Still Loving the Leftovers – In Classic Fashion

Even though we’ve had three days of feasting: two dinners and two lunches at our house, one dinner in town with another branch of the family.

leslie land thanksgiving bouquet

Local Thanksgiving bouquet – the very last chrysanthemums

Twelve people ate here between Thursday night and Saturday morning– several of us more than once – so even though the Poughkeepsie branch ( Saturday night) had leftovers of its own we ought, by rights, to be out of turkey.

We are not, even though the bird only weighed 12 pounds after I got done boning it.  There was so much other food the turkey was as in my opinion it should be, almost incidental.

If you don’t remember to remove the string that helped restore approximate turkey shape, the starring bird will have a bikini line.

If you don’t remember to remove the string that helped restore approximate turkey shape, the starring bird will have a bikini line.

What to do with the leftover turkey besides eat it is one of those subjects – like the yearly advent of strawberry season – that makes veteran food columnists think warmly about retirement. There cannot be a possibility that has not already been explored.

On the other hand, it’s not clear exploration is wanted. At least not all the time; some dishes deserve to be classics and since this year’s menu* was a tribute to same it seems only reasonable that soon we’ll be enjoying another hardy perennial:


Named for the Italian diva, Luisa Tetrazzini, a coloratura who made her US debut in 1908, toured the country in subsequent years and wowed ‘em  with the Chicago Opera in 1912 -13. The recipe’s origins are shrouded in mystery, but we can surmise that it too was a hit. It’s in the 1912 edition of Fannie Farmer’s New Book of Cookery (Where it doesn’t, pace Wikipedia, include any almonds) so it must have been pretty widely known by 1911.

If you grew up on one of the many “quick” versions of T.T. you’re probably glad the fashion has switched to things like turkey tacos. Canned soup can easily put one off cream sauce forever. But the real thing is really delicious. Inconvenient though this truth may be, after the sandwich and cold stuffing phase, leftover turkey breast is happiest in the company of dairy products.

8 ounces spaghetti

1/2 cup butter

1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced

3 1/2 tablespoons flour

3 cups turkey or chicken stock

3 tablespoons dry sherry

1 1/2 cups light cream or 3/4 cup each heavy cream and milk

salt and white pepper to taste

3 1/2 cups bite size pieces of cooked turkey breast

1 1/2 cups coarse dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Cook the spaghetti. Chop it into 3 inch lengths and set it aside.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a non-reactive skillet over medium heat, add the mushrooms and sauté until well browned. Remove and reserve.

3. Add 3 tablespoons more butter to the skillet, stir in the flour and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Slowly stir in the chicken stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and creamy, 15-20 minutes. Stir in the sherry and cream, season to taste with salt and white pepper and reserve. Butter a shallow casserole – a gratin pan is ideal.

4. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine half of the sauce with the mushrooms and spaghetti and place the mixture in a ring around the sides of the casserole. Combine remaining sauce with turkey and put it in the middle.

5. Melt remaining butter, mix with breadcrumbs and cheese and spread this topping evenly. Bake until browned and bubbling, about 45 minutes.

8 servings.

Note: Many modern recipes call for peas and/or red bell pepper in addition to almonds. The nuts are overkill in my opinion, but at least true to the spirit of the thing. Once you start adding vegetables like peas you might as well skip the spaghetti and crumbs and go directly to pot pie.

Remains of the day:

leslie land kitchen fridge, day after thanksgiving

*Somewhere in there among the staples, indulgences, and half-consumed jars of jam, there is a lot what’s left of This Year’s Menu:

classic renditions of roast turkey and giblet gravy, bread stuffing (with onions, celery, sausage and chestnuts), corn pudding, greens from the garden, cranberry sauce, and Mamie Eisenhower’s pumpkin pie. The green salad from the garden is long gone and so is the apple pie. There isn’t any leftover squash because I didn’t make any and the other leftover dessert has no business in this lineup, being a very Italian pear crostata, based on an apple one from In Nonna’s Kitchen, by the estimable Carol Field.

Don’t see the turkey? It’s

in the cellar

in the cellar

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