I come from a family of Thanksgiving turkey lovers. Even in years when we have only a small crowd, the designated cook will buy an extra-big turkey, just to make sure that there are lots of leftovers. A 20-pound turkey for five people might sound ludicrous to some, but not to us. I often eat my leftover turkey as is, with leftover trimmings, but after a few meals of this, I like to get a little fancier.
The fact that Thanksgiving turkey is already cooked makes it easy to use for a fast, satisfying meal. And if it becomes a little monotonous, I freeze it for a week or two, by which time it seems delicious and special all over again. Luckily, it is an enormously adaptable meat, a palette for all sorts of seasonings and cooking styles. This trait lends itself to many pairings with wine beyond the traditional Pinot Noir combination, which is important, because finding intriguing wine matches will make any next-day dish of turkey taste even better.
“Adding the right wine makes the occasion,” says Gary Fisch, owner-operator of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in Madison and Bernardsville, New Jersey, “even if you’re just hanging out for a quiet supper after the bustle of Thanksgiving.” Fisch, who was the “Wine Guy” on the Food Network’s Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay, offers some imaginative pairings with our creative suggestions for sprucing up Thanksgiving leftovers. You’ll find recipes for several, but many are simple and easy enough to do with no further guidance.
1. Roast Turkey
A touch of kitchen performance anxiety on Thanksgiving morning drives me every year to reread the basic roasting recipe that I should know by heart. How many minutes per pound for a stuffed bird? How many for unstuffed? To alleviate your anxiety, we reproduce the basics here.
An unstuffed bird cooks faster, but I’m in the stuffing-inside-the-turkey camp, because I like the way the turkey juices run into the stuffing mixture. I don’t flavor my stuffing with other meats or seafood—just chopped onions, celery, mushrooms and apples, for a hint of contrast.
If your turkey is frozen, be sure to defrost it early, either in the refrigerator or in cold water (not on the kitchen counter at room temperature, where bacteria can grow). To thaw in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours per 5 pounds. If you are using the cold-water method, place the turkey, still in its package, in cold water to cover in a clean sink or deep pan. You might have to weight it down with a pot to keep it submerged. Change the water often to keep it cold. Allow 30 minutes defrosting time per pound. Be sure the bird is thoroughly defrosted before you begin to cook, or the outer meat will be roasted and the frozen interior will stay undercooked. You should be able to wiggle the leg joints of a defrosted bird.
1 whole turkey (figure about 1 pound per person)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil or melted butter
Your favorite stuffing (if you like to cook it in the bird, use Â½ cup per pound for turkeys under 10 pounds and ¾ cup per pound for turkeys over 10 pounds)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the neck, giblets and any packaging from the neck and body cavities. Place the bird in a roasting pan, breast up, or on a roasting rack. Salt and pepper the inside of both cavities.
If you are stuffing the turkey, stuff both cavities lightly with hot stuffing; cold stuffing can promote bacterial growth. (And don’t even think about stuffing the bird ahead of time—another bacteria breeder. Do it just before you put the bird into the oven.) Fold the neck skin over the stuffed neck cavity and secure with a skewer. Tie the drumsticks together loosely with butcher’s twine or thread. If you wish, you can truss the wings by looping your string around the elbow joints, pulling the ends to the center of the bird and tying them together.
Rub the turkey all over with the oil or butter. Salt and pepper the outside. Wrap the breast loosely in foil and roast for 10 to 12 minutes per pound if the turkey is not stuffed, or 12 to 15 minutes per pound if it is stuffed. After the first 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 350Â°F and baste. Continue basting every 30 minutes until done. Half an hour before the bird is done, remove the foil to allow the breast to brown.
To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the inner thigh without touching the bone. It should register 180 to 185Â°F. The breast meat should register 160 to 165°F and the stuffing should be 160°F. If you do not have a meat thermometer, the juices should run clear and the drumstick should twist easily in its socket. The meat on the drumstick should feel soft.
When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. Remove the twine and skewer, spoon the stuffing onto a serving platter and carve.
Remove all stuffing from any leftover turkey and refrigerate the turkey for up to 4 days or freeze, securely wrapped, for up to two months.
Wine recommendations: When he heard of my fondness for apples in the stuffing, Fisch suggested “a big, fruity Napa Valley Chard, not overly oaked, but buttery. It’s got some apple in it.” He likes Franciscan’s Chard because it has great ripe fruit and is well priced between $14 and $18. For those who prefer red, he suggests a Beaujolais—”either a Nouveau leftover that you haven’t drunk yet, or a Beaujolais Villages like a Jadot.”
2. Turkey Soup
One thing nobody in my family competes with me for is the turkey carcass; they know it’s mine. It makes a wonderful, rich broth. Throw it into the pot with enough water to cover, add some carrots, onions, celery and parsley, and simmer, uncovered (covering the broth can sour it) until you’ve got yourself a soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add noodles and cut-up turkey if you like. The soup freezes nicely, and it’s great for a warm, homemade pick-me-up as the weather gets colder. (If you don’t have time to make soup immediately after Thanksgiving, you can freeze the carcass in a plastic bag and make your soup later.)
