Tag Archives: Thanksgiving leftovers

The Return of Spice

After four blissful days of Thanksgiving leftovers, I thought I had finally eaten my fill of turkey.  Oh, it had been fun to pull all of those containers out of the fridge and assemble a heaping plate, put it in the microwave, and then eat all of that gravy-soaked goodness in front of the TV in sweatpants.  It was comforting after a very busy couple of weeks to not think at all–not about what groceries were needed, or what to cook, or where we should go for dinner, or even what I felt like eating, because it was a foregone conclusion that it would be turkey again.

And then the leftovers were all gone, and just in time.  Enough stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  I longed for color!  I craved spice!

I had saved a bit of leftover turkey in the freezer, thinking that I would use it in the next month or so.  But I discovered that I still had a hankering for just a little more…which meant that it was the perfect opportunity for a curry recipe I had seen on one of my favorite food blogs.   Miss Julie’s Chicken Curry had been in the back of my mind for a few weeks.  Like all of the recipes on Natalie’s Kitchen, it looked warm, delicious, and homey in the best English tradition, the kind of meal you want to eat on a rainy night in front of a blazing fire.

But the curry had to wait, as we headed into a series of holiday parties and dinners, and then Thanksgiving.  It was temporarily pushed aside by an intense, but ultimately short-lived affair with carbohydrates and one free-range turkey known as Gobbly.

At last, stuffing and potatoes were a mere memory and it was manifestly time for a rich, spicy curry.  So I pulled out the recipe and started converting British measurements to American approximations.

I needed some vegetables—and after all, who doesn’t?  So I added cauliflower and peas to the curry.  This basic recipe allows for endless variations.  It can go vegetarian easily–with tofu, garbanzo beans, spinach, or mushrooms.  It will also accommodate whatever meat you may have on hand—just substitute chicken or lamb or even shrimp for the leftover turkey.

There were a few magical moments as this curry came together.  The first was when I processed the onions with the immersion blender.  This resulted in a puree that was so rich, thick, and aromatic that I knew the finished sauce was going to be something special.  The second was when I stirred in the cream, tasting as I went.  Suddenly, it was obvious that I had added the perfect amount of cream, as the sauce went from sharp to smooth, from edgy to velvety–becoming something quite different than before—rich and rounded and amazing.

If you still have leftover turkey begging to be put to good use, make this curry tonight.  Your taste buds will celebrate the return of spice.

Turkey Curry
(adapted from Natalie’s Kitchen)

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh diced ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 pinch garam masala
  • ¼ tsp powdered ginger
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup turkey stock (or chicken, or vegetable)
  • 1 tbsp each, lemon and lime juice
  • 1 tbsp chutney
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 2 cups cooked diced turkey (or chicken, tofu, or garbanzo beans)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and butter, then add sliced onions and sauté for a few minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and sauté for a few minutes longer.  Remove from heat and process with an immersion or regular blender until smooth.

Return onions to heat and add spices, stirring well.  Add diced tomatoes, stock, lemon and lime juices, chutney, and cauliflower.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Add peas and turkey.  Reduce heat and cook gently until heated through. Add cream slowly, tasting as you go, until the sharp acidity of the sauce is gone.

Serve with rice.

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Turkey Stock

I am not thankful for snow.   Specifically, I am not thankful for the pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm Seattle had this year.  While hell is generally assumed to be hot, I am pretty sure it actually looks something like Seattle on a snow day, and rather than the crackle of flames, one hears only eerie silence periodically broken by the whizzing sound of cars sliding into ditches.  And each other.  We are just not equipped.

I am thankful that the snow tapered off by Thanksgiving morning, allowing all of my dinner guests to arrive safely.  We had a blazing fire and a kitchen full of cooks, and all of the good food and good cheer that we could possibly have wished for.

And I am thankful for an abundance of leftovers.  Everyone went home with their share, and Michael and I still had enough to eat for three days.  Plus more turkey in the freezer, and plenty of turkey stock.

I have found it best to deal with the turkey carcass as soon as possible.  If I leave it in the refrigerator for a few days, it always turns out that after picking off the white meat, I start to lose interest in the desiccated remains huddled under their blanket of ripped and crumpled foil.  Therefore, the morning after Thanksgiving, while the dishwasher hummed and the welcome rain melted the last of the snow, I stripped the remaining meat from the bones and made stock.

Turkey stock is so easy to make, and it is like having pure gold in your freezer.  At its most basic, all you need is a carcass, a large pot, and some water.  However, a few additions can improve that basic stock immeasurably.

The method:

Strip all useable meat from the turkey carcass.  Put the carcass in a large stockpot, along with a quartered onion, a few scrubbed carrots, and any leftover celery on hand.  Add a handful of fresh parsley if you have it, a bay leaf, and a teaspoon each of thyme and sage. If you saved the turkey neck and giblets, toss those in too.  Cover with water and simmer for 3-4 hours uncovered.   The volume should reduce itself by about half.  Strain the stock through a cheesecloth-lined colander and discard all solids.  Cool the stock in the refrigerator.  You can lift off the fat that rises to the top, or leave it for a richer stock.  Freeze in measured batches.  I like to freeze stock in 1-cup containers, but some people also freeze it in ice cube trays and collect the stock-cubes in a Ziploc, to be thawed as needed.

After you have had a chance to get over the post-Thanksgiving surplus of turkey, maybe the next time the temperature dips and the snow starts again, you can pull that turkey stock out of the freezer and have the foundation for a rich, hot, soul-warming homemade soup.

Now that’s heaven.

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