Oh! Thanksgiving Leftovers!

Guest Post by Ruby Dee

Ah, Autumn… every year as temperatures drop and produce begins to shift to Fall and Winter staples- cranberries, apples, squashes and root vegetables- I proclaim that this is the very best of all seasons and my absolute favorite. Of course, I’m fairly certain that come spring, I say pretty much the same thing about that season, and its bounty of fruits and vegetables particular to that time of year. Not to mention the sun’s return and being able to head back outside after a winter indoors.

However, we’re not heading into spring right now. We’re happily beginning to hunker down for the winter ahead, as evidenced by the change in weather and what’s in the produce bins at our local market. And I can’t be happier about that. Because, and I’ll say this any time of year, we’re heading straight down the road towards my favorite meal of all time to prepare and dine upon: thanksgiving dinner. Oh! The flavor combinations! Oh! The leftovers!

Every year, we invite a varied mix of folks to our thanksgiving table- those who are unable to join their families elsewhere, those who, for whatever reason, have nowhere else to go, and those who choose to dine with us. No matter how many guests we have joining us, I always cook more than is needed for the number of folks gathering around our table, since the very best part of thanksgiving- aside from sharing a good meal with friends- is, indeed, the leftovers. In fact, during the two or three days I spend preparing our thanksgiving meal, I often dream about how I will cook the scrumptious scraps for our meals the following week.

I have a few standard recipes that include nearly every bit of leftovers, and yet do not simply mimic the meal we just shared with friends. Ie: no warmed up turkey, stuffing, etc. as is. By creating an entirely new dish, yet adhering to the flavor palate already established by the recently prepared ingredients, I keep our meals interesting. It would be the greatest shame to become bored with anything to do with thanksgiving! That would be sacrilege, in my kitchen. So instead, I make dishes redolent of that revered meal, yet altered slightly to keep them real.

Some of my favorite thanksgiving leftover recipes are actually all-time classics with a simple twist here or there; and voila, leftovers become new again. Some years I opt to make a casserole layering all the leftovers into a lasagna of sorts, sans pasta. I’ll spread a layer of stuffing in the casserole pan, then a layer of mashed potatoes, then green beans, turkey, cranberry sauce, caramelized onions, and gravy, top it all with another layer of stuffing, pour a bit of broth over the whole affair, and bake at 400° until the topping is slightly crisp and the casserole is heated through. Oh that is good.

Other years, I opt for a Mexican version of that same dish. For this, I toss portion-sized helpings of each of the leftovers into my favorite iron skillet and warm them together as a hash. At the same time, I warm fresh, locally made corn tortillas. Once they are softened, I place a dollop of the leftover hash into a tortilla, roll it up, and place it into a greased casserole pan. When I have finished filling all the tortillas and laying them side by side in the pan, I pour a mixture of half spaghetti sauce, half salsa (about 1 cup each = 2 cups) over the rolled tortillas, sprinkle grated cheddar cheese over that, and bake the enchiladas for about 25-30 minutes at 400° in the oven. Need I mention how tasty those are?

And still, other years, I blend ingredients together with broth and warm them to make a wonderful thanksgiving style tortilla soup. Or… you know, I guess I really can’t plan this part of the meal. I just create whatever comes to me in the moment. And maybe that is why thanksgiving leftovers are my favorite! No matter how you look at it though, Autumn flavors are upon us, and I can hardly wait for a simmering batch of pumpkin soup, savory-sweet roasted apple-potato gratin, and that first bite of maple-herbed turkey and wild mushroom-cornbread stuffing.

Well, I’m off to make my thanksgiving shopping list. Happy cookin’, wherever you are. Stay warm, and I’ll see you in the kitchen next time around, RD

Ruby Dee, from Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers, brings many years various life experiences along for the ride. Ruby grew up traveling back and forth from Northern California foothill ranches to the cotton and oil fields of the Texas panhandle. She enrolled in college at 15, and dropped out to hit the streets as a punk. Later, she spent years fishing in Alaska, driving big rigs, and owning restaurants in Seattle, Washington, until she finally gave all that up to settle down back in Texas, where she is at long last furthering her career as a writer and singer/songwriter. These experiences are reflected in Ruby’s writing style, and in the band’s hopped up high-octane successes on stage and on the road.

Ruby’s latest release, “Live From Austin Texas”, out on Dionysus Records, is currently on the AMA and Texas Third Coast Music charts and has earned the band two Grammy pre-nominations for Best Americana Duo/Group and Best Americana Album. Her cookbook, “Ruby’s Juke Joint Americana Cookbook”, will be available at the end of November, and includes a CD of music to cook by, including original songs by Marti Brom, Two Hoots and a Holler, Lloyd Tripp, Teri Joyce, Earl Poole Ball, and others (and Ruby, of course!).

For more information on Ruby’s Juke Joint Americana Cookbook, or to contact the author, go to www.rubysjukejoint.com. Also, of course, all the usual suspect places: Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Rubys-Juke-Joint-Americana-Cookbook/183336818364780 and Twitter at @rubysjukejoint. Catch ya in the kitchen!

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Posted on November 22, 2011, in Cooking & Food. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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