Leftover Turkey

If you haven’t taken the turkey sandwich poll, please do so before you read this post.

You back? Good. As of this writing, we’re up to eight votes on the proper condiment for a turkey sandwich. That’s enough to let me get a proper rant going, so put on your crash helmets.

“I wouldn’t eat a turkey sandwich if you paid me.” One vote. OK, I can respect that, as long as it’s part of a general unwillingness to eat meat. If you’re not a vegetarian, but won’t eat turkey, then you are officially dead to me. No toleration for disrespecting the Noble Bird!

We’ve got one vote for cranberry sauce, thousand island dressing, gravy, and coleslaw. Really? That’s not a sandwich, that’s an entire sandwich shop. Put all that on and you might just discover you’ve forgotten the turkey. Not that you’ll ever know unless you look inside the sandwich, because you sure won’t be able to taste it. Besides, slaw is an ingredient, not a condiment. The point of a turkey sandwich is to showcase the bird, not bury it. Simplicity, folks. One or two ingredients to help highlight the bird’s flavor. Got it? Good.

Nobody voted for gravy. Good call. There’s a place for gravy on a turkey sandwich. That’s when it’s an open-faced, hot turkey sandwich, which is not what we’re talking about here. On an OFHTS, the gravy can soak right into the bread and turn it into a pretty decent replacement for stuffing. That’s not what you want from a sandwich you’re eating with your bare hands.

Two votes for mayo. No. Sorry, there’s a reason that mayo wasn’t on the list in the first place. Repeat after me: “Mayo is the devil’s condiment.” Louder: “MAYO IS THE DEVIL’S CONDIMENT.” I still can’t hear you! “MAYO IS THE DEVIL’S CONDIMENT!” OK, good. Don’t forget it. Mayo is a slimy, disgusting goop that doesn’t do a thing to enhance the taste of anything. You might as well use KY Jelly. It’ll do just as much for the flavor of the sandwich and you won’t have to worry about it going bad before lunch.

Two votes for butter. OK, Butter has some flavor, it generally works to enhance the taste of whatever it’s paired with, it’s well-known for its ability to keep bread from getting soggy. We’ve certainly spent enough time talking about butter on this blog that you should all know I give l33t m4D props to butter. But it’s just not right in this application. Turkeys are aggressive birds, and the gentle subtleties of butter are wasted on them.

Finally, two votes for cranberry sauce. I see where you’re going with that: it’s a flashback to Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, repeating the same Thanksgiving meal over and over again is why people decide they’re sick and tired of turkey. Mix things up a little and you’ll keep their enthusiasm higher. Also, don’t forget that the choice of cranberry sauce can make a big difference in your sandwich. Jellied cranberry sauce out of a can be OK on Thanksgiving if that’s your family’s tradition. But it tends to be pretty wimpy stuff; it needs to hide its flavor gaps behind the stuffing, gravy, and all of the other traditional foods. A good whole-berry sauce, on the other hand, can hold its own on the table, but it starts to run the risk of overwhelming the turkey if it’s one-on-one in a sandwich–and a really good one is starting to move into the same “ingredient, not condiment” category as slaw.

No, for a really good, classic turkey sandwich you want Thousand Island dressing. The slight tartness of the dressing counterpoints the turkey’s smooth flavor, while the slight crunchiness of the vegetables adds a tactile interest that none of the other candidates can match. “But wait,” I hear you cry, “isn’t Thousand Island just a doctored mayo?” To the uninitiated, perhaps. But just as a sinner can redeem himself through repentance and good works, so too can the devil’s condiment be redeemed through the addition of good spices and vegetables.

OK, maybe that was a little excessive, but you get my point. A proper turkey sandwich is a thing of subtle and simple beauty.

Start with a Kaiser roll. Not a Hoagie roll, and certainly not mere bread.

Slice the roll and add a thin coating of Thousand Island dressing to both sides. No, you don’t toast it! What kind of a heathen are you?

Now add your turkey. Be generous: the layer of bird should be somewhere between half and two-thirds as thick as the roll.

You could stop there and have a perfectly delightful sandwich, but if you insist on a more complex culinary delight, this is the point at which you should add either coleslaw or cranberry sauce. The quantity will depend on the ingredient: keep the cranberries thin so they don’t overwhelm your taste buds, but you can add almost as much slaw as you did turkey.

Put the top half of the roll on, squash the sandwich down to compact the roll a little and force the ingredients to mingle. That the squash also makes it easier to get your mouth around it is a bonus.

Rant over. Slice the sandwich in half and enjoy.

I promised you our recipe for “No Effort Crock Pot Turkey Soup”. How “no effort” is it? So much so that there isn’t even any measuring involved. Ready? Here we go!

Start the night before you intend to eat the soup. It needs some time in the fridge for the flavors to blend and develop.

This recipe assumes your turkey was originally in the 12-14 pound range and should work with a 3 1/2 quart crock pot. If you had a larger bird, adjust accordingly.

  1. Toss your frozen turkey carcass and any leftover scraps of meat into the crock pot. No need to thaw it in advance. If the whole thing doesn’t fit, a couple of whacks with a solid cleaver will let you rearrange the bones for a better fit or to put half back in the freezer for another batch.
  2. Now throw in the magic mirepoix. For the uninitiated, that’s approximately equal quantities of chopped carrots, celery, and onions. No, don’t get out the cutting board. Remember: “no effort”. Trader Joe’s sells a perfectly good pre-chopped mirepoix. So do many other groceries. Let them do the work.
  3. Add one bottle of hard cider. You want a fairly tart cider for this application, not a sweet one. Angry Orchard apple is good (but be careful not to get one of the spiced varieties). Woodchuck Pear cider is a nice variation.
  4. You’ll may want a bit more liquid, but be conservative. Remember that the vegetables and meat will give up liquid as they cook. If no more than a third of the carcass is above the liquid level, you’re in good shape.
  5. Spices. You want sage and thyme, of course. Basil rarely goes amiss, or if you’re feeling adventurous, try oregano. Of course, since we’re emphasizing “no effort”, you could let someone else figure out the spice mix. We like World Spice Company’s “Poultry Rub” (sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, pepper, garlic, onion, and celery). For a very different, non-traditional* flavor, we’ve also sometimes thrown in some of Penzey’s Spices “Zatar” (sumac, thyme, white sesame seeds, and salt). How much should you throw in? Try a generous dusting across the top of the liquid. Look about right? Good, throw in about 10% more: spices never seem to go as far in soups as in dry foods.

    * Just to be clear here: Zatar is a traditional Middle Eastern spice blend. It’s just non-traditional in the context of North American turkey cuisine.

  6. OK, into the fridge with it. Let it sit overnight. The bird will thaw and the flavors will start to meld.
  7. It needs eight to ten hours to cook, so get it started first thing in the morning. Set the cooker on low and ignore it for four hours, then take a peek. Give it a quick stir to settle the ingredients. If there’s still a lot of carcass visible above the surface of the liquid, add water until the bones are almost covered. Give it another four to six hours on low.
  8. Scoop out the larger bones and serve with a good, crusty bread: french or sourdough by preference. No, you don’t have to make bread bowls if you’re using sourdough. You’ll probably want a dish nearby for the smaller bones. They’ll likely be soft enough to eat at this point, but they don’t have enough flavor to be worth it.

Got some leftovers? No problem. It freezes well and works nicely as a starter for the next batch.