11/24/11 • TURKEY POT PIE
As featured in Vanity Fair • 11/23/2011 • www.vf.com
Everyone has at least one favorite Thanksgiving recipe. I can think of about ten that immediately spring to mind, and over time I hope to bring all of them to you (as Dorie Greenspan once said to me, food is ultimately about sharing, a concept that effectively kills the idea of the “secret recipe”). But this year, for my first Thanksgiving posting, rather than focusing on my favorite stuffing recipe, or my preferred way to roast the bird, I wanted to address what I thought might be a more interesting challenge — namely, what to do with all those holiday leftovers.
I should probably start by saying that I love Thanksgiving. I love the tradition of sharing a big meal with the people I care about; I love the buildup and the preparation to a giant feast; and I love the food. I mean I REALLY love the food. That typically means that despite any promises I may make to myself in advance, by the time the big day arrives, ambition has overtaken good sense and I have considerably more food on the table than our assembled numbers could possibly consume. To some extent that’s intentional — nothing would be more disappointing than spending days cooking only to have it gone in one gut-busting meal; I want the experience to last for at least several more. But as wonderful as a reheated plate of turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc., can be (and truthfully, it can sometimes be even better the second and third time around), there are only so many repeats even the biggest meat-head like me can handle. The same holds true for the much-loved turkey sandwich. So with a nod to Peggy Lee I wondered: is that all there is . . . to Thanksgiving leftovers?
The answer, I felt certain, was no. With that in mind I set about coming up with a recipe that would call into play those post-Thanksgiving elements that most of us have in excess — namely, the turkey, the gravy, and a motley assortment of roasted vegetables. What I envisioned was a way to transform these various stray items into one tidy meal that would taste as pulled together as it looked. In other words, I wanted something that would rid the ingredients of their “leftover” status and imbue them with a purpose all their own. The solution: a casserole.
Admittedly, I type the word “casserole” with a degree of trepidation, as for most of us the term calls up images of 1950s-era dishes that aren’t quite ready for a comeback (tuna casserole anyone? . . . No, I thought not). Still, if you think of a casserole as a variety of ingredients cooked together in the same dish in which it’s ultimately served, a much more enticing array of options come to mind — things like shepherd’s pie, lasagna, and any sort of pot pie. I happen to be a big fan of all of these dishes, both because they’re consistent crowd pleasers, but also because much of the work involved in making them can be done well in advance of chow time, which means that if you’re feeding a crowd you don’t need to be scrambling in the kitchen as your guests arrive.
For all of these reasons — and because I can never get enough of it — chicken pot pie shows up regularly at my house, so a turkey based version seemed a logical way to go here. By taking elements from my favorite chicken pot pie recipe and substituting the meat and sauce called for with the same amounts of my leftover turkey and gravy, I felt certain I could come up with a new day-after-Thanksgiving tradition. And then an idea took hold — instead of a standard pastry topping, why not crown the surface of the turkey mixture with one made of biscuits? Not only would the result be a kind of one dish Thanksgiving dinner, but it would also have some of the qualities of another of my cool weather favorites, chicken and dumplings. And by using leftover meat and gravy, much of the time involved in my admittedly labor-intensive chicken pot pie starting-point would be eliminated, making the cooking process a relatively speedy one. All I’d need to do is roast some vegetables (potatoes, certainly, as well as some carrots, a few handfuls of pearl onions, some sliced Cremini mushrooms, a nice mound of chopped garlic and herbs, all of it tossed with a little olive oil), mix them with the sauce, the diced turkey meat, and a cup of thawed frozen peas, cover with the biscuits (allow ten minutes to prepare these, tops), and presto: Thanksgiving rebooted. Simple.
And delicious, too — so delicious that even when I don’t have four cups of roast turkey meat and gravy sitting in the fridge, I’ll be tempted to make this. (For those who feel the same, or who find they don’t have quite enough leftovers to work with, I’ve included easy recipes for each of these elements below). It’s also spectacular looking, with the golden brown biscuits towering over the bubbling turkey and vegetable mixture. In fact, these biscuits are so impressive they resembled tiny individual souffles (the recipe is based on one from America’s Test Kitchen and is the answer to all the biscuit related hand-wringing expressed in my breakfast biscuit sandwich posting of Sept. 16th). Just be certain to bake the casserole mixture uncovered for about twenty minutes in a hot oven (450 degrees) before adding the dough, as the turkey and sauce must be sufficiently heated to cook the undersides of the biscuits.
Serve with a spoonful or two of leftover cranberry sauce and you may just end up giving the main event a run for its money. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Ingredients for filling:
—4 cups leftover turkey meat (diced in 1” or ½” chunks from about 10 slices; see ingredients and directions below if making fresh)
—4 cups leftover gravy (see ingredients and instructions below if making fresh)
—2 tbs olive oil
—Salt and freshly ground black pepper
—2 cups ½” potato chunks, preferably Yukon Gold
—36 purple pearl onions, peeled and left whole
—2 cups ½” peeled carrot chunks
—1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
—20 button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps halved or quartered (if large)
—2 tbs chopped assorted fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, Italian parsley)
—1 cup defrosted frozen peas
Note: Feel free to add as much as a 1/2 cup leftover cooked vegetables, diced, as well.
Ingredients for biscuit topping:
—8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter
—4 tbs vegetable shortening
—3 cups all-purpose flour
—1 tbs sugar
—1 tbs baking powder
—1 tsp salt
—1/2 tsp baking soda
—1¼ cups buttermilk
Ingredients for roast turkey breast (if not using leftovers):
—1 2¼ boneless turkey breast, net removed
—2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
—1½ tsp coarse salt
—1 tsp freshly ground pepper
—2 tbs chopped rosemary and thyme
Ingredients for gravy (if not using leftovers):
—4 cups homemade turkey stock or store bought low-salt chicken stock
—6 tbs butter
—6 tbs all-purpose flour
—2 tbs chopped assorted fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, Italian parsley)
—6 dried porcini mushrooms
—2 tbs Madeira, preferably Sercial
—Leftover cranberry sauce, for serving
Directions for roasted vegetables and filling:
—Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. In a large roasting pan toss the potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic and mushrooms with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the chopped herbs. Roast until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring the vegetables every fifteen minutes or so. Proceed with gravy, if making (instructions below).
—Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and add the peas, the chopped turkey, and the gravy. Gently stir and adjust seasoning, as needed.
—Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
—Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish and place on top of a cookie sheet (to catch any drips). Place on middle rack in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until beginning to bubble but keeping an eye out to make sure the top doesn’t burn (if it does, cover with foil and continue to cook for the remaining time). Proceed with biscuit topping (instructions below).
Directions for biscuit topping:
—Cut butter and shortening into ½” pieces and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
—Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in food processor until combined. Add chilled butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
—Transfer flour mixture to a large bowl and stir in buttermilk until combined. Turn dough unto lightly floured surface and knead briefly, 8 to 10 times, to form smooth, cohesive ball. Roll dough into a 9” circle, about ¾” thick.
—Using a 3” biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out rounds. Gather remaining dough and pat gently into a ¾” circle to cut additional rounds. Place rounds on cooked turkey mixture, or on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate, covered with plastic warp, for up to 1 day.