I'm thinking that the anticipation of the delights of the Thanksgiving table is as important (more important, perhaps?) as the meal itself. After all, eating the turkey, stuffing, casseroles and pies takes minutes, even with heaping plates of seconds — less than the halftime break of the Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys football game.
But the anticipation? It goes on for weeks. I was struck by this idea as a colleague, Itasca Wiggins, rhapsodized more than a month ago about one of her favorite Thanksgiving traditions: the post-feast turkey sandwich. Of course, cold turkey on bread, slicked with mayo and embellished with other treasures, like cranberry sauce or stuffing, is as iconic as the glistening mahogany roasted bird itself.
But Itasca likes her sandwich hot, open face, with plenty of gravy poured over the layers of turkey, cranberry and leftover dinner rolls that gird the whole. Conjuring an old-style diner classic, her knife-and-fork version intrigued.
So I tried it, and now I'm convinced of her rightness. The version here toys a bit with Itasca's, embellishing the gravy with sautéed mushrooms and shallots. A bit of parsley adds color, but you can skip such fanciness ... maybe a scoop of green bean casserole instead? If there is no gravy left, you can stir some together in no time, following the method here. Then it's a simple matter of heating up and assembling.
I can hardly wait until Friday.
Open-face turkey sandwich
1 slice crusty country bread or 1 dinner roll, halved
Some leftover turkey, warmed
Cranberry sauce or relish
Turkey gravy, warmed (or make our turkey mushroom gravy; recipe follows)
Fresh parsley sprigs
Place bread or split roll on a plate; top with turkey as you like, interspersing pieces or slices with cranberry sauce or relish. Pour a generous amount of gravy over all. Top with parsley. Enjoy hot, with a knife and fork. Makes 1 sandwich.
Turkey mushroom gravy
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 finely chopped shallots
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups hot turkey broth
Pepper, freshly ground
Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet; add shallots. Season with pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots soften, 5 minutes. Add mushrooms. Stir to coat; season with salt. Cook until mushrooms have given up their water and are browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer mushroom-shallot mixture to bowl.
Melt butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add flour, stirring to combine and prevent lumps; cook over low heat until golden brown. Add hot turkey broth, stirring to blend; heat to a gentle boil to thicken. Stir in mushroom-shallot mixture and freshly ground pepper to taste; heat through. Taste for seasonings.