Do you have Thanksgiving leftovers, or are you wondering what to do with your upcoming Christmas leftovers? Turn them into a comforting casserole with local ingredients.
Despite having a lot of guests over Thanksgiving, I had a lot of turkey left over, especially white meat. I like dark meat turkey better because of its higher moisture content. I set out to find a good recipe for the turkey I had, preferably something creamy.
Many casserole recipes of the 1960s were practically a list of cans: a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of green beans, a can of tuna, etc. - combined into a dish and perhaps topped with cracker crumbs. But a casserole is also a great way to combine leftovers into something yummy.
Once I stopped eating grains I also stopped making casseroles. Too many of my favorite recipes had rice, pasta, white sauce, or bread crumbs in them, and I wasn’t sure what direction to take them instead. Thankfully there are a lot of recipes out there for “paleo” casseroles to help me out.
I found a great paleo recipe, interestingly, on Perdue’s website. While I in no way condone factory farmed poultry, I found Perdue’s recipe to be a good starting point for my own.
Paleo recipes, however, often include non-dairy substitutes. While I am happy for people who cannot eat dairy to have readily available options, I do not see any coconut trees, for instance, around Chattanooga. I do not tolerate coconut that well myself, either, so I substitute regular (local!) dairy in dairy-free recipes. One thing to keep in mind when doing this is fat content. Full-fat coconut milk has a fat content somewhere between half and half and cream.
I think about what I have on hand and what end result I’m looking for when I think about how to substitute for a non-dairy milk. In this case I wanted a creamy casserole and I had sour cream, so I used that in addition to milk. Some cheese would have been a great addition, too. I stirred some in my serving and wished I had put it in the whole casserole.
Don’t be put off by cauliflower rice just because it’s a trendy food item right now. It’s also a local food, unlike regular rice. If I had leftover roasted cauliflower on hand I might have used that instead or in addition to the “rice.” An interesting substitute or addition could be leftover sweet potato or white potatoes. It would change the flavor significantly but would add more substance to the dish.
Photos by Zachary Cross
Another local addition or substitute is squash. I did not have leftover cooked squash or pumpkin on hand, but if you do, this recipe from Paleo Grubs uses it in a casserole to provide a creamy texture. I plan to try it in the future.
Spinach is in season and plentiful right now, but feel free to substitute other greens as desired. I used a mix of frozen spinach, fresh spinach, and a fresh, baby Asian green. Leftover, cooked kale or other cooked greens would work, too. If your greens are already seasoned (e.g., sauteed with onions and/or garlic), you could substitute them for the onion and garlic I’ve listed as well.
I’ve specified using a large pot for this recipe so you can adjust ingredients to suit you before baking. The original chicken casserole recipe I reference looked dry to me, so I kept adding liquids until it looked right to me. Start with less liquid than you think you need, and keep adding until it looks right to your eye. You might like it drier than I do.
Once your casserole is ready to bake, feel free to top with cheese, bread crumbs, paprika, or whatever strikes your fancy - maybe even cracker crumbs!
Inspired by Paleo Chicken and Cauliflower Rice Casserole
2 cups leftover cooked turkey, chopped
1 large head cauliflower
1 large onion, chopped
Fat for sauteing (butter, palm, turkey, olive)
~8 oz mushrooms, sliced
~24 oz fresh spinach
1 - 1 ½ cups milk
¼-½ cup sour cream
~1 cup turkey broth
3 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Printable recipe here
Are you running out of time or oven space today? Spatchcock your turkey!
What does spatchcock mean? Originally it was a term for a culled immature male chicken. These days it, along with butterflying, is a term for a specific way to prepare your chicken or turkey for cooking. When you spatchcock a bird you cut out the backbone, and possibly also the sternum or keel bone, and flatten the bird out. If you’ve ever struggled to get your whole bird of choice evenly cooked you can appreciate how a flattened out fowl cooks more evenly. And it’s faster, too! A medium-sized turkey is done in about 90 minutes.
I started with a 10-pound turkey from Hoe Hope Valley Farm. I saw the idea for butterflying turkey in the November issue of Real Simple magazine. Oddly, the instructions are not available online. I got out my trusty Cutco kitchen shears, ready to cut out the backbone. It was more difficult than I thought! So I sought out help from Google, found a few more photos and was able to proceed.
