Quick Recipes and Easy

Dad Was Right: Leftover Turkey Makes For Good Eats

“Dad, what are we going to do with all this leftover turkey?” I questioned as we cleared the dining-room table.

“Honey, I am going to teach you how to cook!” he said. “This turkey is a passport to culinary adventure.”

My teenage mind puzzled over how someone can teach cooking lessons with leftover turkey. I didn’t get it. But knowing my dad, I could imagine he had a strategic plot in mind. He was a long-range planner. For example, he had been plotting that holiday weekend since summer.

“When your huge brothers come home from college for Thanksgiving break, we are going to make blueberry waffles,” he declared one afternoon upon returning home from Michigan with bushels of plump, sweet berries.

I looked at those berries and said, “Oh, no!”

“What’s incorrect?” Dad questioned.

“Daddy, I don’t want to wash and package all these blueberries! I didn’t sign up for this!” But my words fell on deaf ears. He just laughed and tossed me an apron.

No sooner had I packaged up all the small white, cardboard freezer boxes of blueberries and stacked them in the deep freeze than my dad headed back to Michigan again on another real-estate scouting trip, only to return with bushels of cherries and hundreds of dull Polaroid shots of potential land-development sites. This went on for months as my dad would wax endlessly about my huge brothers coming home for Thanksgiving.

Finally Thanksgiving arrived, and familiar smells invaded our home in the cloistered community of Hinsdale, Ill. Dad cooked so much food, you would reckon he had invited the Chicago Bears for dinner!

But as always, my dad had a plot. Right to his nature, Bernie the hoarder had intended all along to roast 10 times as much turkey as we needed. This time I grabbed my older brothers’ attention and tossed them both aprons.

“Forget the football! You guys are helping me!” I said, as I stomped my moccasins onto the carpeted floor.

“Kathi, that is girl’s work!” they said. “We didn’t sign up for that!”

“Help your sister! I don’t want to hear anymore about it!” my dad’s voice shot across the room. “I’m going outside to get some more firewood.”

John and David jumped up and tied on those aprons quicker than you can say turkey tetrazinni!

“Did you see the list?” I whispered.

“The list?” they echoed as their noses scrunched up.

I pointed to the refrigerator door, where one of our father’s dreaded Saturday-chores lists was meticulously scotch-taped.

“Clean the gutters? We don’t know how to clean gutters,” we said.

“What is with him? Why doesn’t he just hire someone?”

“Because he wants a return on his investment,” John said, as the three of us huddled at the refrigerator door.

Hearing a large crackle of firewood, I pounced up on my tiptoes and pressed my fingertips to their huge mouths. “Sssh!”

And then, as if on cue, an ancient favorite melody cut through the momentary silence. Singing out from the stately ancient mahogany grandfather clock – which had been reassigned that year to my dad’s care – were the chimes of past holidays. For a fleeting moment, I saw my brothers not as the tall, lean college men they had become, but instead as two purple-mustached, growing boys guzzling grape juice at our grandparents’ Thanksgiving table.

It was excellent to have my two brothers home for Thanksgiving.

There was a different flavor to our Thanksgiving that year. Traumatic changes had forever altered our family unit. Deaths, divorce and rites of passage tugged against the very heartstrings that tied us all together. Yet my dad rose triumphantly to the challenge of making some sense of normalcy.

Over the next several months, right to his words, my dad taught me how to cook wonderful dinners one box of chopped turkey at a time.

Having plenty of turkey leftovers is really a excellent thing! The options are practically unlimited. Just about anything you might ordinarily make with chicken can also be made with turkey. My dad was right! Roasted, chopped turkey, when frozen in small, manageable batches, is indeed a passport to culinary adventure!

Some of my favorite thoughts include:

1. A bubbly casserole such as turkey, wild rice and pecan or a homemade turkey potpie or cobbler encased in a rich cheddar-and-herb pastry and filled with a creamy marriage of fine ingredients.

2. A crisp mixed-greens salad with seasonal fruits, cranberry raisins and chopped turkey, drizzled with tangerine-pomegranate vinaigrette, then punctuated with decadent candied pralines.

3. Sandwich boards with anything from the simple to the exotic. It is fun to experiment by adding fresh twists to the ancient favorite turkey sandwich.

4. A hot or cold pasta entree with chopped turkey, broccoli, snow peas and peanuts.

5. A fine stash of soups and chowder with turkey, sauteed onions, garlic, potatoes, cream and stock.

6. Bite-sized appetizers such as curried turkey pinwheels to stash in the freezer for busy December days.

And of course,

7. The synergistic joy of random acts of kindness manifested by surprising others with culinary gifts from one’s kitchen.

© 2006 Kathi Dameron, Kathi Dameron and Associates
This article originally appeared in the “Entertaining with Kathi” column of the Northeast Chronicle, a Florida newspaper on November 22, 2006.

Note To Publishers: You are free to publish this article in your e-zines, but, please keep copyright and resource box intact. Thank You!

Kathi Dameron is a free-lance writer, blogger and consultant who is available for writing assignments, speaking engagements, and food and entertaining workshops. The Entertaining With Kathi column is available to newspapers, magazines and digital media for syndication. Entertaining With Kathi Cooking Class inserts, show scripts and customized content-rich advertising opportunities are available for buy. For information contact Kathi directly at 850-422-3599.

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