If I want to jazz up this soup with a taste of Mexico, I add some lime juice, sliced tomato and avocado and a few tortilla chips.
Wine recommendation: For the Mexican variation, Fisch suggests an Oregon Pinot Noir. “It’s a little bit lighter in style; it has great acidity, which you need once you have that tomato. Also, it’s a little bit earthy in the finish, which works well with the onions and celery in the broth.” He suggests a Montinore Pinot Noir, priced around $13.
3. Turkey Salade Niçoise
A classic salade Niçoise has tuna as its centerpiece, but turkey makes a very nice substitute, surrounded by blanched haricots verts, boiled potatoes, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, olives (Niçoise of course, and any others you like), hard-cooked eggs and pickled beets and/or anchovies if you like them. If you are worried that your turkey will be a little dry, toss it first in a bit of Dijon mustard vinaigrette or a good Caesar dressing. The same dressing can be drizzled over the other components of the salad. (To blanche the beans, drop them into boiling water and let them boil for just one or two minutes, until they are a brilliant green. Then plunge them into a bowl of ice water for just 30 seconds. This will set the color and stop them from cooking, so they’ll retain their perfect tender-crisp texture.)
Wine recommendation: “This sounds southern French to me,” says Fisch, “so it shouts southern red.” He suggests a Domaine Le Couroulu, from Vacqueyras. “It’s got great fruit; it’s got earthy notes. I think it would be a great match with the vegetables and it would stand up to the vinaigrette,” he says. Its price: around $14.
4. Sloppy Tom
For a fast lunch or informal supper, pour a judicious amount of bottled barbecue sauce over shredded turkey; microwave just to heat through; then pile the “barbecued” turkey and a mound of cold coleslaw on a crusty hard roll, and dig in.
There are many barbecue sauces on the market today, but if the one you’ve bought is lackluster, doctor it up with sautéed onions, tomatoes, or a pinch of brown sugar.
Beverage recommendation: Beer would be a natural with this meal, and Fisch suggests Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which he says has a “rich enough flavor, but it’s not too heavy.” He also suggests a wine that he says can hold its own with the spiciness of the barbecue sauce: Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2000. “It has enough flavor without the tannin. With heat, you don’t want tannin. This is a bold, spicy wine, loaded with ripe fruit, spice and some pepperiness. It can handle the barbecue sauce.” The price is about $12.
5. Thai-Style Turkey Curry
You won’t find turkey on Thai menus but, like chicken, turkey takes to the bold flavors of the curry sauce beautifully. This is a Massaman-style curry that I learned when I took cooking classes in Thailand, so it’s authentic and surprisingly easy—and the basic formula will work with a variety of meats, fish or vegetables. Here, I paired potatoes, onions and basil with the turkey and curry fixin’s: coconut milk, curry paste, curry powder, fish sauce and palm sugar. Most of these once-exotic ingredients are now available in gourmet shops or the more worldly supermarkets.
Thai-Style Turkey Curry
The heat in this dish comes from the curry paste, so add it carefully. Add the fish sauce last and stir it only a few times to blend; more stirring than that and you risk its distinctive flavor overpowering the dish.
1 cup uncooked jasmine rice or other long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large white onion, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 to 2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 to 5 cups (about two and a half
14-ounce cans) coconut milk or light coconut milk
3 medium-sized white potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks (about 2 ½ to 3 cups)
2 to 3 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar, or to taste
10 basil leaves, thinly sliced
3 cups cubed or sliced cooked turkey meat
1 tablespoon fish sauce, or more to taste
Prepare the rice according to the package directions and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok set over medium-high heat until it sizzles when you add a drop of water to it. Add the onion and cook for 1 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan frequently, until the onions are translucent and soft, but not browned. Transfer to large saucepan and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and return the wok to the heat. Pour in about 1 cup of the coconut milk, add the curry paste and curry powder and slowly bring to a boil, stirring and mashing the paste with a wooden spoon so that it dissolves and the liquid becomes golden in color. Simmer until oil droplets appear on the surface of the coconut milk. Gradually add 3 more cups coconut milk, one cup at a time, and bring it to a boil again.
Pour the mixture into the waiting saucepan. Add the potatoes and remaining coconut milk and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced by the tip of a sharp knife. Stir in the turkey, palm sugar and basil and simmer for about 1 minute to heat the turkey through. Add the fish sauce and stir once. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Serve hot over the jasmine rice. Serves 4.
Wine recommendation: Fisch had a ready pairing for this recipe: “When I think of Thai food, I think of Alsatian wine—it has good fruit and high acidity, and you need that to battle the coconut sauce. You can’t have a wimpy wine here. If you had a California Chard it would destroy both the food and the wine. For this dish, I recommend a Gewürztraminer. It’s rich, has lots of texture, good mouthfeel and spicy overtones.” One of his favorites is a Hugel. Pierre Sparr’s Reserve and Trimbach are also reliable. They are priced around $13 to $19.
