From my childhood, with leftover turkey, I remember our housekeeper, Ann, serving an old-fashioned dish, common at the time – turkey-a-la-king. Sometimes she would use chicken. Ann added carrots, crunchy celery, and certainly peas, along with making a creamy white sauce. Aside from it’s saucy flavorfulness, what I affectionately recall were the colorful, but slimy looking pieces of pimentos. Pimentos added brightness, but not much overpowering taste, indeed quite mild, with a hint of sweetness. Happily for me there was no spice! For my turkey tetrazzini casserole I too added pimentos, since I randomly grabbed a jar at the grocery store recently recalling earlier times. I think Ann served her dish near a piled-high plate of steamy rice. To this day, I love rice accompanying saucy meats and vegetables.
However, my version of turkey tetrazzini – although it includes strips of pimentos – presents a fresh concoction of ingredients for making creative use of turkey. The recipe includes a pasta, and I was lucky enough to have a box of fettuccine handy, as this large flat noodle, twisty once cooked, meshes perfectly with the creamy mix of turkey and vegetable, and makes a complete and filling dish for dinner or buffet.
INGREDIENTS Serves 6-8
1/2 -3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
6 Tbsp butter, divided
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
10-12 oz white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 lb pasta, such as spaghetti, or fettuccine, or other long-strand pasta, saving one half cup pasta water, after cooking
1/4 cup, plus 2 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp dry sherry or wine vinegar
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 tsp nutmeg grated
1 scant Tbsp lemon juice
15 oz Le Sueur peas, drained, or 2 cups frozen peas
4 cups leftover cooked turkey or chicken meat, cut in about half inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp oregano, dried
1/2 tsp thyme, dried
3 Tbsp pimentos, jarred (optional) – drained
1/3 cup half and half (optional), room temperature
PROCESS – topping
1 In a small pan or pot, heat the butter on low, until melted,stir in the bread crumbs. Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese, plus a small pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
PROCESS – Filling
1 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large frying pan heat 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion, cook on medium low 3-5 minutes until slightly tender. Add the mushrooms and saute stirring often until onions are softer and mushrooms have released their moisture, about another 10 minutes, add the extra oil if needed so the mushrooms and onions don’t burn. Set this mixture aside in a medium bowl. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, for three minutes less than package directions. Drain the pasta, but, save at least a half cup of the pasta water and set this aside too, mixed with the cooked pasta.
2 In the same frying pan you used for the mushrooms and onions, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter on medium low heat. Whisk in the flour, turn the heat to medium, stir until it turns golden, a bit thick, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the chicken stock, turn the heat higher and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 3-5 minutes.
3 Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the half and half, if using. (The Half and Half will add a rich creaminess to the dish.) Stir in the Parmesan, nutmeg, lemon juice, salt and pepper, oregano and thyme. Stir in the mushroom mixture, the peas, pimentos, cooked turkey or chicken, the dry sherry and the pasta, with the extra water, which mostly has evaporated by now, but that too will help thicken the sauce. Adjust seasonings.
4 Turn the mixture into a buttered 9 x 13 casserole or any ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top and bake 15-20 minutes until lightly golden and bubbly on top. Serve hot or warm.
TIPS AND TWEAKS
- Add one half to one cup of leftover cooked vegetables at step 3.
- Add one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce at step 3.
- To add spice to the dish, add about a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, plus increase the amount of pepper.