Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dancing Cheek to Cheek - Recipe Critique: Thoughts on Turkey Tetrazzini

Today's ear worm, courtesy of Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin:

Heaven, I'm in Heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

I think it jumped into my head because I was thinking of critique, and well, it rhymes.  Simple minds, simple pleasures, that's me.

I also thought I had previously provided the link to the recipe for the Pioneer Woman's Turkey Tetrazzini, but I can't find it, so here it is.  Since I did prepare it the post-holiday weekend with some leftover Thanksgiving turkey (thank you, Sir Spatchcock!), strictly according to her recipe (well, almost), I'd like to critique it, with some notes to myself as to what I will change next time. 

Pioneer Woman's Turkey Tetrazzini

1-1/2 pound Thin Spaghetti, Broken In Half
4 Tablespoons Butter
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 pound White Mushrooms, Quartered
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 cup White Wine
1/3 cup Flour
4 cups Turkey (or Chicken) Broth
1 block 8 Ounce Cream Cheese
3 cups Cooked (leftover) Turkey, Shredded Or Diced
1 cup Finely Chopped Black Olives
1-1/2 cup Frozen Green Peas
4 slices Bacon, Fried And Cut Into Bits
1 cup Grated Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
 Salt And Pepper, to taste
 Extra Broth For Thinning
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

Cook pasta until not quite done - al dente according to package instructions (it will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain, rinse, and set aside. In a large pot, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add mushrooms and salt, then sauté for a couple more minutes. Pour in the wine and allow it to cook with the mushrooms for several minutes, or until the liquid reduces by half.  Sprinkle in flour, then stir the mushrooms around for another minute. Pour in the broth and stir, cooking for another few minutes until the roux thickens.

Reduce heat to medium low. Cut cream cheese into pieces and add it to the pot. Stir it to melt (don't be concerned if the cream cheese remains in little bits for awhile; it'll melt eventually!) Add the leftover turkey, the olives, the peas, the bacon, and the cheeses. