Tag-team leftovers – too much tetrazzini

A perfectly decent Turkey Tetrazzini recipe is at the end of this post. 

Prime Directive: keep the food.

My wife and I both operate with the same moral principle – that food should not be thrown out. Throwing out food, which has done absolutely nothing wrong, is a bit like evicting a dinner guest who has done absolutely nothing wrong. It’s rude and wasteful, and often unnecessary. It’s a kind of… prime directive: save the food.

True, there are exceptions. The baby spinach greens that start sliming themselves after a few days, or the sliced smoked turkey that is well on its way to a complete and ignominious death. But for the most part, food can be kept long enough for it to become tasty leftovers.

It’s difficult enough to cook for two people (the population of this house) so that we usually don’t. We cook for four, or sometimes more, and deal with the aftermath as best we can – with the Ziploc bags and plastic tubs that most of us have on hand, unless they’re all in use. In time, our fridge starts to look like a display of chaotic anonymity, with tubs and Ziplocs arranged by age and/or volume. Sometimes by color, which is various shades of ecru, tan, ochre, or off-orange.

Our fridge, on a normal day.

A slight digression, but: today my wife found a fork in the clothes dryer downstairs. Nice and shiny. I can’t fathom the sequence of events that led to a fork ending up in the dryer amid a pile of laundry, but I’m certain the sequence was both idiotic and completely innocent. It’s nearly equal in strangeness to discovering a damp and squeaky-clean floret of broccoli in a just-drained bathtub, a couple of years ago. Broc in the tub – never to be repeated! How? Why? Is it still good? An entire floret??

We’re either haunted or sloppy, one. But with care, leftovers survive us, and become good meals. Steak, chopped up nicely, goes into chili. Chicken and turkey can go into chili. Even meat loaf can become chili, but I prefer it sliced thin in sandwiches – on toast, with some ketchup and mayo. Bits of Italian sausage can go into chili. And shreds of pork butt.

I made spaghetti and meatballs two nights ago for us and a friend who came by. I made far too much – he was usually a hearty eater, but we all called it quits with half-full plates. After he left, it all went into plastic tubs, and my wife and I had some of the leftovers for lunch. Fast-forward a few hours, and I’d promised my wife and myself to make turkey tetrazzini for supper. More pasta! Three meals in a row!

Tag-teaming…

On any given day, we may have between five and eight different leftover collections ready for heating and/or mixing with other things (example: creamed turkey with rice can become a hearty soup!). More often than not, she’ll have one thing and I’ll have another, like this typical weekday lunch schedule —

  • Monday
  • Her: reheated leftover ratatouille with rice. (I’m not much of a ratatouille fan)
  • Me: hot leftover meat loaf sandwich on gluten-free toast.
  • Tuesday
  • Her: mooshed-up leftover baked sweet potato sauteed in oil with black beans.
  • Me: leftover spaghetti meat sauce spiced with cumin and chili powder to simulate something southwestern, on gluten-free toast.
  • Wednesday
  • Her: leftover chunks of dark-meat chicken sauteed in olive oil with black beans and curry and soy sauce and other things.
  • Me: leftover white-meat chicken, diced, with minced celery, mayo, and curry to make chicken salad, on gluten-free toast. OR leftover spaghetti and meatballs.
  • Thursday
  • Her: what’s left of the ratatouille, sauteed, with bits of leftover meat loaf and black beans.
  • Me: sauteed leftover meatloaf with fried eggs, OR chicken soup with leftover shreds of chicken, chicken broth, leftover diced tomatoes, basmati rice, stray chunks of leftover meatloaf, and spices.

It usually works quite well this way, each of us preparing and eating what we like best – OR, what needs to be eaten immediately because it’s on the threshold of composting itself.

It took some effort to squeeze our leftover tetrazzini into two tubs like this one.

Perfectly acceptable Turkey Tetrazzini

We had this last night instead of leftovers, and it was pretty good. Again, we made much too much of it. Hence the photo, above.

You’ll need:

  • about 2 or 3 cups chopped turkey (or chicken)
  • about 3/4 lb. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup or so slivered almonds (for a needed crunch)
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • about 1/2 lb (2 cups) macaroni or spaghetti
  • bread crumbs (optional)
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup light cream, or evaporated milk
  • butter
  • flour
  • oil
  • dry white wine
  • a well-oiled casserole

Now do these things:

  • Cook the pasta, drain, and put in the casserole.
  • Saute the mushrooms in butter, in a large skillet. When they start shrinking and getting wet, add about 1/4 cup white wine, and keep sauteeing until the liquid is gone.
  • Add the chopped turkeymushrooms and almonds to the casserole, and stir gently.
  • In the same large skillet, melt 3 tbsp. butter, then whisk in 2 tbsp. flour and stir until smooth. Now add the 2 cups broth and gently simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • Heat the cream or evaporated milk until hot (we used evaporated milk, and it was just fine – not too rich). Pour it into skillet, and stir until well-mixed. At this point, the sauce will be thin – it’ll thicken up a bit in the oven.
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Pour the sauce into the casserole, and stir well with a wooden spoon. Add about a grated half-wedge of parmesan cheeseOptional: sprinkle panko bread crumbs on top, and dab with butter or sprinkle on parmesan cheese. Season to taste.
  • Heat the dish uncovered in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the edges of the dish are bubbling.

It was pretty good.

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Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.