A couple of years ago, I roasted two turkeys for Thanksgiving. The turkeys were 25 pounds each.
Two turkeys times 25 pounds each equals 50 pounds of turkey, which is a Tom Jones, aka “not unusual,” if your family is you know, a small country or something, but my family only has five people and even with annexation aka “marriage” and expansion aka “reproduction,” that particular Thanksgiving dinner was for 10 guests.
Now, I may not be mathematically inclined but I do know how to write a macro in Excel that can figure out that 50 pounds of fowl divided by 10 people averages out to 10 lethal overdoses of tryptophan when taken in one hit, right?
Overs, that is.
The Delicious Family Leftunder Prevention
My family loves Thanksgiving leftovers. They love Thanksgiving leftovers so much that a couple of years ago, we had this brilliant idea of roasting one turkey for dinner and one turkey strictly for leftovers. My sisters called me, each individually at least twice and once on three-way to “make sure that there would be enough leftover turkey” to last the four weeks until Christmas, when they can replenish their supply of leftovers in the freezer with leftover Christmas ham. Or roast beef. Or god forbid, turkey again. Of course what they actually said was that they wanted to make sure there would be a little something for every person to take home at the end of the night.
This year we would have done the same if it weren’t for Mom’s refrigerator being too crowded to store two turkeys during the few days before. You would understand if you were Korean. Kimchee jars.
It’s not that I think liking leftovers is weird. Sure, there are some people for whom “leftovers” is a concept that doesn’t exist. Either they’ve been disciplined into cooking and eating so that they won’t have leftovers at the end; or they are in a life position in which they don’t need to save their leftovers. I can’t imagine Paris and Nicky opening up their fridge on a Tuesday morning after dinner at Mr. Chow and eating cold Kung Pao Chicken right out of the box. I can’t imagine that Paris and Nicky even know that they have a kitchen in their house.
But at Thanksgiving, there is most definitely going to be quite a bit of food that can’t possibly all be finished in one sitting and most people look forward to these leftovers because having them eases the cooking burden for the few days following the big bad feast that you just spent 12 days planning, updating your Excel spreadsheet with built-in macros that calculate how much to buy, how long to cook, and even take into account the fact that your brother-in-law-in-law Larry is allergic to mushrooms.
So my family loving leftovers and my sisters encouraging me to roast enough turkey to have leftovers a-plenty is, again, Tom Jones.
Swanson Would Be Proud
What is unusual is that minus The Delicious, the Delicious family is the only group of freaks that does not feel the need to get creative with leftovers. I might even go so far as to say that they do not like getting creative with leftovers at all.
There you go; I went that far.
They will simply put together an exact replica of their plates from the original night from the cold, congealed masses that are unleashed from containers that have been re-used from grocery store “fresh” salsa or otherwise suspicious tubs that only have the furry white residue left after the glossy colored part of the label pulled away in the dishwasher.
A couple of slices of leftover turkey drizzled with leftover gravy as artfully as gloppy gravy will allow, a picture perfect scoop of mealy leftover mashed potatoes, and a helping of whatever other leftover autumnal vegetable we served that night in addition to green bean casserole. There is very rarely any green bean casserole left over, but green bean casserole alone is a subject that gives me hives, not the allergic kind, but the stress kind.
Once the entire NASA-approved plate is heated through in the microwave, they add a dollop of cranberry sauce and sit down to eat what is essentially a homemade Swanson TV dinner. That’s okay for the first few days, maybe even the first week, but they do it for four straight weeks. Every night. Until the leftovers run out.
You will never see leftovers in any purer form than plated, heated, and eaten in the exact same way as it was the night before. My family never gets tired of it.
I Was Adopted
I can understand it, I suppose. At least, I think I’ve come up with a logical explanation. Four straight weeks of roast poultry with bread-based stuffing and other very traditionally American vegetable side dishes for my family is equivalent to eating it about once a week for other regular American families, when we are eating Korean food. Or Chinese. Or sushi. Sometimes Mexican, too, but usually, some vari-Asian.
Turkey in kimchee jjigae for us is just a dry twist on the everyday.
