Lovin' Leftovers

Are your holiday decorations still up?

Or are you one of those people who puts up the Griswold Family-style light show the day after Halloween, just to have everything dismantled and boxed up by 6:01 a.m. December 26??

No matter if you've decked the halls with bough of holly or you've simply decked Uncle Hal for rifling through the holly, I'm sure you've got plenty of food in your fridge from holiday festivities.

By tomorrow, your sweet potato casserole will have lost it's original appeal.
The turkey, ham, tofurkey or lamb will be reduced to translucent petals clinging to brittle bones.

But if you want something new to jazz up the innards of your fridge, pretend I'm the Pied Piper of Hamelin....follow me( no rats, please. Y'all can stay at home).

Wonton Ravioli with Pomegranate Seeds Serves 3
I formulated this recipe to incorporate a few of the leftovers I had from holiday food. I incorporated the pomegranate seeds because they're seasonal, something seen as exotic, and lends a surprise to anything you put them in. They're tart yet sweet corpuscles of fruitiness. When not in season, you can substitute dried cranberries or raisins for the flavor or whole corn kernels to achieve the same texture. As I like to tell people, recipes are only guidelines and you can mix & match as you see fit.

I have a pet peeve with Harris Teeter right now: This box arrived in late November. See the beautiful pomegranates--pretty, shiny and red? Like apples. Well, the remnants of this box were sitting on a makeshift shelf in the produce department in late December. No new fruit had come in. I bought a chinese apple, out of curiosity and most of the seeds were dark, shriveled or brown. I had to throw the whole thing out because it was so rotted out. I was too distraught to go back to the grocery to complain. So, I'm talking about it here. Shame on you, Hairy Peter. For shame.

½ cup sweet potato, cooked, mashed
2 oz. roasted turkey breast, minced
½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds
¼ cup egg substitute (or 1 whole egg)
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ tsp. black pepper, ground
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
12 each wonton wrappers (3” square)

Bring 3 to 4 quarts of water to a strong boil in a large saucepan.
Combine the first 7 ingredients (sweet potato through parsley) in a medium bowl. Lay the 12 wonton wrappers out on a flat work surface, and wet them lightly around the edges by brushing with a little water. Divide the filling among the wrappers, mounding approximately 1 teaspoon in the center of each.

Fold each wrapper over to form a triangle, and press gently around the edges to seal. 6. Carefully place the filled wontons in the boiling water, moving them gently at first so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. After a minute or so they will float to the top. Continue boiling gently for about 5 minutes. Drain and serve with a sauce drizzled over the top.

Note: The ravioli can be filled and cooked ahead of time. After draining submerge in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Then drain again and set aside in a single layer. Reheat in a microwave oven, or very quickly in boiling water, just before serving with sauce.

Pretty pomegranates perched perfectly, perpetrating patient perpetuation .

The cooked ravioli don't photograph very well, so I didn't post those. Photoshop could not save those suckers. But these little triangular pockets of joy cannot wait to be dropped into the boiling water.

Monte Cristo Sandwich Serves 1
When I was a kid, there was this diner not far from our house, Oak Lane Diner, on Broad Street in North Philly. It's been open since 1944 (or '41...'42...I'm not sure. It's really old. I know that much) and they serve breakfast all day long. This with a duo of eggs and hash and I was in heaven. This recipe of mine is a lower fat/calorie version that makes leftover turkey and or ham take the grilled cheese/croque monsieur-madame thing to another level. It's dipped in an egg batter and either deep fried or pan-griddled. Sometimes there is powdered sugar dusted on top. A sugary-sweet raspberry sauce is served on the side or poured on top, to make this the most decadent thing since fried PB&J sandwiches.

    2 slices sandwich bread
    1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    2 Tbsp shredded Swiss cheese
    2 thin slices deli ham or turkey
    1 Tbsp cranberry sauce
    Cooking oil, for the pan
    1/4 cup egg substitute or 1 egg
    1 Tbsp milk
    Pinch of salt
    1 Tbsp butter
Spread 1 slice of bread with the mustard. Then layer on 1 slice of cheese followed by both slices of ham and the last piece of cheese. Spread the cranberry sauce on the other piece of bread, then press it, spread side down, onto the sandwich. Use a piece of paper towel to rub an unheated heavy skillet with a little cooking oil. Place the skillet over moderate heat. As the skillet heats, whisk the eggs, milk, and salt in a shallow bowl until frothy.

