Monday, November 16, 2009

Remains of the Day: Turkey Tetrazzini al Forno and a couple of other ideas too

With the big day looming it's not too early to start thinking about creative uses for the leftover bird.  A longtime family favorite is Turkey Tetrazzini.  I started with Mary Pat Sullivan's ur-recipe, tweaked a little here and there. The biggest change really is the title. Since this is a baked meat sauce, cheese and pasta concoction I want to preempt any allusion to the word "casserole."  Rich, creamy, full of turkey flavor and made from scratch it's earned the respect of the Italian designation al forno.  And though it's an American invention (most commonly credited to the chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco circa 1908 or so, where the Italian-born opera star Luisa Tetrazzini resided),Tetrazzini al Forno just sounds better.

Here's an important note -- keep the extra turkey fat that accumulates in the roasting pan and that will rise to the top of the turkey stock you'll be making from the remains.  It adds so much flavor to these recipes, more so than butter alone.  In addition to Tetrazzini al Forno, there follows a couple of other tasty suggestions to use all the wonderful turkey broth you'll wind up with after simmering the carcass with the standard aromatic vegetable flavorings. Don't forget the bay leaf! As a bonus there's an amusing anecdote from Mom telling how she acquired this recipe.


2 T. butter
1/2 red pepper
1/2 lb. Cremini mushrooms
4 cups leftover turkey meat, white and dark, pulled apart into bite-sized pieces -- pulled preferred to chopped for more rustic results
6 T. turkey fat (see note above)
4 T. flour
2 cups turkey stock
1 pint half and half
1 cup dry sherry
1 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus some extra for the topping
1 lb. good pasta -- I used an interesting and sturdy variety called Fiori.
1 package frozen baby peas
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Salt and pepper to be added judiciously throughout the preparations

Chop the red pepper into nice smallish squares and thinly slice the mushrooms. Add the 2 T. of butter to a saute pan over medium heat and add the red peppers.  Give the peppers a couple of minutes head start, then add the sliced mushrooms and gently saute it all together for another five minutes.  Set aside.

Make the sauce:  heat the turkey fat in a sauce pan, and when nice and hot add the flour.  Boil this roux a minute or so, wisking all the while, to cook off the flour flavor.  Add the turkey broth, the half and half and the sherry, bring up to an easy boil, reduce heat a bit and simmer for three to five minutes.  Stir in the turkey meat and the cheese, making sure it's all well distributed and heated through.

Meanwhile boil the pasta just 'til al dente -- really al dente, like seven or eight minutes tops, it's going to cook more in the oven and you don't want it mushy. During the last minute of boiling add the frozen peas.  Drain well.

Now mix it together -- meat and cheese sauce, peppers and mushrooms, pasta and peas -- and place in a buttered two quart baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs, some extra cheese and the slivered almonds. 

Into a preheated 375 degree oven it goes.  Forty five minutes should do it if everything is still pretty hot when you assemble it; an hour or a bit longer if things have cooled down.  It's done when the top is toasty brown and it's bubbling up around the sides.

So here's the story Mom sent with the recipe:

"It was Judy Cassilly's recipe (son Bob, sculptor - founder of City Museum) that we "published" in our recipe book "Not By Bread Alone" (title idea from Dan and artwork done by Bob Cassilly senior). The recipe book and taste luncheon, in which all the recipes in the book were served, was to benefit St. Henry's, an inner city parish we were assisting. ("We" mostly Holy Redeemer and neighbors in Webster Park).
We also had an ice skating party benefit at which we served hot rum punch BEFORE the ice skating - there were several accidents at the rink, most notably a broken arm. Despite the mishaps the party was deemed a big success! (We were so young)"

So back to your leftovers.  You're bound to have more turkey stock, at least some of the turkey meat and fat which is the foundation of another excellent Thanksgiving follow up, TURKEY RISOTTO.  Good thing here is that the stock and fat will do all the heavy lifting when it comes to flavoring the rice, so if you're running low on meat at this point not to worry, you really don't want a meat-laden risotto.  If you've had success with risotto before, Turkey Risotto is pretty much a no-brainer:  start with some of the fat to saute your onions, a bit of garlic or shallots, some mushrooms, then use that wonderful simmering stock as you stir, stir, stir the aborio rice. Thyme is an essential addition, fresh preferred, and lots of chopped parsley too. And more of that good Parmesan cheese.

Lastly, TURKEY SOUP.  My dear friend Trista's mother is Allegra Kent, the famed NYC Ballet prima ballerina.  Allegra once contributed her recipe for turkey soup to a special section we did at Good Housekeeping, along with this this photo from one of her celebrated roles, George Balanchine's Bugaku. Her caption was priceless:  "I bend over backwards to give my children a healthy bowl of soup."  She said her exact memories are vague and, “memory sometimes becomes hallucination…” but if she were to recreate the soup today she would do mushroom and barley if she had just a little turkey leftover and veggies and brown rice (cooked separately) if she had a lot of turkey.
Allegra is a very good cook. As a rule she hews to the healthy side, though she can whip up a killer apple strudel too.  She wrote down her recipe as she put one together at Thanksgiving many years back and as soon as that turns up I'll share it with you too.

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