* leftovers like I do.  Let me be clear: I LOATHE leftovers.  It has something to do with my childhood.  As such, it is very rare that I ever indulge in the same meal in consecutive sittings, and since I usually portion control pretty well, at most the husbandman (the aforementioned No. 1) gets to indulge his deep affection for leftovers with a single, but generous lunch within a few days of diving into the fresh stuff.  But the smallest turkey we could find clocked in at 12 pounds, which I roasted absolutely perfectly (if I do say so myself).  Given that we’re on a tight budget these days even I couldn’t stick my nose up at the abundant albeit cold deliciousness in my fridge, or the prudent economy of said deliciousness.  On Friday, I made some sinfully amazing Turkey Day sandwiches (which I regret not blogging about), and Clayton’s eaten a few more turkey sandwiches in the last few days.  Today I did my bit by assembling a little something something for myself.

Fancified Leftover Thanksgiving Dinner

Leftover stuffing, turkey, cranberry relish, and gravy
feta cheese
1 tsp flour
1 tbs butter
1 cup turkey stock
salad stuff

The other day, I cut some beer cans down to make an elegant stacked crab salad.  I hung onto those razor sharp accouterments for future use — like today’s.  I had an idea about a Thanksgiving themed tian, with a few additions from the larder.  But first, I spread some foil over a baking sheet, since unlike my last stack o’ dinner, which was served chilled, this stack I meant to bake.  Booyah!

Using my killer samurai edge’d cylinder, I cut a 1/2″ round of feta cheese from the block, and about a 3/4″ round of stuffing from the whole.  I made a very smooth cornbread stuffing — something more akin to a quiche or pudding than the more chunky varieties I usually prepare.  This made it very easy to carve out a perfect disc.

The first layer is the feta cheese.  Clayton wasn’t sure why I chose this cheese over others, but I quite rightly suspected that its saltiness, and the unique fluffy sort of way it “melted”, would be the perfect compliment to this preparation.

The next layer is a few spoonfuls of my homemade cranberry relish, prepared with long, thin strips of orange peel — nice and chunky and tart and bursting and juicy.

Next, I insert my layer of stuffing, and then top the whole tian off with a mixture of dark and light turkey, daubing some of the congealed turkey fat over the top to keep everything moisturized.  (Sorry the picture is so out of focus; I was having problems with the light tonight.)  I set the whole baking sheet, can in place, into a 350 degree oven to heat through for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, I make a blond roux by first whisking my butter (melted) and my flour over medium high heat…

… before adding my turkey stock …

… and a few heaping tablespoons of my leftover gravy, which has also congealed.  See, I need to thin it out a bit, but just reheating it in the pan might burn it – so making a simple gravy base with the roux and stock before adding this super-potent homemade turkey gravy concentrate works best.  It maintains the fantastic flavors I harvested last Wednesday night by cooking down the neck and gizzards with fresh aromatics and butter.  There are even delicious bits of turkey neck meat still studding its smooth rich texture.

I bring this to a high heat so it will thicken, then toss a few more bits of shredded turkey into it so they can heat through and soak up all this flavor before I form a steaming standing pool of yum on the plate.

Said steaming pool of yum will envelop my now hot and ready dinner.  Admittedly, the feta squished a bit more than I’d hoped, and the cranberries ran, but using some gentle pressure on the turkey to hold everything together, and sliding a flat spatula between the filling and the foil, I remove my savory stack from its baking sheet.  I press down on the center of the filling while sliding the can carefully up, essentially extruding my whole turkey dinner into a skyscraper on my plate.

Oh, and I whip together a quick salad as an accompaniment (some iceberg, ranch dressing, slivered onions, and scallions.  It’s all I had in the house…).

