FORMARO FLASHBACK: THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I thought I’d look back to last year’s post about dealing with the holiday’s inevitable leftovers. Try some of these recipes out this year and have a great Thanksgiving!

Growing up in an Italian-American household meant that my Thanksgivings were a bit different than the Norman Rockwell-approved gatherings. Besides those traditional, new-world dishes (turkey, stuffing, etc), Mom went all out on all our Italian favorites. We especially loved my Mom’s Thanksgiving lasagna, and I have fond memories of waiting in line at Graziano Brothers to get ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, sausage and Elana Piccola pasta, which my mom insisted on using for her lasagna (I’ll do a separate post about Mom’s Thanksgiving day lasagna down the road).

If you’re like me, you’ll have tons of this stuff left over after Thanksgiving.

So what does all this mean? Well, usually the family would go after all that good Italian food and largely leave the turkey and fixings untouched at our holiday table. For days after Thanksgiving, we’d eat the leftover turkey in the form of sandwiches on toasted American bread (that’s what my Mom called everyday sliced white bread) with Miracle Whip and sometimes a slice of cheese. While that’s still a classic approach, I’ve developed some new ways to take care of that leftover bird. And like me, you may even find yourself getting an extra turkey or the biggest damn one you can find just so you can try these out. Here are three recipes that make great use of turkey (or Gateway’s rotisserie chickens). I put these together in the Gateway kitchen and just pulled everything I needed straight from the shelves.

BUFFALO TURKEY SALAD PITA

1 pound cooked turkey breast, diced
4 ounces Gorgonzola or crumbled Maytag Blue
1 rib celery, finely minced
1 cup mayo
4 ounces green onions, finely chopped
1 ounce Louisiana hot sauce
salt to taste
4 pita breads, lightly toasted
finely shredded lettuce
diced red onion
diced tomato

Mix ingredients. Eat. It’s that simple.

This one’s stupidly simple. Just combine the first seven ingredients, mix well and stuff the finished product into a pita. Garnish it with the lettuce, red onion and tomato.

Finished product.

TURKEY, BROCCOLI & CHEDDAR MACARONI

1 pound macaroni, cooked to package instructions

For the cheddar cheese sauce:

4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons corn starch
8 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups blanched broccoli florets (cook in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes and cool)
1 pound cooked diced turkey
1/4 cup sliced green onions (green and white together is fine)
4 teaspoon Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Ol’ Cheese Mountain.

Mix corn starch and water together to make slurry.
Saute chopped garlic; do NOT brown.
Add cream and bring to boil; stirring occasionally.
Add salt and pepper.
Reduce heat and simmer.
Add corn starch and water mixture to thicken sauce; simmer for 1 minute to cook slurry.
Add sour cream.
Add cheddar cheese, melt into sauce.
Add cooked broccoli florets, green onions and Parmesan.
Toss with freshly cooked pasta.

Mix them all together.

How to show off: Top with toasted buttered panko bread crumbs and add cooked Niman Ranch bacon or crispy LaQuercia proscuitto on top.

All ready to go!

BLACK FRIDAY BRUNCH
1 pound diced or shredded turkey
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 small baking potatoes diced into small pieces
1 small onion
1 bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
8 eggs, beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
plenty of salt and pepper (chef’s secret: season each layer individually for maximum flavor)
Cauliflower, optional

The base of your Black Friday Brunch

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium high heat.
Add potatoes and without turning, let them start to brown.
Continue cooking till nicely brown season with salt, pepper and garlic powder; remove and set aside.
In the same pan, add onions, peppers and mushrooms and chopped garlic. You should have plenty of butter or oil left in the pan, if you need more, add 1 tablespoon before adding veggies. Brown slightly; season with salt and pepper.
Add cooked turkey and heat.
Add back fried potatoes.
Add eggs and cook; season with salt and pepper. Do not overcook or over mix.
When eggs are nearly done (or done to your liking), add cheese and melt.
Serve with warm tortillas, salsa and sour cream if you like.

Add some eggs into the mix.

Resist the urge to eat straight from the skillet.

Pair with tortillas, salsa and sour cream for the energy needed to face the deal-hunting savages.

IN CELEBRATION OF STUFFING

Turkey may be the hero of Thanksgiving, but stuffing is the lovable sidekick. Although the word “stuffing” was replaced in the late 19th century with the word “dressing,” we still use both words interchangeably today. No matter what you call it, you can bet it will be on your dinner table this holiday season.

Stuffing had humble, utilitarian beginnings: it was designed to keep your bird from drying out as it cooked. A pleasant bonus was that it resulted in a tasty side dish flavored with the natural cooking juices from the bird. And while stuffing still can serve that purpose, it’s no longer necessary. In fact, starting in the 70’s, Stove Top Stuffing made it possible to enjoy the great taste of stuffing with any meal, any time of the year.

There are several prominent stuffing styles, largely dependent on region and traditions. A few notable styles are:

Traditional – This would consist of stale, dried or toasted white bread, turkey broth, sage, thyme and other spices. Onion and celery are added, usually with cooked giblets. Butter and sometimes egg, cream or a little flour top it off.

Oyster Stuffing – Gaining popularity in the 19th century, this stuffing is generally not seasoned as highly as traditional stuffing. True gourmands would never use sage and thyme… but I would. In fact, you could even update this recipe with smoked andouille sausage, rice, garlic, celery, onion, green pepper, white, black, and cayenne pepper.

