Proper Construction

It’s that time of year again–when zillions of people across the country are making a mess of their leftover turkey sandwiches. And that’s a real shame. The noble turkey should never be wasted on an inferior sandwich.

And it’s so unnecessary. We covered the making of a proper turkey sandwich four years ago.

To be fair, the blog had fewer readers then. So if you’re new here, check out that post and spread the word. As a bonus, you’ll get our mindlessly-easy recipe for turkey soup.

But that aside, there’s another sandwich-related problem plaguing America–a worse one, as it strikes at the very foundation of indigenous American cuisine.

As we noted four years ago, mayonnaise is the devil’s condiment. So why has it become the default on hamburgers*?

* Let’s not get into the argument about the ancestry of the burger. Sure, every meat-eating culture has a dish involving ground meat. It’s a great way to use up the leftovers. But the hamburger qua hamburger? American born and bread. (Sorry).

I blame Canada. No, seriously. Forty years ago, Canadians were the only people so lost to virtue as to put mayo on a burger. Today, everywhere in America, if you don’t say “NO MAYO, DAMN IT!” you’re going to get a thick, slimy layer of that white stuff on your burger.

Yeah, a thick layer. Even if I was prepared to accept mayo on the bun–which I’m not–it would have to be as a condiment, like the ketchup and/or mustard* it’s ostensibly replacing, not as an ingredient in its own right. But no, the default is a giant scoop of the evil stuff, outweighing the bun. Heck, I’ve occasionally gotten a burger where I’m fairly sure there’s more mayo than meat.

* You may be surprised to learn that a person of such definitive opinions won’t take a position on the ketchup/mustard debate. The reason is simple: my preference in the matter changes. Some days I want one, some the other, and sometimes both.

It’s a deplorable situation, folks, and it’s only made worse by the ever-increasing tendency for burgers to include lettuce.

I’m not talking about a big wad of shredded lettuce intended to make a fast food burger look as though it’s got some nutritional content. No, I’m talking about an allegedly legitimate food burger with a wad of iceberg big enough to have sunk the Titanic.

Does anybody think this is a good idea? Really. Serious question. Lettuce adds no taste. On a burger, it does two things, neither desirable. It bulks the burger up to the point where you can’t possibly open your mouth wide enough to eat it, and it delivers water straight to the bun, making it soggy.

Really, people, get with it. You want tomato on your burger? Go for it. Onion, raw or grilled? No problem.

But when it comes to lettuce, follow Nancy Reagan’s advice and Just Say No.

And that white, slimy stuff?

Hell No to Mayo!

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.


Thanksgiving is known for leftovers, so allow me to share a few with you.

Literal leftovers first. The smart celebrator expects to have leftover turkey and plans accordingly. At this point, we have it down to a science. On the day after Thanksgiving, we have cold turkey and use up the leftover gravy, stuffing, and any other sides that didn’t get done in on Thursday. Saturday is turkey sandwiches for dinner. The next week, turkey sandwiches for lunch. Any remaining turkey goes into the freezer with the bones for use in soup.

Those of you who don’t eat meat may not be aware that there is a religious war over the proper semi-liquid for a turkey sandwich. Below is a poll to see how many sides of the war my readership represents. We’ll check in on the poll results next week, and I’ll let you all know just how misguided you are.

Thanksgiving’s post mentioned plans to watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathon. As it turned out, we never quite managed to turn on the marathon, so we fell back on our own collection of shows.

MST3K, for anyone who doesn’t know, was the show that popularized the concept of actors heckling a bad movie for the entertainment of all. Just as The Daily Show carried on under the guidance of Jon Stewart when original host Craig Kilborn left, MST3K had multiple leads. The show began in 1988 with creator Joel Hodgson in the leading role; he left in 1993, and Mike Nelson took over until the show’s end in 1999. Joel/Mike arguments continue to this day. Not to fan the flames of that war, it should be noted that Mike was the head writer for the show, meaning he was responsible for many of the jokes during Joel’s tenure.

We watched two shows, one each from the Joel and Mike eras. “Master Ninja I“, a “movie” created by splicing together two episodes of a short-lived TV show starring Lee Van Cleef, Tim Van Patten, and a gerbil, came from season 3. It’s perhaps best remembered for it’s contribution to musical culture: a stirring rendition of “Master Ninja Theme Song” by Joel and the Bots.

Season 6’s “Girls Town” is a stunning mish-mash of date rape, stalking, bad girls, and nuns starring Mamie Van Doren, Mel Torme, Paul Anka, and The Platters. Unfortunately, the MST3K version isn’t commercially available (the link leads to Amazon’s page for the VHS release of the original film), but if you’re OK with downloading a copy from the Internet, your effort will be rewarded. Mamie’s Van Dorens try to dominate the show, but Gigi Perreau’s crazed stalker Serafina steals the show, clearly scaring the heck out of Paul Anka who struggles in the role of Jimmy, the object of Serafina’s unnatural affection. The MST3K crew is in top form and the jokes fly furiously. This episode ranks high on my list as it even includes a Seattle Mariners joke.

Interestingly enough, Kaja, our own bad girl, seemed fascinated with Girls Town. She sat up with her eyes on the screen for most of the show; the other cats slept through it.

Finally, reports are coming in that this year’s expanded Black Friday was a resounding failure. Purchases were down almost 3% compared to last year. Analysts expect panic sales over the next few weeks as stores try to make up the shortfall.

I’m inclined to regard this as a good sign. Not that I think it will cause retailers to rethink this year’s “Black Thursday” approach that caused so much protest, but I do think it will result in next year’s starting even sooner.

“Wait,” I hear you ask. “Why is that a good thing?”

Simple. History shows us that retailers are blind to the notion of diminishing returns when it comes to advertising. Black Friday will stretch earlier and earlier until it takes over the entire month, smashes into Halloween, and collapses into disorganized mass mess indistinguishable from regular advertising.

And, as a special bonus, advertisers will be so busy pushing “Black November”, that they won’t have time to start the Christmas advertisements until December. Anything that saves us from a whole month of Christmas carols is an enormous win for our sanity.