by Wolfgang Puck
What to do with those Thanksgiving leftovers
Less than a month ago, many of us celebrated Halloween. But it may surprise you to learn that I sometimes think about Halloween at Thanksgiving time.
Why? The answer is simple. Making smart use of leftovers from your Thanksgiving feast, just like coming up with the perfect Halloween costume, usually involves the art of disguise.
Sure, we’ve all sliced up the meat from a roast turkey and arranged it between bread with mayonnaise, mustard, tomato and lettuce, and maybe a smear of leftover cranberry sauce. But there are usually only so many turkey sandwiches you can eat before you begin to dread those leftovers.
Incorporate that meat, however, it into a baked casserole with a delicious sauce, some vegetables, and a starch of some kind, and you have not leftovers but a brand-new dish that everyone can enjoy. The leftovers stop being just leftovers and simply play the role of your main ingredient.
Employing this strategy, I like to use leftover turkey in all kinds of different ways. I’ll make a shepherd’s pie: chopping up the meat finely; tossing it together with leftover vegetables; stirring well with leftover gravy, bottled tomato sauce, or a cream sauce (or, if you’re really in need of that shortcut, even a canned creamy soup); spreading it in a shallow casserole or gratin dish; topping it with leftover or freshly made mashed potatoes, which I then sprinkle with breadcrumbs and drizzle with a little butter; and then baking it until bubbly and golden brown. Or I might combine chunks of the turkey meat and vegetables with a cream sauce, put the mixture in individual-serving casseroles or ramekins, top with store-bought pie dough, and bake into turkey pot pies.
Once you start thinking in this way, the possibilities for leftover turkey keep expanding. One of my favorite inspirations is to feature the turkey in individual lasagnas. I chop up the meat and moisten it with a good-quality tomato-based pasta sauce. (I especially like to use those that have a little spice to them, like my own brand of spicy Arrabbiata sauce.) Then, I layer that mixture with thinly rolled-out fresh pasta dough (easily homemade, following the recipe I include here, or bought from a gourmet shop or Italian deli), garlicky baby spinach leaves, creamy mascarpone or Philadelphia-style cream cheese; and some Parmesan and mozzarella.
The assembly takes a little time, but it won’t seem like too much effort after the holiday marathon you’ve just been through. And you can also layer the lasagna ahead of time and refrigerate it until ready to bake. You’ll be delighted by the results, but just hold back the urge to yell, “Trick or treat!” when you serve after Thanksgiving!
LEFTOVER TURKEY LASAGNA
Pasta Dough (recipe follows)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 pound organic baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups bite-sized pieces cooked turkey, all skin, bones, fat, and gristle removed
2 cups store-bought bottled tomato pasta sauce
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup organic chicken broth, heated
Prepare Pasta Dough and cut into 3 equal pieces, keeping them covered with plastic wrap. Roll out by hand with a rolling pin on a flour-dusted work surface, or with a pasta machine following manufacturer’s instructions, until you have enough thin sheets to form 8 circles 4 inches in diameter, keeping the rolled-out strips covered.
Using a flour-dusted 4-inch cookie cutter or tart ring, cut out a total of 24 circles (as necessary, scraps can be folded and re-rolled), transferring to a baking tray lightly dusted with flour.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta circles a few at a time until al dente, about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon, rinse under cold water, and arrange on a clean, dry towel.
For the filling, thoroughly rinse the spinach and put it, still damp, in a large nonstick pan over medium heat; cook, stirring, just until wilted. Drain thoroughly and coarsely chop. In a small skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic, saute briefly, and add the spinach, stirring just until coated. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, toss the turkey with 3 tablespoons tomato sauce and 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a baking tray and the insides of 6 tart rings 4 inches in diameter, and arrange the rings on the tray; or oil 6 cups of a jumbo muffin tin.
Press a pasta circle into each ring or muffin cup. Spread the mascarpone evenly on top and then the spinach. Top with another pasta circle and then the turkey. Top with another circle and 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons tomato sauce per lasagna, reserving the remainder; then, top with a final pasta circle. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan.
Bake until the cheese has melted and nicely browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Pour the remaining tomato sauce and the broth into a small saucepan and heat, stirring.
Spoon tomato sauce onto 6 heated serving plates. Place each ring-formed lasagna on top and carefully lift off the rings, using a small knife as necessary to loosen; or use a narrow spatula to lift the lasagnas from the muffin cups. Serve immediately.
Makes 3/4 pound
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 large cage-free egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons water
Semolina or all-purpose flour, for dusting
Put the flour, yolks, salt, oil, and 1 tablespoon water in a food processor fitted with the stainlesssteel blade. Process until a dough starts holding together. Stop the machine and pinch the dough: If it feels too dry, pulse in up to 1/2 tablespoon more water until a moist ball forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured smooth work surface and knead by hand until a smooth ball forms. Loosely wrap in plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.