Chestnut Stuffing – The base of this stuffing comes from boiled, shelled and mashed chestnuts, often times seasoned minimally with salt and pepper. Additions to this base include breadcrumbs, butter, stock and/or cream. You can add mushrooms, celery, garlic, onion, and an egg for a rich and earthy flavor.

Cornbread and Sausage – This one is popular in the southern United States. Starting with cornbread (not too sweet), add a little broth, butter, sage, thyme, onion, celery, garlic and cooked and crumbled sage-style sausage (or what you may think of as breakfast sausage). Some southern cooks like to add cream of mushroom soup as well as eggs and a little white bread.

While these are some tried-and-true stuffing varieties, don’t be afraid to experiment with unique ingredients. Shrimp, Italian sausage, crayfish, apples, dried fruits, sautéed fresh fennel, ground dried fennel, Cajun seasoning, wild rice and pecans all would give a unique spin on any stuffing recipe.

The Thankskilling at Zombie Burger – complete with stuffing buns!

The Zombie Connection

As you may know, we always enjoy putting a fresh twist on classic dishes. Lately, I’ve been fooling with the idea of forming stuffing into a loaf and slicing it like bread. Last year, we gave it a shot and I’m happy to report that our “stuffing bun” is making another appearance this year at Zombie Burger! Chef Tom is bringing sexy back with the new, improved THANKSKILLING BURGER – complete with house-smoked turkey breast, ham, mashed potato croquette, turkey gravy and fried onion rings, all on a stuffing bun. It’s only available through Nov. 21, though, so hurry up!

NACHO AVERAGE DAY

Happy National Nachos Day! Although the nacho may have Mexican roots, I consider it a uniquely American dish.

The nacho was reportedly invented in the Victory Club, located in the small Mexican border town of Piedras Negras. This club was a popular spot for the wives of U.S. military servicemen stationed across the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, TX.

As the story goes, several women from the base dropped by the Victory Club one day for a bite to eat. Although the restaurant was closed, the maître d’, Ignacio (“Nacho”) Anaya seated them anyway. Ignacio headed back to the empty kitchen and using the only ingredients he had on hand, threw together pieces of tortillas, shredded cheese and jalapeño slices, calling the dish Naco’s Especiales. These “nachos” were a hit and were soon coopted by other restaurants serving their own take of the dish.

The biggest growth in nachos’ popularity can be attributed to a man named Frank Liberto. Frank sold nachos at Arlington Stadium (former home of baseball’s Texas Rangers). Although the elements of the nacho remained the same (chip, cheese and jalapeño), Frank’s nachos introduced a new take. There were was no room for a broiler at the stadium, and real cheese hardens when heated for an extended period of time. To make a product that fans would enjoy, Frank replaced shredded cheese with a cheese sauce that would stay semi-liquid at room temperature and would not separate when held in a warmer for the duration of a game. The jalapeño peppers were also replaced sliced pickled peppers, and the tortillas were pre-fried well in advance of final preparation.

This introduction resulted in an explosion of popularity and the nacho became a global iconic food. Although the original nacho is a simple, honest product, today’s cooks have developed creative, impressive concoctions that take nachos to the next level.

You can make some rather imaginative creations yourself; in my world, it’s perfectly acceptable to substitute flour tortillas, fried wontons skins, even French fries or tator tots for the traditional corn tortilla chip. Any of these will give a unique base to your nacho creations.

Some past Formaro Files recipes can even be incorporated into your custom creations; from short ribs, roast pork and pot roast to the sauce featured in my mac and cheese blog. Try some of the following approaches for a unique spin on nachos – I was able to assemble everything in these photos from items off Gateway Market’s shelves!

  • Pulled short rib tossed with Korean chile paste or Korean BBQ sauce, with shredded cheese, cheese sauce, charred scallions, diced red onion, pico de gallo, chopped cilantro, jalapeños and Sriracha mayo.
  • Roast pulled pork shoulder, red chile salsa, guacamole, cheese, cheese sauce, cilantro sour cream, sliced black olives, sliced jalapeños, green onion, diced onion and chipotle mayo.
  • Ground beef seasoned with garlic and onion with cheese sauce, chopped onion, green onion, black olive and sour cream.
  • Sautéed shrimp with garlic and ground chile, chipotle cream sauce, diced tomato, sour cream, shredded cheese, green onion and corn and black bean salsa.
  • Smoked brisket or pork tossed in sweet and spicy BBQ sauce, cheese sauce, sliced jalapeños, green onion and cheddar cheese
  • Sautéed seasoned chopped spinach, feta cheese, sautéed leeks, green onions, diced onion, diced tomatoes and Alfredo sauce and sliced grilled chicken.
  • Shredded chicken tika masala with sauce, yogurt, feta cheese, diced tomatoes and green onions.

Italian Nachos

  • 2 packages flour tortilla chips; cut into triangles, fry, and salt (for a simpler approach, just use two bags corn tortilla chips)
  • 1 quart Alfredo sauce
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 bunches green onions, chopped
  • 1 lb. shredded jack cheese
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • Chipotle sauce

Place chips in oven-proof baking dish. Top with Italian sausage and shredded jack cheese.

Bake in a 400 degree oven until cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and add your desired amount of Alfredo and chipotle sauce.

Finish with diced tomatoes and red and green onion.

If desired, take this one to the next level by adding salsa, shredded lettuce, sliced black olives, sour cream and pickled jalapeños.