Saturday, December 5, 2009

Inspiration from Thanksgiving Leftovers


This turkey leg looks lonely. It needs a good home. How about ravioli?

This year we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving leftovers rather than grumble about them. You see, we usually re-create Thanksgiving dinner four days in a row following the blessed event. Why? Well, usually we make complicated side dishes with esoteric ingredients so to repurpose them would be folly. This year, because we stuck with traditional fare (see last week’s post), we decided that our seemingly perfect meal could use a shakeup. The barbecued turkey sandwiches on challah rolls and Turkey Tetrazzini were great ways to stretch both the light and dark meat, but after a few days, all that was left was dark meat and wing meat (only a few scraps of the once succulent breast were left, and these pieces were slightly dessicated—not really suitable as a main course on their own).

So we cut every last ounce of tender dark meat from the drumstick and thighs and the tiny bits from the wings, and didn’t stop until we had a nice pile of pulled turkey meat.

What to do . . . what to do . . . ?

Have a cocktail, of course. We had some oranges and limes that were ready to be juiced, so, scouring the Internet for an extant drink, we saw several recipes for the Fjord (or Fiord) Cocktail. Fjords are those deep Norwegian inlets that create incredible-looking coastlines from space, and this drink is called a Fjord because it uses a little aquavit, that enticing caraway-infused spirit that’s a Scandinavian tradition. And since tradition was the theme to this year’s Thanksgiving, we thought this cocktail fit nicely into the scheme of things. This is the ratio we thought worked best (it’s from cocktaildb.com) in whetting our appetites for the hot mess we were about to tackle:

Fjord Cocktail
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

Ingredients
1 ounce brandy (we used Asbach)
1/2 ounce aquavit (we used Linie, but also try Krogstad for a less caraway flavor)
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce grenadine (we used Stirrings, but now is the perfect time of year to make your own)

Method
Shake in ice for 15 seconds and strain onto a chilled glass.

The first sip is magnificent: a perfect blend of all the ingredients. The second sip is more complex; you can detect the caraway notes, and this bitterness plays amazingly well with the sweet orange and pomegranate (from the grenadine), and the tangy lime. The brandy brings all these tastes together. This is one cocktail we will be making again an again, and if you’ve never tried aquavit and are unsure how you’re going to like its distinct spice, the Fjord is the perfect starting point. It’s easy to sip and a perfect bridge to the main event, Thanksgiving Ravioli.

Adding the turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing filling to the sheet of pasta dough

We successfully made some ravioli a few weeks back, why not make a new batch. We tossed the turkey in the food processor, but it looked so blah; it needed a friend, so in went a few dollops of the leftover sweet and tangy cranberry sauce. We gave it a whir and watched as the shiny bits of bright red mixed with the mostly dark turkey meat. One taste told us we needed to add something more. We looked in the fridge and Steve said “What about the stuffing?” What about the stuffing, indeed. That savory mix of cornbread, apples, and Italian sausage added moistness and balance to the filling. One more whir and we were ready to start on the pasta.

We followed the pasta recipe we came up with from our last batch to the letter, but noticed that when we were running it through the pasta roller, the dough was too sticky. It was a little damp outside, and this greatly affects the elasticity and moistness of the dough. Adding a bit more flour helped make the process easier, and when the sheets of dough were laid out, we plopped some filling on one of them in evenly spaced mounds, covered it all up with the other sheet, smoothed out the trapped air pockets, and cut it all into neat squares. This time, we mounded the filling higher in each raviolo, but this may not be such a good thing; if the dough is too elastic, it may tear as you try pressing out the air pockets between mounds. Be careful. If you do get a tear, you’ll have to plug up the hole with a scrap piece of dough. This will make that particular raviolo a little chewier, but that’s better than losing your precious filling in the roiling boiling bath you’re about to drop them in.

Time to boil the ravioli

In deciding what kind of sauce would go best with these ravioli, we wanted to keep the Thanksgiving leftover theme in the fore, so we added some chicken stock to the leftover gravy, seasoned it with a little marjoram, salt, and pepper, and let it thicken a little on the stove. The point was not to create something goopy, but rather a broth in which the ravioli would steep, almost the way you would steep Chinese dumplings in a wonton broth. When the ravioli floated to the top of the pot, we cooked them a minute longer, drained them, and laid them gingerly in two shallow bowls. After ladling some of the brothy sauce over them and sprinkling with fresh parsley, we inhaled deeply the aromas that took us back to the moment we tasted our Thanksgiving dinner. Only this time, every flavor was on the fork, in one bite.

Thanksgiving Ravioli, a perfect end to a weekend of leftovers

After a supremely satisfying dinner we realized we had some of the filling left over. That would make its way into the Thanksgiving Sloppy Joes we would have the following night. (We mixed the filling and the sauce together, plopped it some lightly mayonnaised brioche buns, and topped them with a little cranberry sauce, plus lettuce for some crunch. A pear, goat cheese, and toasted walnut salad with a shallot vinaigrette was the perfect side. Simple and delicious once again.) Now all that was left from our original Thanksgiving dinner was a little stuffing and cranberry sauce. The stuffing sadly would end up in the garbage (we mourn throwing away food, but in this instance it was necessary), but the cranberry sauce, about a third of a cup, would end up infusing some Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine. The cranberry sauce is still infusing the Moonshine, but daily taste tests presage delicious cocktails to come. Stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted.

We salute the turkey with our Thanksgiving Sloppy Joes

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