6. Pasta with Turkey, Baby Spinach and Grape Tomatoes
They haven’t managed to breed the flavor out of grape tomatoes, as they have with so many other tomatoes destined for shipping, so I like to use these tiny jewels once the summer tomatoes are gone. They aren’t very juicy, so they don’t make a saucy sauce—instead, they offer little bursts of flavor as you bite into them.
Wine recommendations: Because of this dish’s obvious Italian overtones, Fisch suggests a simple Chianti, such as a Toscolo, which, he says will cost about $9 and offer “nice, firm acidity and good fruit flavor. It’s a great bottle of wine for the money.” For something a little fancier, Fisch suggests a higher-end Tuscan, such as a Chianti Classico Reserva or a Vino Nobile di Montepulicano.
7. Herbed Crepes Stuffed with Turkey, Apples, Mushrooms and Turkey Kielbasa
I envision this dish as the centerpiece of a special Sunday brunch, when you have a little more time in the kitchen. The components are fairly simple, but there are three of them: crepes, filling and sauce. Make the crepe batter first and let it rest for at least 20 minutes—the flour needs to absorb the liquids in the batter. (You can make the batter the night before and let it develop, covered, in the refrigerator.) While the batter rests, do the filling and the sauce and keep it warm; then cook the crepes. Don’t be scared away by the flambéing called for in the sauce recipe. It’s fun, once you get the hang of it.
Wine recommendations: “Brunch calls for a sparkling wine,” says Fisch. “But for this dish it can’t be a bone-dry French brut, and a demi-sec would be too sweet.” Instead, he suggests a Roederer Estate sparkler from Mendocino, which he says has “a lot of acidity and it’s earthy, to go the with the mushrooms.”
8. Turkey Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato (TBLT)
Just add sliced turkey to the basic BLT and you’ve got lunch. To spread on the bread, use regular mayonnaise, or, for something a little fancier, make a tomato mayonnaise. Give one cup mayo and one seeded, peeled vine-ripened or plum tomato a quick whirl in the blender or food processor. Blend in a roasted red pepper along with the tomato and you can call it by its French name: sauce andalouse, but I like it with just the tomatoes. (To peel the tomato easily, carve an “X” into one end, drop it into boiling water for about 30 seconds and then into a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds. The peel will practically fall off.)
Wine recommendations: For the TBLT, Fisch suggests a rosé, because “there’s nothing better for lunch, even in the fall.” He specifies a dry rosé with good acidity that will stand up to the bacon and tomato. His pick: Vega Sindoa from Spain, priced around $7.
9. Turkey-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Here’s a Thanksgiving variation on the stuffed potato. Buy the biggest sweet potatoes or yams you can find and bake them at 400ºF for about an hour. (I’ve read recipes for microwave-baked sweet potatoes, but in my own kitchen, I’ve had poor results; the sugars in the spuds don’t seem to caramelize as nicely as they do when baked slowly in the oven.) Slit the potatoes lengthwise, leaving the shells intact. Remove the pulp and mash with a little butter. If you think the potato isn’t sweet enough, which can happen occasionally, or if you want extra richness, mix in a little honey. Return the potato to its shell, top with shredded or sliced turkey and cranberry sauce and drizzle with leftover turkey gravy.
Wine recommendations: A spicy red Zinfandel is Fisch’s choice for this dish. He likes Ravenswood Vintners Blend, priced at around $8.
10. Stir-fried Turkey with Red Peppers and Green Beans
Another fast, easy, yet delicious meal that won’t seem like leftovers. The simple sauce of equal parts soy sauce and hoisin can be used for other stir-fries. Just don’t increase the quantity much beyond 3 tablespoons of each, or the sauce can get too salty.
Stir-fried Turkey with Red Peppers and Green Beans
You can add other vegetables to this stir-fry. Baby corn, thinly sliced carrots, broccoli florets, onions or bok choy will all work nicely.
1 cup uncooked jasmine rice or other long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 scallion, finely chopped
About 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
1 red pepper, seeded, pith removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cups cubed or sliced cooked turkey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Prepare the rice according to the package directions and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok set over medium-high heat until it sizzles when you add a drop of water to it. Add the garlic, ginger and scallion and cook, stirring and shaking the wok, for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is golden but not browned.
Add the green beans and cook, stirring to coat with the oil and seasonings, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender-crisp and brilliant green. Add the red pepper and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until softened.
Stir in the soy and hoisin sauces and cook for 1 minute longer, or until the hoisin dissolves into the soy sauce. Add the turkey and cook for 1 minute longer, or just until heated through. Serve hot over the jasmine rice. Serves 4.
For more turkey-based recipes, pick up the November 2003 issue of Wine Enthusiast at your local newsstand or wine retailer.
Wine recommendations: “This is a full-flavored dish with a lot of stuff in it that could make the wine crazy,” says Fisch. “We could go back to Alsace, but that would be too easy, so instead, I chose a Pinot Gris from Oregon. It’s got a richer flavor, and it’s very smooth and ripe, with hazelnut overtones.” Fisch cautions that some of the more inexpensive Oregon Pinot Gris won’t have enough texture and fruit to stand up to this stir-fry, but the better ones will work just fine. He especially likes the WillaKenzie Pinot Gris, priced at around $20.