When you read this (that is, if you get round to reading the Bulletin on the day before Christmas Eve) there will be about 48 hours to go before you sit down to Christmas day lunch — and here I am writing about what to do with the leftovers before they’re lying around in the kitchen.
It’s a prochronism that weekly columnists sometimes run into — by the time next Thursday comes round, it will be far too late to give you some ideas for dealing with leftovers…so I have to do it before the festive leftovers put in their annual appearance.
Leftovers are the great perennial problem of just about everyone’s Christmas table and there are only two surefire ways of avoiding them. One is to organise Christmas meals so that absolutely everything is eaten up at one sitting. The other is to be ruthless and put every scrap of remains into the bin.
For the great majority of us, neither solution is practicable, so both of them are quite out of the question. We always end up making too much food at Christmas, no matter how well we plan the details. If we are going to make a catering mistake at this time of the year, it must be on the side of excess, never insufficiency.
And when we have spent so much on Christmas meals, and when we remember there are millions of people all over the world who don’t get enough to eat, the binning of good food is a sin most of us manage to avoid. Leftovers present no problem for me: if the dish is well made I’ll gladly eat the remains of lunch for dinner. There are even some leftover dishes I’ll happily have for breakfast next day…and the day after that.
But most people I know are not so well disposed towards leftover food. They don’t want to eat it cold next day, and they’d rather not have it simply reheated in the oven or the microwave…and I don’t blame them.
For most of us, the ideal leftovers are those that come disguised as another dish. And it should be as different as possible from the original one.
My favourite way of dealing with the remains of a good roast turkey, however, is simply to nibble at it, slicing little bits off the carcass here and there, and having them with forkfuls of stuffing.
That’s a real treat scenario, sometimes even more fun than the first time round, especially in the company of like-minded friends and with a bottle of good wine on the table.
If you throw in some good bread and butter, a couple of relishes and some very hot bread sauce, this communal picking at the leftover turkey while standing and chatting round the kitchen table can turn into real feast.
This is something men do rather than women, but women should also give it a try. It is basic eating of an almost tribal kind and it really is a splendid way of dealing with leftover turkey or any of the other large domestic fowl.
And if the badinage flows fast and slick and there’s another bottle or two of wine and if everyone is feeling peckish, the nibble drags on and a great deal of leftover turkey is consumed. Dagwood Bumstead would approve of it — and he wouldn’t need the humorous conversation.
My other preferred way of dealing with leftover roast turkey and other poultry is to have it in sandwiches. But not any old kind of sandwich. You need really fine bread, so get it at one of the boutique bakeries that have sprouted up all over Palma (as well as the rest of the island) or an old fashioned Majorcan bakery that still does its own bread. Top quality bread really does make a sandwich a memorable one.
There are also some magnificent rolls to be bought at bakeries and some supermarkets. Mercadona are now doing a smallish roll made with white or wholemeal flour that is beautifully soft and fluffy. It’s new and is on special offer at 80 centimos for a bag of six. Another new item is a rectangular rye loaf about 5.5cm high that costs €1.50 and is nicely moist and tasty.
I prefer my bread for sandwiches to be a day old and I never slice it too thinly. It should be thickly spread with butter, whose role is to provide lubrication as well as taste — and for that you need plenty of it.
It is also essential to use meat and stuffing for the filling: the combination of the two is an epicurean delight, especially if you spread the meat with some of the jellied juices.
Given that harmony of textures and flavours, my turkey sandwich needs nothing else: mustard, relishes, mayonnaise or anything else would be an unwelcome intrusion. Relishes can be used if there are no leftover jellied juices. A relish provides lubrication as well as extra taste sensations.
The remains of my roast turkey would provide sliced white and dark meat for at least one meal — but it would be cold slices, not warmed-up ones.
One of the worst things you can do to roast turkey leftovers is to warm the meat in a thin gravy. The reheating does nothing for the texture of the meat and it gives it an unpleasant stale flavour.
It’s a much better idea to serve the sliced turkey cold, with perhaps some freshly made bread sauce, some relishes (but not reheated gravy) and potatoes of all kinds: roast, chipped, mashed sautéed or fried.
Some well-lubricated vegetables, such as those done in a bechamel sauce, make a perfect side dish. Flavour the bechamel sauce with fresh herbs of your choice. Thyme, rosemary and sage are especially good as this time of year.
The remains may provide at least enough meat for a risotto, a comforting dish that is most welcome on cold post-Christmas days. It’s the kind of dish, like polenta, that absorbs a great deal of heat and helps to give us inner warmth.
When making a risotto with leftover meat of any kind, you must take care to avoid the stale reheated taste. Macerate the diced turkey meat in white wine for half an hour, drain it, and add the wine to the rice after it has been sautéed briefly in the butter.
Do not add the turkey meat to the risotto until the last five minutes of cooking time. The longer the turkey reheats, the more chance there is of giving it a stale taste. And it is also essential that you use an Italian risotto rice such as arborio, which is available at most supermarkets.
My turkey leftovers, especially the small bits and pieces, would also be used for a batch of croquettes that could be frozen for later use if they’re not wanted for one of the 12 days of Christmas.
And, finally, I would chop up the turkey carcass into smallish pieces, put them into my biggest pot, add any available root veggies and plenty of fresh herbs, and boil everything for 45 minutes to produce a superb stock for thick soups that will be most welcome during the first days of 2022.