Either my parents rescued me from the pound, my genes mutated at some point during my early childhood, or letting my laptop screen emit weird bloggy beta rays toward my head upwwards of 19-20 hours a day for the last three years has radiated my tastebuds into tiny sensory tangles of nothing, neuronically disconnected from my brain.
Or, I could be an alien. If you think about it, Superman was technically from outer space, too.
Oui, Invented the Remix
Like those people known to me as the Delicious family, I like leftovers, too, but I can’t eat them in the same format every time. The joy of leftovers isn’t the flavor of the food itself. It isn’t that I want to eat turkey and mashed potatoes (but not green bean casserole) every day for eleven days straight because I love them that much (not that Thanksgiving dinner is, or ever has been, bad). In fact, I have gustatory ADD. I’d get bored eating the same thing, no matter what or how good it is, that many days in a row.
I like leftovers because I love the challenge of The Remix.
Every year, I love trying to come up with alternative ways to eat leftovers without resorting to 1) a sandwich or 2) a rep-eat of my Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey is the easiest because it’s a canvas for flavor, code for “bland.” Turkey Eggs Benedict. Turkey Quesadillas. Turkey Vegetable Soup. Turkey Pot Pie. Turkey Chili. Turkey Curry. Even the side dishes get into the game. Cranberry sauce gets folded into quick breads or becomes sorbet. Creamed corn serves as the base for a jalapeno cheddar cornbread.
My crowning achievement was the genius of mixing mashed potatoes with peas and spices and making “samosas.”
I know. I impressed myself, too.
Potato Croquettes, also known as Korokke (say it out loud, it sounds like you’re saying “croquette” with a really severe accent) probably doesn’t beat samosas for creativity, but I didn’t have wontons wrappers on hand and what is the point of eating remixing leftovers if you have to go out and buy more ingredients? (I am not yet at a point where I can just throw a handful of flour down on a board and beat out some pastry, either). The challenge always lies in using up what you have. Rice and panko crumbs are a pantry staple in any Asian kitchen. I just also happened to have some of both.
Side note: This dish, along with the Pizza Hut pasta in a bread bowl, perplex me. How is it possible to want to make a dish that is pure carb on carb on carb?
Japanese Potato Croquette Korokke Curry
“Authentic” Potato Croquettes usually start with plain whole potatoes. This recipe starts with about two cups of leftover mashed potatoes, which obviously will have some butter, milk/cream and salt. If your mashed potatoes are exceedingly creamy, i.e. “runny,” the croquettes will not hold together very well, so you may want to heat the mashed potatoes slowly first in a frying pan to dehydrate them a little.
If the leftover mashed potatoes have other things in them, you are on your own with respect to how they will taste. I suspect bacon will be fine since these have ground beef, and wasabi will just go with the whole “Japanese” theme. However, if you got all crazy and mixed blue cheese into your mashed potatoes, first I salute you for such bravery at he Thanksgiving dinner table and second, I recommend you make the croquettes with leftover plain mashed potatoes next year.
Japanese Potato Croquette Korokke Ingredients
2 cups leftover plain (butter, milk/cream, and salt are fine) mashed potatoes:
1 tablespoon cooking oil
¼ lb ground beef
½ onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
salt pepper to taste
flour and panko, about half cup each
½ package Japanese curry
Japanese Potato Croquette Korokke Directions
Heat cooking oil in large frying pan over medium heat and saute ground beef and chopped onions. When beef and onions are about halfway cooked, add minced garlic and cook until ground beef is fully cooked. Drain excess fat/oil from ground beef mixture. Add mashed potatoes to frying pan to heat (but not cook).
Remove mashed potatoes/ground beef mixture to a bowl, season with salt and pepper and cool until you can handle it.
Scoop out about about a half cup of the potato mixture and shape into an oval disc about ½-¾” thick. You should get 4-5 discs.
Carefully dredge each disc with flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
Heat about ½” of oil in frying pan over medium heat. Fry croquettes on each side until golden brown, about a minute on each side. Drain croquettes of oil on paper towels.
Prepare Curry Sauce according to package directions and add whatever cooked vegetables you like (I happened to have frozen peas and carrots). You can also make Japanese curry from scratch, but damn, that is a lot of effort for leftover mashed potatoes.
Serve croquettes with curry on steamed rice.