Here’s what I found:
Overall I found this to be an excellent way to roast a turkey. I saw a lot of recipes for grilled spatchcocked turkey, another great way to save oven space.
When you have the time to brine, I recommend Real Simple’s dry brine formula. When it was time to roast the turkey I patted it dry and rubbed the turkey with butter. The combination of the brine and butter was wonderful. For instructions on butterflying I found meatwave to have the most thorough instructions and photos. Martha, of course, has the prettiest photos of spatchcocking and instructions for carving as well. Serious Eats has a good discussion, too.
Finally, with all the family fun and food we were not able to take photographs. Enjoy this shot of our lovely fall colors instead! Happy Thanksgiving!
Photo by Zachary Cross
Happy Thanksgiving! I have one more recipe for you that can be made ahead with local ingredients.
When I first started cooking I was pretty careful to follow recipes. Even now I’m pretty careful to follow a recipe the first time I make it - unless I find a lot of different versions of the recipe. The internet can make recipe hunting overwhelming sometimes with all the options available online. I’ve found Pinterest to help narrow the search. If I need to broaden I can always go back to the Google.
Potatoes au Gratin, also known as Gratin Dauphinois, is serious comfort food with all its starchiness and creaminess. For years I tried the Joy of Cooking’s recipes for Potatoes au Gratin to the letter (pre-internet). The methods were complicated and the results were hit or miss. Either a roux-based white sauce was used or flour was sprinkled between the layers of potatoes to created a roux, depending on the recipe.
Then Jack Bishop’s recipe arrived in our kitchen. So simple: potatoes, cream, a little cheese, a smidge of garlic and butter on the dish, and salt and pepper to taste. A long cooking time but not a long prep time - with the right tools.
Cutting two pounds of potatoes thinly with a knife, even a good knife, can get tiring quickly. I finally got a mandoline slicer and it is so much easier, faster, and more consistent. I purchased the OXO Good Grips - it’s a reasonable price and has worked well for the slicing I’ve done so far.
I wondered, after my success with make-ahead mashed potatoes, if potatoes au gratin would be a good make-ahead dish. Turns out, yes. According to The Kitchn, “...it only gets more oozy and delicious the next day.” Also, apparently cheese is not traditional, so Bishop’s recipe could be even simpler!
Cheese is an excellent and common addition, though. Choose your favorite cheese, though a variety that melts well is a good choice. I had Fontina on hand, but you will often see Gruyère recommended. Sequatchie Cove Creamery’s Gruetli is a good local option.
Although I like simple recipes I decided to add a few flavors and some extra butter since I’m planning to reheat it. The extra fat really helped the mashed potatoes reheat well.
I used a recipe from Recipe Tin Eats that is pretty similar to Bishop’s, with more butter, cream, and also some thyme. It is rich! A little serving goes a long way so this is a good recipe for a crowd.
A couple of notes: according to The Kitchn, a shallow pan or dish is best for cooking. I found mine came out fine in a deeper dish. I could have filled mine fuller, too, as the potatoes sink into the dish, not rise up (mashed potatoes rise). In the space where they sank the butter browned pretty dark. I might wipe my dish if I have space left over next time.
Photos by Zachary Cross
Although gratin recipes give temperatures from 350-450° F, I think lower and slower is best, especially for potatoes that you are planning to reheat. The higher temps brown the butter faster, possibly faster than the potatoes can cook. However, there are so many gratin recipes at the higher temperatures that you can choose to cook at whatever temp is convenient. Keep an eye on it at the higher temperatures.
I’ll list Bishop’s recipe and then options from the other recipe I used. Happy Thanksgiving week, whatever you choose to cook!
From Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish
1 large garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut crosswise into ⅛ -inch rounds
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded, about 1 ½ cups
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
Options, inspired by The Kitchn and Recipe Tin Eats:
Printable recipe here
Thanksgiving is on the early side of the month this year and it’s right around the corner! Read on for a round up of the blog’s Thanksgiving recipes and a recipe specifically aimed at relieving kitchen congestion on the big day.