All the flavors of Thanksgiving, vertically presented.  My puffed feta cheese nestles a vibrant layer of tart cranberry relish, and a pedestal of savory cornbread stuffing buttresses a steaming stack of unctuous tender pulled turkey, all draped with rich, smooth giblet gravy.  It’s the same meal I’ve enjoyed a few times already, but presented in oh such a sumptuous way.  And I daresay it tasted even better tonight, constructed as it was with such delicacy and respect.  Dropping absolutely no new dimes on this dinner by making it completely from leftovers and simple items from my fridge helped, too.  If all leftovers could be this elegant, I might eat them more often…

Grilled Lamb Gams, Swiss Chard Soufflé, and Beet Feta Walnut Construct with Balsamic Glaze

Indian Summer!  The sky was so warm today… with barely a breeze… and the sun glinted off the already reddening canopy of leaves overhead.  It’s PERFECT here in New England right now.  This is why I live here… the weather, *and* the local purveyors of provisions – whether they be local farmers or our local Whole Foods – which offer me perfectly purple farm-fresh beets or incomparable Icelandic lamb leg, butterflied just for me by my butcher.  And, last but best, our own garden’s tender swiss chard – picked from this basket:

This was tonight’s bounty from “the lower 40,” as we like to think of them (read: about 40 sq ft of raised bed gardens downstairs in our three-family home’s wee backyard).  These are Clayton’s tomatoes, chives, chard, and rhubarb.  Tonight we’ll use the chard and chives.

Chives are so very different from scallions – their flavor is so delicate, so earthy oniony herbaceous.  I love them, like, unnaturally.

Beets.  Beautiful beets.  I seriously didn’t start eating these babies until just recently, but I am totally in love with them.  Their texture, natural complex sweetness, the syrupy richness of their juice, how unique and remarkable they are… damn they’re gorgeous!  I trim their stalks to a short 1/2″, scrub them thoroughly, place them on two layers of aluminum foil, douse them with EVOO, sea salt, and cracked black pepper.  I wrap them up tightly in one foil packet, and set aside.  They’ll take an hour to roast, as will my soufflé, so I’ll put them into Little Red all at the same time.

To make the chard soufflé, which I must credit to Food & Wine’s Alex Roberts, more or less:

I remove the stems and spines from my chard, cut it into strips, and wash it thoroughly.  I then blanch it in well salted boiling water for a few moments before draining it, cooling it, and chopping it.

Make a bechamel sauce by melting 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat, then whisking 2 tablespoons of flour into the melted butter until thoroughly incorporated.  Add 2 cups of half and half in a slender stream, whisking well continually, until boiling and slightly thickened (which may take a few moments — it did for me).

See how the sauce is sticking to the sides of my pan, and you can just see the streaking of my whisk through the surface?  That’s thickening nicely.

Add some sea salt, cracked black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to your bechamel and mix well.

This cheese was displayed along with the twice-as-priced Parmigiano-Reggiano, and – linguistically speaking, at least – it had almost the same name, so I snagged it.  It ended up being the perfect choice for my chard soufflé.  It was nutty, peppery, slightly melty, but still crumbly and richly textured.

I add about a cup of my grated cheese and the yolks of three large eggs to my hot bechamel, which I’ve moved to a bowl, and I mix well.

I add my blanched, drained, and chopped chard to my sauce, and mix well.

I whip the whites of my three eggs incredibly well in a bowl, until they forms stiff peaks.  I then add the whites to my veg, one third at a time, by folding each layer together thoroughly between each addition.

I scrape my chard egg batter into two well buttered ceramic ramikens, then drag my finger along the inner rim to swipe a clean edge. These babies, and my foil packet of beets, go into a fully pre-heated high-heat Little Red, and I walk away for an hour.

It’s a beautiful night.

After 45 minutes or so, I add two cups of balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and begin to reduce it to a syrup.  This will top my beets, ala That Jew Can Cook, from whom I drew my inspiration.

At the hour mark, my soufflés have begin to rise and brown.  Oh my, but I am so excited about these!

Clayton moves them to the back of the grill, and slaps my butterflied lamb leg — which has been marinating for the last hour in EVOO, tarragon vinegar, fennel salt, cracked black pepper, and crushed garlic — on the hot grill.  He also removes the package of beets…

… which are perfectly roasted.  I let them cool for a few moments, before cutting them into perfect triangles.  I do the same with some goat feta I’ve got, and I drizzle the whole set up with…

my warm balsamic glaze, which I’ve transfered to a bottle waiting in a cold water bath to cool.

