Dark Days, Week 3

I confess we’re not much for leftovers here.

It has been argued that making “extra” food might save you time later:  that, say, doubling your rice means you have enough to quickly make a stir-fry, or pudding.  Knowing me, knowing my family, knowing the Black Hole of Shame that our refrigerator becomes if I actually SAVE leftovers, I have been making a huge effort over the last few years to Never. Ever. Have. Them.

That never quite works out around Thanksgiving, though.

If I were ever to teach basic cooking, I would teach two things:  pate brisee (piecrusts), and biscuits.  [Both make you quickly familiar with a pastry blender (two butterknives also work) and heartily at ease with a rolling pin (excepting drop biscuits, my personal favorite).  Both, too, make you a genius as far as disguising leftovers, if you have them, and hey, even fresh food is special with a crust of browned buttery bread!]  As it is, I teach my kid instead.  And she’s becoming a whiz with a piecrust.

The meal:

  • Turkey pot pie (crust: spelt flour from Ferriss Organics; home-rendered leaf lard from Creswick Farms; filling:  our own Bourbon Red turkey, two Carola potatoes, one Scarlet Keeper carrot, one Gilfeather turnip, one Bleu de Solaize leek; home herbs (sage, thyme, oregano, garlic), bechamel sauce with turkey gravy, spelt flour and milk).
  • Salad (raw sunflower seeds from who knows where, but home-roasted; greenhouse salad of arugula, red and green lettuces, shallot greens; homemade yogurt/garlic dressing)

good enough for leftovers of leftovers!

17 responses to “Dark Days, Week 3

  1. Funny – Left overs are a way to live here – especially meat, since I’ll cook a large roast or a whole chicken – much bigger than needed for 2 (a small roast does not cook well anyway). Pies are a great way to re-use them indeed with feeling they are left-over. I often use mash potatoes for the topping – can be even faster than a flour-based crust – or polenta. Other idea: pizza, fajitas, quick curried, stir-fry, green salad toppings… I love to cook, but don’t always time to do it, so if the meat is done already, it’s easy to throw a meal together.

    But yeah, I am so with you on the idea of pot-pies- especially with the healthy side of fresh salad greens. Makes the whole house smell good too!

  2. We love leftovers as well, but there are days when I want nothing to do with them. Turkey pot pie is a big favorite here as well. The kids will eat just about anything made into a pie.

  3. Okay – so how do YOU made a lard pie crust?!? I’ve gotten leaf lard from my meat source for a couple years now, rendered it myself, but have failed terribly at making a good crust. They usually come out like cardboard (although the last one was at least edible). I used to make great crusts in the old days using Crisco, but I refuse to use it any more. Until I can master the lard crust, I can’t take my pies into public venues. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Ellen, you’re talking a lot of variables when you make crusts. Think about Crisco: solid at room temperature. Lard, slightly less so at room temp., closer instead to butter. Coconut oil, solid at room temperature, but melts faster. Flour: crappy white flour can make the flakiest crusts, but here I am using the whole-grain spelt. Me, I tend to make crusts with cold butter or lard, cold flour, and cold water…and because I do whole-grain flours, I let the thing rest to ensure the flour gets to grab some of the moisture. My biggest key to making it all come together is I do it a bit wetter than not, throwing lots of flour down on the rollling pin and the counter or silpat sheet. And…practice. Doing it only at Thanksgiving pumpkin pie time? You’re going to lose your touch!

  4. I used to be anti-leftover (and subsequent food-wasting) but I’m finally getting the hang of it, mostly for Sylvie’s reasons. Meal planning is the hugest help to me, just learning to think ahead a few days makes me coordinate food recycling!

    Actually it’s all an offshoot of eating locally because I had to re-learn how to cook my home-frozen stuff, and the fact that market meat comes frozen as well forced me to plan ahead for defrosting etc. And I’m much better at freezing things in portions that we actually use up. Baby steps I guess!

    We did the turkey casserole too, but I topped mine with bread stuffing, yum 🙂

  5. so nice to hear someone using a pastry blender instead of a food processor, and even nicer someone else besides me and my mother (who taught me) knows the two butter knives trick. And I’m with you on teaching pate brisee, but I think I’d make the second lesson the bechamel because it segues nicely to both gravy (mmm!) and pudding.

    And Thanksgiving is all about the leftovers!!!

  6. That looks wonderful. We used our turkey, mashed potato and veggie leftovers to make a turkey sheperd’s pie. I’m dying for some turkey details—did you butcher it yourself? We’re thinking about 1 or 2 in the next few years.

  7. I like my pastry finger-blended these days. Flakier, I guess. The snow is just cracking me up.

  8. I admire anyone who can make ANY kind of crust. I tried it once and it was such a colossal disaster that I’ve never tried again.

