The day after Thanksgiving we are happy campers: we camp in our house. We have leftover rolls. We have leftover pie. We have leftover roast turkey, cranberry sauce and a few extra baked yams. Sometimes we have mashed potatoes and brown turkey gravy. When we get hungry, we grab a roll, heat up a slice of pie, filch some sliced turkey off the platter. But when we get tired of grazing, sometime in the next day or two I make turkey-apple stew, employing leftover turkey, gravy and stock, with the additions of carrots, apple cider and fresh apples. I have to keep an eye on the gravy supply and make sure I make the stew before my brother feeds the gravy to Ozzy, the border collie. We make a rich, dark brown gravy from the drippings in the roasting pan, flour and water, and Ozzy loves to come for Thanksgiving.
What I use to make the stew is mostly dark meat. I strip it from the thighs and drumsticks, throwing the bones and sinews into the stock we started Thanksgiving day with the giblets, odd pieces of celery, any unwanted skin. Eventually, we will strip the entire carcass and throw it in our biggest pot for stock. We will probably make turkey and noodles with that, but stew comes first in the post-Thanksgiving rotation.
I begin by slicing apples and cutting carrots into batons. I use four apples and three carrots, usually, but you can adapt this to your own tastes. I don’t peel the apples. Because my Mom does not like eating pieces of onion, I will cook a small, peeled onion whole in the stew and remove it before serving. If you like pieces of onion, go ahead and add a cut -up onion or two to your stew.
Saute 3 carrots, cut into batons and
4 sliced apples (and optional onions) in a few Tbsp of olive oil and butter.
Sprinkle vegetables with dried thyme (stripped from five or six stalks)
When vegetables begin to brown,
Add some turkey stock and 1 cup or so of apple cider (I saute the vegetables in a standard skillet and add stock and cider until it is full). If you want it more savory, use more stock and less cider. For a sweeter stew, reverse the ratio.
While vegetables simmer, strip your turkey and cut it into pieces you can put in your mouth.
Put turkey pieces in your pot of leftover gravy (If you don’t have leftover gravy, you’re screwed as far as this recipe goes unless you can scrounge up some brown drippings and make some more. In a pinch, you can thicken stock with flour, but it will be a pale imitation of the real thing).
Heat the turkey in the gravy, as you would for hot turkey sandwiches. When vegetables are tender, add vegetables to turkey and gravy. Taste and season. I like to add Tabasco at this point — just a little. You might prefer salt and pepper. Nutmeg is a nice addition, too, and I can imagine that ginger might be good. The original recipe (published years ago in the San Francisco Chronicle’s magazine) calls for adding cream. Sometimes I throw in just a splash of half and half to round it out, but it is not strictly necessary.
I have served this plain in a bowl to eat with leftover rolls. I have served it over rice. I have served it over soft polenta. You could even eat it over mashed potatoes.
Food notes: You can, of course, make this stew with white meat if that floats your boat. For goodness’ sake, please don’t make it with cream gravy — even gravy mix is better than that. In our house when the gravy supply is low, we extend it with brown fluids: coffee has been used, or Kitchen Bouquet, or meat drippings from some other meal.
You can gussy this up by adding cream or half and half to your taste. If I have brandy, cognac, applejack or hard cider I’ll toss a jigger in with the apple cider and stock. If your sauce is thinner than you like, you can make a quick roux of flour and butter to thicken it — we usually reduce our gravy to save it so mine doesn’t need any additional thickening. If you have parsley on hand, chop some finely for a beautiful and flavorful garnish. If you want to be the next Martha Stewart, carve some crab apples into fancy faces, roast them and garnish with that. Don’t tell Martha I said that.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! See you next week.