Not so long ago, I was the entertaining columnist for Bon Appetit magazine and wrote a monthly feature for almost five years called Entertaining Made Easy. Sometimes I used to laugh and say "Who's kidding who? Entertaining is never easy!" But I've devoted much of my professional life trying to make it so! One year, I was asked to create an entire dinner from Thanksgiving leftovers. I remember loving working on that story. The challenges involved in spinning traditionally American flavors into something fresh, new and global were especially fun. What emerged from the overabundance of stuffing, turkey parts, overcooked vegetables, random leeks, the last dregs of wine, and a quivering block of jellied cranberry sauce was "Span-Ital" (ha, I just made that up!) -- a menu featuring Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms, Marinated Vegetables a la Grecque, an honest Turkey Paella, and a credible Cranberry Granita (which the brilliant food critic Gael Greene recently posted on her site).
We enjoy this menu so much that if we are invited to someone else's house and we have no leftovers of our own, I make an entire Thanksgiving meal in order to have some. For they are as meaningful as the day itself.
Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms
2 packed cups leftover stuffing ¼ cup finely chopped flat parsley ¼ cup finely chopped basil ¼ cup minced scallions, white and green parts 2 ounces provolone, grated on medium holes of box grater olive oil for drizzling 18 medium portobello mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Crumble cold stuffing into a bowl. Add parsley, basil, scallions, all but ¼ cup grated cheese and mix well. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. If mixture seems dry, add a little olive oil and mix. Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp cloth. Remove stems. Using a small spoon scoop out center of caps. Fill each cap with stuffing. Place mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle each mushroom with a little of the remaining cheese. Bake 12 minutes until stuffing is a little crisp. Serve hot, warm or room temperature. Serves 6
A Turkey Paella
¼ cup olive oil 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped 2 heaping cups finely diced onion 1 large red bell pepper 2 cups long-grain rice ¼ teaspoon saffron 4 cups chicken broth or turkey stock 4 large plum tomatoes, cut into large pieces 1 teaspoon oregano scant ½ teaspoon cayenne ¾ pound smoked chorizo or cooked sweet or hot Italian sausage 1-1/2 pounds cooked turkey (I use 1 pound white meat and ½ pound dark) 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a 6-1/2-quart Dutch oven. Cook garlic and onions in oil for 8 minutes over medium-high heat until soft and golden, stirring often. Cut red pepper into ¼ inch dice to get 1 heaping cup and add to onions. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in rice, saffron, stock, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, oregano and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium. Cover pot and cook 15 to 18 minutes, until rice is just tender. Slice chorizo or sausage into ¼-inch thick rounds. Add to pot. Cut turkey into pieces that are about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Add to pot. Add peas and stir well. Cover and bake 20 minutes until hot. Remove from oven. Let sit 5 minutes. Stir and serve. Serves 6 or more
*To make turkey stock: Break up turkey carcass from cooked turkey and put in a 7-quart pot with cover. Add 3 bay leaves and very large head garlic, cut in half through the equator. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and cook, uncovered, 1 hour and 30 minutes. Pour broth through a coarse-mesh sieve into a clean pot. Cook broth over medium heat until reduced to 4 cups. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Makes 4 cups
At our home, we now add "leftovers" to our list of things to be thankful for.