Last year I wrote a post linking to the blog’s previous posts suitable for Thanksgiving, along with a recipe for mashed turnips. Since then I’ve added more traditional holiday recipes: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes, Sweet Potato Casserole, and Mashed Cauliflower. Don’t see a favorite recipe, or have an ingredient you’d like to use that isn’t featured in these lists? Try the search bar above the Archives list (scroll down on a mobile device). If you still don’t see it please drop me a line at heather(at)crossclan(dot)org and I’ll consider it for a future post.
As far as the turkey goes, slow roasting is a new option to try from the blog. This year I’m planning to spatchcock my turkey and roast it the day before Thanksgiving. I’ll post the results on the blog that night so you have an option Thanksgiving Day. Spatchcocking, or butterflying, is supposed to cut the roasting time way down and cook the bird more evenly as well. I’m picking up my turkey this week and I’ll dry brine it a couple days before cooking.
If you are hosting a holiday meal one issue you might face is where to cook all the various dishes you want to serve, or even just keep warm till the meal. For instance, we have an open galley kitchen; it’s pretty small as far as cabinet, counter, and appliance space. We do not have room to roast a turkey and also cook anything else in the oven. I use an electric roaster and that is a big help.
Another way to save space is to make items ahead and reheat at serving time. What and how to make ahead depends on your kitchen set up, items you are planning to serve, and personal preference. For instance, if you plan your meal and find yourself short on stovetop space, but with plenty of oven space, make something ahead and reheat in the oven. And vice versa. However, if you are like our family and are going to come up short with both oven and stovetop space, use an electric cooker such as a roaster or slow cooker. Our roaster also has options to bake loaves of bread or keep individual serving dishes warm.
Mashed potatoes are an excellent choice for making ahead, partly because there are so many ways to do it. From starting and ending with the slow cooker, to making fairly traditional mashed potatoes to reheat in the oven, or a hybrid of the two, pick the method that suits your situation.
Originally I thought of leftover mashed potatoes as only fit for potato cakes (which are a great dish, but not terribly convenient for a large meal). I wondered what it would take to make mashed potatoes fit to heat and serve. Turns out it’s mostly lots of fat: butter, cream, and cream cheese, or possibly sour cream. Besides being yummy these ingredients also keep the potatoes from drying out in the reheating process.
I added slow sauteed onions and celery, an idea from The More with Less Cookbook’s recipe, Potato Filling. That recipe includes egg and breadcrumbs, things that I was not interested in having in my mashed potatoes this time. An egg or two gives a nice poofy texture to the finished dish but eggs are scarce at the market this time of year and I prefer to use them elsewhere.
When making the mashed potatoes be sure not to over mash them since you will be be stirring in lots of extra ingredients. Otherwise, make the texture to your taste: lumpy, smooth, or somewhere in between. I used a regular hand masher and a wooden spoon, while Jeffrey’s preferred method is to use a mixer. Butter your dish of choice, such as Grandma’s slow cooker or vintage pyrex. Once you’ve added all the ingredients per the recipe, cover and refrigerate, up to a few days before reheating. Take your potatoes out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before heating, and up to several hours for a crock. Add a few pats of butter on top, cover or not cover (see below) and heat.
Photos by Zachary Cross
I tried heating both in the oven and in the slow cooker. The crockpot took much longer, but when oven space is at a premium, or if you need to transport your dish and keep it warm, the longer time is worth it. As far as taste goes they were both good. I left the oven version uncovered to try it out with a browned crust and that was our favorite. You may notice that I have the potatoes in a bowl in my crock pot. Although I used a lot of potatoes, once mashed they did not fill the crock pot. I was concerned that they might not be visible so I used the bowl to hold them and raise them up. I did not find this made much of a change in the time I expected them to take. I put boiling water in the bottom of my crock; some sources recommend not running a crock dry. I cooked on high and the potatoes took about two hours to heat thoroughly. I did not stir the potatoes as I figured that would be best for the texture. I also figured I would forget on a busy day such as Thanksgiving anyway. Many recipes I’ve seen say three hours on low with stirring.
