How many variations of turkey dishes have you made since Thanksgiving? How quickly did you have your fill of turkey soup, turkey tetrazzini or turkey sandwiches?
Your turkey ennui is not unusual, of course, but I recently saw a preview of a food history of eating habits in the United States beginning in colonial times and it’s a good thing we have refrigerators, stoves and microwaves. I don’t think, given our current tastes, that many – or any – of us would be very pleased to be having cold mutton or mutton soup for breakfast.
But back in the days before our modern conveniences, folks did whatever they had to do to stave off hunger, avoid waste, and use what was at hand.
Leftovers, like beauty, are in the eye (or taste buds) of the beholder. I know a number of people who will not eat leftovers under any circumstance. Even they can’t tell me exactly why that is. But it’s a colossal waste of food. I do recall when I was growing up my mother used to prepare a plate for occasional household help – babysitters, cleaners, coal delivery men. Most people did that back then. People just didn’t waste food.
Factory workers, miners, retail clerks, office workers and the like brown-bagged their lunches and most were made from dinner from the night before. After World War II and the Great Depression, we were a frugal nation. Not so much any more, I’m afraid.
Food regulations prevent us from dropping off leftovers at homeless shelters and food banks for good reason. Regrettably, so much of what we prepare, especially for Thanksgiving, goes to waste.
In my home, our Thanksgiving tradition is a Cajun specialty known as Tur-Duc-Hen, or turducken. It’s a stuffed deboned chicken, inside a stuffed deboned duck, inside a mostly deboned turkey. Only the wings and drumsticks of the turkey remain. It’s roasted the same way you would roast any poultry. But over the last few years my wife and I determined that our turducken tasted much better in the days after Thanksgiving after being reheated.
The light bulb went on.
For the last couple of years, I have treated my turducken as a leftover and roasted it the day before, just shy of the final temperature (165 degrees) and then heated it to temperature on Thanksgiving Day. For some reason, it just tastes better, and our guests (who are now regular annual invitees) seem to agree.
Leftovers are in the taste buds of the beholder, to be sure. But here’s a quick recipe that I created for a specialty crepe shop that was a huge hit. If you don’t want to make a crepe, it works just as well on a heated tortilla.
Spread a thin layer of cream cheese, top it with thinly sliced turkey and top that with a layer of leftover stuffing. Top that with some leftover cranberry sauce, and top it all with some of those canned french-fried onions. Fold your crepe or tortilla, heat it and enjoy some leftovers like you’ve never tasted them before.
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