This year I spent Thanksgiving with my wonderful co-workers at the hospital. You see, Trouble never takes a holiday! That being said, it seems Trouble remained at a minimum in our sleepy little town and we had a slow day filled with homemade goodness (everyone contributed something!) and I was left mostly free to contemplate how I would prepare my contribution to our family’s Thanksgiving, which had been postponed until Friday to accommodate my work schedule.
I called my mom Monday afternoon to see what she needed me to bring and she mentioned she was worried she might be short on turkey.
So I immediately volunteered to cook a turkey breast to supplement my mom’s turkey.
Then I hung the phone up and thought to myself: “Wait…WHAT WAS I THINKING?!? I don’t know anything about cooking turkey! I’ve never done it before!”
And then I went out and bought myself an eight pound, skin-on, bone-in turkey breast so I could be sure it was completely thawed by Friday.
As it turned out there wasn’t a whole lot to worry about. Thursday night I made a simple, concentrated brine of brown sugar, salt, bay leaves, garlic and cracked black pepper and let it all steep in hot water until it came to room temperature. Then I put the turkey breast in a large oven bag, poured the brine over it, and added water until the turkey was completely covered. After that I stuck it in the fridge and left it ‘til Friday morning.
Friday morning I woke in a panic at 6:30, thinking I hadn’t given myself enough time to cook the turkey!
As it turns out, after a quick blast at 450° for about 30 minutes then another two and a half hours at 350° it came out perfect, so really I had way more than enough time for roasting, and then the challenge was keeping it warm until it was time to leave for Mom and Dad’s! I let the turkey breast rest upside down so the juices would redistribute in the meat, and poured off the rich, brown drippings to use in the gravy. There was a good, thick layer of the butter I’d stuffed under the skin sitting on top of the drippings…it made for a great base for the gravy!
Thanksgiving is not a healthy holiday.
The turkey turned out to be delicious, but my beautiful, golden, crackling skin was pure rubber by the time we ate. On the other hand, the moist, flavorful, butter-saturated meat more than made up for it.
And the reward was there was a surplus of turkey this year (a rarity in our family) and I got to take it home!
Which brings me to today’s subject:
Specifically, turkey leftovers in Turkey Tetrazzini.
I wish I could say this dish is good for you. I wish I could say it is low fat, low calorie, gluten free, lactose free and healthy, but I can’t.
If I said that, I’d be lyin’ to ya.
And I don’t like lying to my friends!
It is rich, it is creamy, it is decadent and it uses a ton of cheese!
But, golly. It sure is tasty.
Cook up a pound of spaghetti, but cut the cooking time short by a few minutes. The pasta should still be pretty undercooked…if you bite into a strand there should be that little raw, floury bit right in the center of it.
Meanwhile, make the sauce!
Start with 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, diced, and ½ a large onion, also diced. Those peas in the corner will get used in a bit.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the mushrooms and the onion.
The mushrooms will immediately put off a lot of liquid.
Let this evaporate, then continue sautéing the mushrooms and onions until they are golden brown and beginning to caramelize. Don’t add any salt until all the liquid has evaporated!
While the mushrooms are cooking down, mince up a few cloves of garlic.
(I had a picture of the minced garlic, but my computer is freaking out an I can’t get it to download. But then, you know what minced garlic looks like, so I guess you don’t need a photo of it!)
See that color? That’s what yer lookin’ for. Yum.
Now you can add some salt!
Now’s also when I should have added the garlic, but I didn’t because I’m a space cadet.
Don’t be a space cadet. Add the garlic now. Then give it a stir and add a cup (or so) or white wine.
Stir this up and let it cook until the wine is reduced by half.
Your kitchen should smell insanely good right now!
Then sprinkle about 4 tablespoons of flour over the mushroom, wine, onion, garlic mixture.
Give it another stir, and pour in a cup of turkey or chicken stock.
Stir this in well to avoid lumps, then stir in one cup of heavy cream and two cups of milk.
If the sauce is too thick, stir in more stock, milk or cream, depending on how concerned you are about calories.
But then, let’s face it; if you’ve gotten this far you are probably ignoring the calorie count!
(Here is where I added the garlic, and it worked out okay in the end, but the sauce had that really powerful, raw garlic bite that overpowered the flavor and made it hard to season. In the finished dish the garlic really mellowed out and was still delicious, but I was sweating about whether I’d over salted it!)
Next grate up some fresh nutmeg and sprinkle that in.
Also add a few grinds of black pepper, and then add the turkey
And the peas…
Then grate up a pound of mozzarella and grab a couple cups worth of grated parmesan!
Dump the undercooked spaghetti and half of each kind of cheese into the sauce and stir it all up!
And here is where I actually chose to use a little self-restraint…I poured half of the mixture into a casserole dish to cook up today, and poured the other half into another casserole dish to freeze for later! And if you are cooking for more than just a couple of people, you may want to do this as well. Top each casserole with the remaining cheese.
To finish, preheat the oven to 350° and bake until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden brown. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
See all that cheese stretching off the fork?
That’s why I love this dish!
Here’s the recipe!
(Makes 12-15 servings)
1 lb spaghetti noodles, cooked until just a couple minutes shy of al dente
4 tbs. butter
8 oz. diced mushrooms
½ large or one small onion, diced
2-3 tbs. minced garlic (about 5 cloves)
1 c. white wine
4 tbs. flour
2 c. chicken or turkey stock
2 c. whole milk
1 c. heavy cream
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 c. frozen green peas
4 c. shredded, cooked turkey or chicken
1 lb. shredded mozzarella, divided
1 ½ c. shredded parmesan, divided
Pre heat oven to 350º
While the pasta cooks, melt butter in a large, heavy stock pot over medium high heat. When the foam subsides, add the mushrooms and onions. Do not salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the onions and mushrooms begin to caramelize. Sprinkle in ½ tsp salt (or to taste) and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute or until the garlic becomes fragrant but has not begun to brown. Pour in wine and stir until it has reduced by half. Sprinkle flour over the mushroom mixture and stir. Gradually pour in stock, milk, and cream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil and let bubble for 2 minute. Turn off heat and stir in nutmeg, ground black pepper, peas and turkey. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Use ample seasoning so the noodles are flavorful in the finished casserole!
Stir the spaghetti and half of each of the cheeses into the sauce. Pour into an oven proof casserole. Top with remaining cheeses. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, golden brown and bubbly.
Let rest for at least 10 minutes before digging in.
For the love of your heart and arteries, please serve a simple salad with low-fat vinaigrette on the side!
Eat and be happy!