28 November, 2010

Leftover, but still delicious!

Today is Sunday, exactly three days after Being Thankful Day, and I STILL have leftovers in my fridge (oh don’t scoff…you know you do too)! Since harmful bacterial issues will start to taint my food here soon, I thought it best to salvage everything I could into a few, all-in-one dishes that can be eaten today or frozen for later.

A popular way to re-fresh cooked meat and veggies is to make a mayonnaise-based turkey (chicken, ham, Turducken) salad. You will find on this blog that I rarely use formal recipes, and even when I do I re-arrange things to suit my tastes or what ingredients I already have on-hand. Here you are:

(This photo is before the wet ingredients were added, and I didn't have carrots.)
  • I cut the meat into un-uniform, small chunks so that I can actually get a bit of meat with each bite and not just stringy mush.
    • Then I add celery, carrots, onions, maybe broccoli, walnuts, raisins or dried cranberries, dill seed, some dry mustard, mayo, a squeeze of lemon, salt/pepper (freshly cracked if you can - it really does make a difference), and/or pickles (I like cornichon gerkins because they are full of flavor, or quick pickles that I make myself – pickled anise root stems are a particular favorite, just read this great article in the Chicago Tribune and use whatever veggie sounds good). A curried version is yummy too! Add raisins/cranberries, celery, walnuts, onions, carrots, salt/pepper, mayo, and curry powder. Want it super rich - sub half the mayo for coconut milk!
    • Let sit at least a few hours or overnight. It also works nicely with all those extra crackers/bread you have from your Thanksgiving appetizers. Whaalah!

    Another staple in my diet is soup – glorious soup! You don’t need to know fancy preparation techniques and you can add basically anything and you get something edible. It’s also great right now as the weather turns nippier. So here is one way to turn lots of leftover, individual things into a nourishing whole meal:

    • *First I suggest skipping down to the section on stock so that if you want to make your own, you can do that before starting the soup.* Then start cutting up all of your vegetables so that you can add them quickly in order from hardest/densest to softest. 
    •  Saute some onions and garlic in oil (preferably olive for its flavor) until translucent. Then add any root veggies like potatoes, squash, carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc. (I used kohlrabi and yams in mine). Give all of that a few minutes to soften up.
    • Then add less-substantial vegetables like celery, tomatoes, corn and peas (if they are frozen, otherwise if they're fresh, I would add them in after the onions/garlic), beans (canned work fine), broccoli, broccoli raabe (rapini), or whatever you have. Stir. *If any of these are already cooked, don’t add them until the end of the cooking process.*
    • Add your meat and don’t forget the bones if you have them! For any good meat soup, bones are what makes a lot of that hidden taste and substance...you know, when you taste something and go, “I can’t quite place what that is!” *If you want to keep this soup vegetarian then skip this step.
    • Next add the stock – veggie, chicken, beef, whatever – and herbs (I used dried thyme, rosemary, paprika, and bay leaves), and salt/pepper to taste, and let cook until it is all tender and fused together. My meat had some rice stuck to it from the jambalaya stuffing in our Turducken and it helped thicken the broth and infuse extra seasoning! 


    Very satisfying!


    *I recommend always making your own stock. When you buy produce, keep the leafy tops, skin peels, lettuce ends, and other un-edible parts and save them in your fridge. Do the same with meat bones to use in either the stock or the soup itself. When you’ve collected a good amount, boil everything together in a big pot for a few hours to get out as much of the flavor and nutrients as possible. I always then turn off the heat, put a lid on it, and just let it cool on its own (or in the fridge if you don’t have time) to really saturate the broth. When it's all cooked, don't forget to extract as much broth from the boiled vegetables as you can since they hold water and are bloated with a lot of broth. I find it easiest to press with a mashed potato, but even the bottom of a mug would work. This also freezes great (which is why I already had some to make today's soup)!*
    

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