A Bachelor’s Test Kitchen Thanksgiving
(Dec. 3, 2003)

Thanksgiving is a time  for bachelors to return to the ancestral hearth, and to bask in the warm glow of family. It’s a time to do laundry. A time to scam as much leftovers as humanly possible.

So we’re not going to be discussing how to make Thanksgiving favorites today in the Bachelor’s Test Kitchen. Instead, we’re talking about how to use those Tupperwares full of cold turkey and mashed potatoes. There’s good eating in a holiday meal that doesn’t have to be over once the turkey coma has passed.

And now … the recipes.

November Revolution Sandwich

1 sandwich roll
leftover turkey
canned cranberry sauce
sliced Fontina cheese

I call this sandwich “November Revolution” because its central ingredients are associated with November, because it revolutionized the way I think about sandwiches, and because its appeal depends on a struggle between Red and White.

The ingredients for this recipe are important, and some of them may seem a little highfalutin for a proper bachelor recipe. Explanations seem in order.

The greens don’t have to be arugula. You can use plain old lettuce, and the sandwich will still be great. I find, however, that arugula is a vastly underappreciated sandwich lettuce; it’s got a sort of bite to it without the bitterness of a lot of fancy greens. It also tends to be a bit drier, so it doesn’t water down your sandwich.

Similarly, Fontina is just the cheese that I like. Havarti works too. Probably any mild cheese would. Avoid cheddar; its sharpness is overpowering. You want the cheese to lend smoothness and only a little bit of cheese flavor.

Your choice of roll is also important. You need a roll with good heft and chew, but not a hard roll. Hard rolls tend to squirt the fillings out when you bite into them. I like Dutch Crunch rolls; they combine a nice crunchy top with a good soft chewy crumb and easy biteability.

Finally, it’s actually important to use canned cranberry sauce.  Homemade cranberry sauce is much better as cranberry sauce, but it tends to be too tangy; the balance between tart and sweet is off. It’s also frequently lumpy. I don’t recommend it.

Slice your roll lengthwise, and spread each side with mayonnaise. You want enough that it’s not scraped thin over the bread, but not so much that there’s a palpable layer of mayo. The mayonnaise and cranberry sauce are going to meld into a really good sauce, but the proportions have to be right. Too much mayo and you’ll have a greasy, sloppy mess.

Layer cranberry sauce onto one piece of bread. If you have a fresh can, you can slice it right off the cylinder. Quarter-inch slices or slightly thinner is the way to go, in a single layer. Stack the cheese on top of the cranberry sauce; the cheese will help hold that side of the sandwich together.

Lay your turkey on the other piece of bread. Again, quarter-inch slices or thinner is ideal. I
find shredded turkey just makes a mess unless you’re making turkey salad, and chunks are even worse. Put your greens on top of the turkey and top with the other piece of bread.

Pressing the sandwich down slightly will help the flavors to mix. I like to slice the sandwich in half before serving.

Cranberry Croquettes

leftover mashed potatoes
cranberry sauce

This one’s real simple. Put some mashed potatoes into a bowl. It’s best if they’re a little dry. Swirl some cranberry sauce into the potatoes.  For this recipe, homemade chunky sauce is superb. Form the mixture into patties; you want your patties to bulge in the middle, making them sort of oval or football-shaped. Flour the patties. Fry in oil until a golden crust forms. Serve hot.

If you want a more rib-sticking variation, you could try adding some shredded turkey to
the mix.

Turkey Stock

1 turkey carcass
1 red onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
a sprig of thyme
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. garam masala

People think that making stock from scratch is complicated and troublesome. Lies. All lies. The only reason that people don’t make stock more often is that we usually don’t have carcasses lying around to make them from. Stock is dead easy. It just takes a while.

After you finish picking all the usable meat off your turkey carcass, fill your biggest pot with
about 3 quarts of water. Dump in your carcass, your vegetables, and the thyme. Cover and place over high heat until the water boils, then reduce to a simmer. While the stock boils, heat a small pan and put in the garam masala. Cook briefly until fragrant. Then dump it in the stock. Simmer for at least 3 hours. You can keep boiling goodness out of the bones until they crumble rather than snap when you break a bone in half. By this point, the vegetables will probably have disintegrated — all to the good. Strain out all the solids. You’re left with a rich, velvety stock. It freezes admirably; stick it in some quart-size containers and stash it in the freezer.

Stock is good for a lot of things, but most of all it kicks ass for soups. With a good stock as
a base, you can just sort of clean your fridge into a pot and end up with a really good soup. You’re never at a loss for a meal if you have stock in the freezer.

What’s with the garam masala?, some of you may be asking. Yeah, OK, it’s a little weird. This
year our stock was really good, because we used a garam masala spice rub on our bird. It was excellent, with crisp and flavorful skin, but since we’re assuming a carcass scavenged from your grandma, I don’t want to assume you have that luxury. However, the faint Indian note in the stock was totally worth it, so I’m suggesting you add the garam masala directly to the pot. If you don’t have any garam masala, you can fake it with about a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon each of cardamom, cumin, black pepper, and ground cloves (I’m not claiming this is a proper garam masala, but it’ll do for the subtle effect we’re
trying for). Remember to cook the spices before you put them in.

Really, however, the garam masala is optional.  Mainly you want it so that you can make the
next recipe.

Best Damn Risotto

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
1 quart turkey stock
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

First off, put your olive oil into a skillet and heat it up. Add the onion and cook until onion is soft and golden. Add the rice and cook for about a minute. Then add the turkey stock, a little bit at a time. Maybe a quarter cup, or even less. Add some stock, stir it in, and wait for the rice to soak it up. Then add a little more and repeat the process. Stir frequently.  As you add the stock, the rice will give up its starch and become soft and creamy. If the rice is still chewy when you’ve added all the stock, add some water a bit at a time until it’s properly softened. When the rice is nice and tender, add the cheese and mushrooms and stir them
through. Cook for another minute or so, continuing to stir, and serve hot. It’s really simple, but it’s one of the most filling and satisfying things I know how to make.

About the ingredients: some people insist you need special Italian rice for risotto. I just use calrose rice — the short-grain stuff, sometimes called sushi rice.  It also doesn’t really matter what kind of oil or Parmesan you use, but I like to grate my own cheese. The stuff in the green can doesn’t quite work for me.