Put the butter in the center of the pan. As it starts to melt, hold the sandwich together firmly and briefly submerge one surface in the egg batter then twist and submerge the other surface. Immediately place the sandwich in the pan, before the butter browns. Grill the sandwich on the first side for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Then flip it with a spatula and grill it on the second side for another 3 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the sandwich from the pan to a plate, slice it in half, and serve.

    Turkey Gumbo Serves 10
    Gumbo is one of those dishes that is really special to me. My mom would make it occasionally and always tell of how my grandfather (straight from the Nawlins bayou, he was) would make it for them (she and her siblings) and explain each component as if she were a chemist synthesizing the most precious chemicals on earth. Now the task has been left up to me.

    Gumbo HAS to have 2 things. I don't care what anybody says:

    Okra. Fresh is preferred, but you can get a nice PictSweet bag in your local grocer's freezer section, that's OK, too. Make sure each pod is soft, green and doesn't make black marks or pocks on them. That shows signs that the pods are old 9and are going to be tough) and should be on their way to the compost heap.

    and roux. This is a blond roux...is has to be cooked to a chocolate brown. Tan is OK, but brown is preferred. Red is best. You can't burn it though, or you have to start over (which sucks royally, but it happens if you don't stir it constantly.

    1 cup vegetable oil
    1 cup flour
    1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
    1 cup chopped green pepper
    1 cup chopped celery
    1 1/2 tsp cayenne
    1/4 lb andouille or other smoked sausage, minced
    3 to 4 bay leaves
    6 cups turkey or unsalted chicken stock
    2 to 3 cups chopped leftover turkey meat
    freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1/2 tablespoon filé powder

    Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot. Whisk in flour and continue to stir constantly—either with a whisk or a wooden spoon—until roux turns a deep, dark chocolate brown (or another shade of your liking). This should take around 30 minutes. If you sense that your roux is in danger of burning, reduce heat immediately and continue to stir.
    Once roux has reached desired shade, carefully stir in onions, bell pepper, and celery, and continue to stir about 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to wilt. When the vegetables hit the roux, be careful of the cloud of steam. Add salt, cayenne, and sausage, and continue to cook about 5 minutes.
    Rip and add bay leaves and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Add turkey and continue to simmer uncovered for an hour. Adjust seasoning. Thin out with more stock or water if necessary. In order to properly incorporate filé powder, mix it first with a few tablespoons of stock; stir to a smooth consistency and then add to gumbo. Serve with/over white rice, if desired.

    NOTE: I've missed blogging more than anyone can imagine. My cute little laptop (as refurbished as it was when I got it last Christmas) has been in the shop for three weeks. I've stayed away from all things food and blog related because I can't just pop online when I want and say hello to you, my foodie friends. It needs a new motherboard and I was informed today that the part is on its way. I say, "Thank the Lord Jesus Christ (and Santa Claus, too) " because without that thing, I feel lost. On a good note, I've had 3 weeks for reading the books & magazines, visiting friends I haven't seen since last century, and getting my life in order for 2009.
    Best wishes to you all, and see y'all next year! ;)

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    About the author

    Nikki Miller-Ka

    Nikki Miller-Ka

    Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

    Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

    Leave a reply

    1. Happy new year to you too...and um, you can keep that okra - lol.

    2. How I wish I had made my own turkey when I see all the delicious leftover recipes. Have a safe, happy and tasty New year. See you in 2009 Nik!!

    3. Nikki, HAPPY NEW YEAR. I hope all your wishes come true in 2009. Love and hugs.

    4. Just catching up and checking in. Happy New Year to you my friend.

    5. Happy New Year to you! May 2009 be the best ever!

    6. Nikki, I thought DH would fall out of his chair when he took his first bite of the Monte Cristo which you posted! It is absolutely delicious!!! In fact, for those who still have some ham/ turkey leftover and are unfortunate enough not to visit your blog, I'm going to post it on mine.. ;)

      Happy New Year, Nikki!

    7. That's a shame about no new produce!! That would make me crazy!

      Nice lineup of delicious food here!

      Happy New Year to you my friend!!

    8. Missed you too, dolling.
      I made a gumbo while you were gone, but I faked it out by substituting roasted green tomatoes for the okra. I daresay you'd have liked it. (That being said, I DO love okra.)
      Happy New Year.

    9. What awesome leftover recipes, Nikki! :) I think they all sound fantastic!

      Have a great 2009! Happy New year!

    10. Damn, I love a Monte Cristo. I should go get one. Diet starts Monday.


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