  9. Your model baker upstages your recipe and food advice! I have never mastered pie crusts and look to my grown daughter to make them, so you’re doing a wonderful thing passing your wisdom along. Yummy

  10. Sylvie, I think I have simply spoiled my family out of eating the same thing twice. Shame on me, I suppose. But you’ve made good points, especially about meat doing double or triple duty in other meals…it’s what I actually do if we don’t eat whatever it is in one sitting. Like tonight, the “rest” of the half a chicken I roasted will be reconstituted as something. I did, however, process ALL my chickens with this in mind: of the 30-odd birds, I think there’s only four whole birds down there. But a roast is different, as half a chicken can be roasted the same as a whole one… And, we never have left-over mashed potatoes!

    Heather, indeed. And my husband is a big kid so anything in a pie appeals to him too. 🙂

    Ellen, my 2nd suggestion is to try just butter as the fat. Working it is similar to the lard, though it can be a bit harder.

    Sara, you sound eminently sensible. Our chickens were immensely well-fed until I went on the no-leftovers plan. But I still can’t meal-plan to save my life: it’s mainly because, even at this late date, the garden dictates dinner! The freezer plays a supporting role until January, then it’s the star until April. Such is the seasonal nature of our table, I guess.

    Paula, it never even occurred to me to use a food processor for making pie dough. I think I would lose a lot of control that way…maybe that’s it, I am simply a control freak 😉 But in general we like going low-tech here, the lower the better. And bechamel! SO many wonderful things come out of an equal fat/flour thing in a pan.

    Sparow, yeah, Baby (a/k/a Thanksgiving Dinner) was the only bird I butchered this year, subbing out all the other poultry to a local guy (with great results). Turkeys are easier than chickens because they’re bigger to gut. I have mastered the art of dry-plucking too; seemed to work so much better than me freezing my fingers off to pluck a wet bird. It took surprisingly little time, like, under 2 hours, for the whole ordeal…I had set aside the afternoon so I *had* to do laundry for the other 4 hours 😦 It’s the best Thanksgiving I could ever have, being awed and thankful to the creature who gave his life for our meal.

    Stef! Finger-blending works really well too! You’re a girl after my own heart…

    Ah, Kelli, it takes more than one time, unfortunately, kind of like bread does. And mostly the results aren’t inedible. Find yourself a wise soul to learn from, and try, try again.

    WS, maybe your daughter can pass UP the knowledge too. It’s just a bit of science, and patience. But yeah, the kid cracks me up, especially when she makes these cute decorations for the tops of the pies (in this instance, thyme sprigs wrapped in dough).

  11. Well, I finally made a really good lard crust! At least the left over bits made very very tasty (and flaky) tartlets! Mmmm – haven’t had those for a while! And I made the crust by the seat of my pants this time. Go figure. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

  12. I try to make just enough leftovers for lunch the next day as a general rule for any dinner. After that, all bets are off in terms of the food actually making it to my mouth another time. For some reason, I just can’t stand it, even if I know I’ll have that standby dish next week (made freshly). Usually I’ll know the approximate amount I need – since that pang of guilt strikes when food from the abyss is, well, no longer food and needs to be disposed of. A couple of veg dishes seem to taste better after sitting overnight, but somehow they don’t seem like leftovers – more like food left on purpose.

  13. This snow, El… you should not try to trick Mother Nature… she will get you back. I thought I was having a stroke yesterday! Now I see they’re still here, on this visit!
    Turkey pot pie! Ummm! Now try those pasties with a suet crust. Your Girl will love them. You don’t even have to render the suet if you use a food processor — which is what I make my crusts in.

  14. Pingback: Dark Days Recap Week Three (Midwest, West) « (not so) Urban Hennery

  15. Congrats, Ellen! If at first you don’t succeed…try, try again, and to hell with what the bathroom scale says 😉

    MC, we’re exactly alike. With the exception of, well, meat and some grains, it’s just not terribly exciting, the prospect of eating something again. I always make enough for 4 people, because our daughter always has dinner for lunch the next day. And yes I hear you and agree some things do require a few days to come to their own as far as flavoring (soups especially) but I am so not there. And, getting my husband to eat leftovers? Forget it.

    Sharon, again, I apologize about the snow. Last year I thought it was cute (as cute as I ever get that is, which isn’t saying much) and this year I dunno. But suet, how timely! Tom’s driving up to pick up our cow share today, and the nice farmer’s wife has stuck more things in there for me. Never hurts to ask is my motto. So: suet might be on the menu.

  16. Pingback: Delicious Dark Days « Notes From a Country Girl Living in the City

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