After 15 minutes with the skin side down, Clayton is ready to flip the lamb.  The soufflés are still just hanging out.

See how beautifully charred the skin is?  Perfect!  Another 8 minutes on this side and the thickest parts are cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the thinner parts still have a lovely tinge of pink.

Delicately crispy skin, tender juicy gamey flesh, all topped with cool Greek yoghurt and a few leaves of fresh tarragon.

My soufflés are fluffy and absolutely the most ideal shade of golden brown.  They are moist in the center, with a fresh buttery chard flavor, and a subtle salt cheese undertone.  They’d pop perfectly out of their ramekins, if I wanted to set them free, but the ceramic holds the heat in, keeping my soufflés at just the right state, all through dinner.

Tender roasted right angles of bloody red beets and almost obelisks of stark white feta, studded with crushed walnuts, dotted with chopped chives, and dabbled with thick sweet balsamic glaze and EVOO.  Alongside the luscious lamb and surreal souffle, this is a dinner of incredible beauty, unequivocal elegance, and fantastic flavor.

Sword and Simple Pineapple Slaw with Sweet Spuds and Feta

SPRING! It’s so beautiful out right now – sunny and warm and breezy and sweet-smelling and full of prepubescent nature! My bike’s been out for two days, and I’m settling right back into my summer grove of stopping at Whole Foods nightly to grab my ingredients for the night’s dinner. In good weather months, they become my pantry. I had a vague idea about pineapple today for some reason, and the stars aligned because lo and behold a wall of free trade pineapples greeted me as I crested the escalator’s peak and ascended into the produce section. Seeing sexy swordfish steaks splayed across ice at the fishmonger’s station, and some equally sexy sweet potatoes stacked all alluringly in a row, my idea came home. Come with me!

What you’ll need for two, for about $30:

1lb fresh swordfish steak
1 small red onion
3 small sweet potatoes or yams
1 pineapple
curry powder
salt and pepper
mayonnaise (not pictured)
feta cheese (not pictured)
white wine vinegar (not pictured)
(ignore the lemons… I didn’t end up using them)

Cut your sweet potatoes into slender wedges, and spread out on a cookie sheet liberally spread with EVOO. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Douse with EVOO, too.

I call this “Ode to Open Toes”. Set your oven to 400°, and throw your pan of sweet potatoes onto a middle rack. Roast for at least 20 minutes before checking on them.

The mighty pineapple.

Slice off each end, and slice the prickly sides off, too.

Then dice. And snack a wee bit here and there, too. There’s enough…

Finely dice your red onion, and add to the bowl.

Finely slice your scallions, and add to the bowl, too.

Add some salt, pepper, olive oil (about ½ cup), and white wine vinegar (about 4 tbs).

Add about 1 tbs curry powder, and mix well. Set aside to marinate.

Slather your swordfish slab with mayonnaise, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I’ve set mine on a rack set over a cookie sheet. It’s the ghetto jerry-rig way to do things. If you’ve got a nice roasting or grill pan, go for that instead.

My sweet potatoes have been roasting for 20 minutes, so I pull them out to check ’em when I throw in my swordfish.

The spuds should be nicely seared on one edge. Flip ’em, and stick ’em back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Feta cheese. This is for my spuds.

After 15 minutes, remove your spuds from the oven, flip your fish, slather with mayo salt and pepper, and turn on the broiler for the last 4 or so minutes of cook time (for an inch thick sword steak; adjust accordingly depending upon the thickness of your fish). Plate your potato spears alongside a nest of pineapple salsa, and, when the mayo crust on your fish is nicely seared, layer it atop your sweet citrus mound. Sprinkle your crumbled feta over your warm potato fingers, and sit back and admire the multitude of colors on your plate, before you dive into the multiple of flavors for your palate. A sharp, light, snappy meal, redolent of summer and sky, and a perfect way to celebrate the sudden freedom of the sun.