Friday, December 9, 2011

Eating Omily: Waste Not...

Woo, ok, so now that we're just two weeks and two days away from Christmas, I'm ready to talk about, Thanksgiving!
Well, not so much the amazing orgy of cooking and face-stuffing that happens the day of, although that's pretty cool, and yes, that's my husband's Thanksgiving plate right there, and not even the important implications of what you're stuffing into your face that day. (Got that for you right here.)

No, I want to talk about that moment when your plate is clean, or at least as clean as its going to get, and you glance up at the table, and with a creeping sense of horror, realize it's still covered in food. Food that, for today anyway, no one is going to eat. Before you can begin to wash a single dish, all that food has to be carefully stored and cataloged. Your mind whirs through your Tupperware it enough? Is there room in the freezer for the turkey carcass??

It may be the tryptophan making you feel so overwhelmed. With a few extra pairs of hands, everything gets squared away in a reasonable amount of time, and by then there just might be room for a slice of pie. Crisis: averted.

Msybe the next moment happens when you open the fridge to get out some milk for your cereal, and are hit in the foot with a giant tub of cranberry sauce. Maybe you think you'll have yourself a turkey sandwich for lunch, only to be faced with the realization that NO ONE can eat enough turkey sandwiches to get through this bird.

Whatever the case, you've probably had this moment: when a fridge full of fully cooked, utterly delicious food suddenly feels like a burden instead of something to be thankful for. Don't panic! There is a way to not let all that nutrition go to waste, and no, it doesn't require bagging it up and handing it out to the homeless, which is not to say that's such a bad idea.

Step one, of course, is to make proper use of your fridge and freezer. Carve all the meat off your bird, put as much as your household will eat in a couple days in the fridge, and put the rest, split up into similar quantities, into the freezer. This allows you to pull out and thaw turkey as you need it, while keeping the rest from going bad. If you have soup as part of your meal (people look forward to my pumpkin soup lunch all year long...split that up and freeze it, too. It's not rocket science, really: only put in your fridge what you can eat before it will go bad. Put the rest in the freezer in a way that doesn't make it impossible to use. Six pounds of left-over turkey frozen all together will take ages to thaw, and unless you've got an army, will never all get eaten before the microbes take the day.

Step two: get creative! Turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce are great, sure, and everyone enjoy reheating a plate of the whole feast complete with gravy once or twice, but if it starts to feel like the same food everyday, no one is going to eat it. My favourite suggestions:

My Grandma's recipe for potato pancakes: lots of butter melted in the pan, and left over mashed potatoes patted into patties. Medium heat so you get a good sizzle, and really get in there and scrape up the pancake with your spatula so the golden crunchy goodness stays with your breakfast and not with the pan. These are the perfect fancy-schmancy feeling substitute to hashbrowns with your bacon and eggs. Nom!

My recipe for turkey soup: this uses up a lot of turkey fast, and can be made in a big batch and frozen in it's own right. I like it especially because there's always a box of chicken stock hanging around my fridge post-Thanksgiving, and this is the only thing I can think of to do with it. Just do the Master Soup Recipe: lots of onions in lots of fat, add some celery or carrots if you've got it, and plenty of salt. After several minutes, add some dried spices, cook a little longer, and then add the broth or water. I stir in lots of chopped kale at this point, and a generous splash of white wine. When it's all coming together and tasting like soup, stir in the shredded turkey just to heat through.

Double-whammy Left-Over Meal: put a scoop of stuffing (or mashed potatoes) in a bowl, and ladle hot soup over it. No need for bread or crackers!

I am a huge fan of my home-made cranberry sauce. It packs a tart punch, and a beautiful citrusy accent. As much as I like it though, I can only eat so much a day, and I always make too much. My favourite solution? You've got to try this: a few spoonfuls of cranberry sauce stirred together with a shot of whiskey. Add ice, and top off with seltzer. The perfect holiday nightcap, complete with whole cranberry garnishes!

You can also throw your turkey into a quesadilla, nachos, pasta, breakfast scramble, frittata, pot pie, stir-fry, casserole, etc. etc. etc.

And how about that sad bag of bones and connective tissues you've carved the meat off of? Garbage, right? No!! I know you haven't spirit enough to embark on this journey on Turkey Day; bag that carcass and freeze it for now. When you have a free afternoon, through it in a big pot with a onion, a few garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, and lots of salt, bring it to a boil, then knock it back to a simmer and let it go for several hours until you have warm, yellow, delicious stock with a pleasant, silky body. Now, you may throw away the carcass. You can use up the stock right away for a huge pot of soup if you like; generally I fill containers in the fridge with it, and then rotate it all through my icecube trays till I have a gallon bag or two of stock-cubes all ready for my use in the freezer. Ten stock cubes=one cup of stock.

Sorry guys, I failed at taking pictures of the deliciousness that's been going on in my house post-Thanksgiving. But to make up for it, here are some pictures of my husband man-handling the turkey pre-roasting, and my cat attempting to steal Christmas presents!

Live Omily,

Got your own left-over magic? Please share! I've still got cranberry sauce and stuffing to contend with...

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