When it comes time to cover Grandma’s dishes to go back in the fridge, don’t use plastic wrap! Cheri Miller sells lovely beeswax/cloth wraps that mold to the shape of many sizes of bowls. Super Bee, Bees Wrap, and My Plastic Free Life all have more information on these wraps.
Remember to shop at the market on Tuesday, not Wednesday, Thanksgiving week and have a happy holiday!
Serves 10-12 as a side
1 med-large onion
2 stalks celery
¼ cup butter
5 lbs of your favorite potatoes (mine are Yukon Gold), peeled or not
½ cup butter, melted or softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¾ cup cream, warmed
Salt and pepper to taste
Pats of even more butter, for topping
Herbs such as chives for serving
Printable recipe here
Do you want something new for your Thanksgiving or everyday table? Try this quick and easy recipe with local cauliflower that's now available.
Photos by Zachary Cross
I love cauliflower and look forward to the season beginning each fall. Cauliflower is a bit more temperamental than other brassicas like broccoli and cabbage that can have a longer season. It’s worth the wait! It will depend on weather, of course, but the farmers I talked to have theirs planted under cover and harvest should be staggered all winter.
I like cauliflower cooked and served straight up with a little butter and salt. I’ve enjoyed, too, though, all the new cauliflower recipes that have popped up with paleo-style eating where some people avoid certain starches. Cauliflower has proved a good substitute for white potatoes, rice, and some kinds of breads.
While I won’t tell you that cauliflower rice and pizza crust are just like the original, they are both yummy and a nice change of pace. Also, you’ve automatically eaten a serving of veggies! Mashed cauliflower, however, will almost sneak by as mashed potatoes.
I’m not interested in replacing mashed potatoes, but this is a tasty and even easier recipe. No peeling potatoes; the cooking time is a bit shorter; and you can whiz them with an immersion blender. Bonus: cauliflower does not get gummy with over blending, it just gets smoother and creamier.
This is another recipe that I do not measure precisely but I’ve gotten it down to some basic guidelines. It’s about: 1 pound cauli, 3 cloves of garlic, 3 Tbsp of butter, and salt to taste. That makes about four servings as a side dish so adjust as necessary.
Use your your whole cauliflower, trimming any hard spots (usually the stem end), large leaves, or black spots smaller than little dots. That beautiful cauliflower in the blue bowl above? It’s not as pretty on first sight. But it’s fine underneath. Watch for places where those little spots get bigger and cut them out. While cauliflower leaves are edible I find the largest ones to be tough and cut those off. It’s a similar situation for stems. They will usually soften up fine without peeling (cut them up a bit), but the ends get tough.
The garlic adds flavor and is surprisingly mild. Garlics differ in strength, though, so if you have an especially mild or pungent garlic, adjust as desired. The garlic adds a bit of a root vegetable, and I think that contributes to the taste and texture as well.
A big difference I’ve found between potatoes and cauliflower is that potatoes will soak up butter all day and just get yummier while cauliflower gets runny if too much is added. For best texture start low and add rather than try to subtract. I’ve found three tablespoons to be a consistently good amount for a pound of cauliflower.
Prep your cauliflower, break apart the florets, cut up the stems and steam or boil with the garlic. This takes as little as ten minutes, but you do want it to be tender, so give it longer if necessary. I’ve always boiled the cauli and garlic in a bit of water together, then drained. Steaming is another option I’ve seen online, as well as sautéing the garlic separately. I think boiling mellows the flavor better, but it is also draining away some of the nutrients.
And you do want to drain it well! That’s the key to good texture. Drain well (and don’t make the mistake we once did and set it aside in the cooking water to drain later. Whoops, lesson learned!), add cut up butter, sprinkle some salt, and blend with a hand blender. If you prefer chunky textures use a potato masher. Or try your favorite way of mashing potatoes. I found a mixer to be a bit difficult to use with it but it worked.
Taste and add butter and/or salt as needed. Garnish with pepper, chives, and whatever you think looks pretty. Serve in the same style of bowl as your mashed potatoes and see who can tell the difference by looking! Or tasting, for that matter.
1 pound of cauliflower (1 med-large head)
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste
Garnishes as desired, e.g. pepper, chives, parsley
Printable recipe here