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…

Herb Roasted Buttered Turkey Breast with Royal Trumpet Mushroom Sauce

It was a lovely warm Spring holiday Sunday today.  We broke out our short sleeves and our bikes, and a’ ridin’ to Whole Foods for feast fodder we went.  I expected there to be a crowd, as there was yesterday (when I saw Giovanni Ribisi walking into the store through the rain – no lie!  Cambridge is a hotbed of celebrities…), but it was surprisingly sedate.  The selection of lamb was way picked over; I was in the mood for a braised shoulder, but all they had left were shanks and stew meat.  No matter; they also had some lovely boneless turkey breast at an enticing price of $3.99 a pound.  Since Clayton’s been making his lunch these days, and loves himself a good homemade sandwich, I thought: why not?  It was festive — fitting for a feast day — and practical, and with a few simple sides and an elegant butter sauce, it would be a perfect way to cap the weekend and welcome the work week.  Hearty but light, rich but simple – please, sir, may I have some more?

Herb Roasted Buttered Turkey Breast with Royal Trumpet Mushroom Sauce, Honeyed Carrots, Mashed Potatoes, and Simple EVOO’d Greens

1 3.5lb boneless, skin-on, rolled and tied turkey breast
fresh rosemary
fresh sage
1 stick butter
1 lb bundle of small fresh carrots
1/2 cup honey
8 oz fresh Royal trumpet mushrooms
1 small shallot
1 lb yukon gold potatoes
heavy cream
sea salt
black pepper
baby romaine lettuce

Even though my beautiful breast is already bound, I cut off this netting so I can season her up real nice like.

You can see that once it’s unrolled, it’s really just a large slab of breast meat folded in half.  Tying it up helps unify the shape, so that it cooks evenly and doesn’t dry out at the tips before fully cooking through the fat center. I rinse this pink quivering solid mass of yumyum, pat it dry, then lay it skin side down on my paper.  I lay a few large sage leaves and a healthy abundance of rosemary in the crease.

I’ll admit right now — I have never learned to tie meat properly.  I lay out my butcher’s twine in what seems to be a logical way, but then I end up mangling the packing into shape submission with a wish and a prayer.  Yes, yes, I know: I’m on a computer when I’m doing this, why don’t I just Google “how to tie turkey breast?” — but I’m busy, people.  Cooking and taking pictures and managing not to cross-contaminate everything in my kitchen with raw poultry lube in the process is tricky – and tapping away at my keyboard to find an answer I feel I should naturally know just seems wrong.  So I’ll keep going trial and error, until I remember to look this stuff up *before* I get all in medias res.

My erratically tied bosom does provide me with the scaffolding by which to tuck more savory herb leaves against the skin, and I sprinkle it all down with sea salt and black pepper.  I make a roughly football sized bundle of meat.

I set a small saucepan over medium heat, melt my stick of butter, and swirl in a few glugs of EVOO.

I’ve cut two lengths of cheesecloth, just enough to cover my turkey breast completely.  This is a technique  I’ve used for whole turkeys before, and I thought it would work nicely for just a breast, which didn’t have the moistening factor of bones within and a full fatty skin without.  I douse each piece of cheesecloth in melted EVOO butter…

… and drape them over my turkey breast, which I’ve set on a rack over a shallow pan (yes, it’s a cookie sheet, but this jerryrig works!), covering it completely, and tucking the ends under.

And I set this rig into a 325° oven for 2.5 hours to slow roast, checking after each 45 minutes …

… to baste with the drippings.   The house fills with the robust aroma of herbs and sizzling savory meat.

For the last 45 minutes of cook time, I set some carrots in EVOO and honey with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and set the pan in the oven to sweetly roast.

I also break out my Royal trumpet mushrooms.  They are firm and majestic… white and supple… and I loved them.

When my turkey temps at 170 degrees, it’s just about ready.  At that point, I pull it out of the oven just to drain off its sweet sweet buttery turkeyey drippings.  I slide the pan back in the oven to bring the turktemp up to 175.

I add about 1/4 of my butter drippings to a large saucepan…

… into which I dump my chopped mushrooms, a minced shallot, and some salt and pepper.  I stir this up nicely over medium high heat, allowing the mushrooms to soften and absorb all the luscious flavorful fat meltings off the turkey.

I add a few tablespoons at a time of the fat, stirring constantly, until 3/4 of it has been added to the mushrooms.  I let this simmer for a few moments, before adding about a tablespoon of flour and whisking well. This doesn’t turn this sauce  into a thick gravy — rather, it adds a substantialness to the thin butter sauce, making it more of a savory glaze, just perfect for spooning over my mashed potatoes (which I’ve also been preparing on the back burner, boiled and then draining and mashing them, then adding the remaining roasting drippings (oh yeah, baby — butter AND turkey) and some heavy cream  and whisking well).

This is one beautiful bosom.  A golden brown, juicy, tender, supple, white tanned breast crusted with crispy skin, dripping with butter, and clothed in leaves of flavor.  I carefully cut all the strings off, and let the meat set for a few moments before slicing.

I carve into my beautiful breast, slicing it thin, reveling in the crackling skin, the sweating juices, and the savory packed herb center.

Dear Tender, meet Juicy.  She’s so supple you can cut her with a glance, and her golden buttery mushroom cape bursts under the most gentle pressure of your feeding fork.  An ethereal potato pillow stages the scene, and the sweetly roasted carrot spears and some quick EVOO-tossed baby romaine (with salt and pepper and nothing but) accessorizes the beauty queen layered insouciantly across the center of the plate.  Sorry, Mr. Knife — you’re not invited to dinner.  Fork and I will do just fine…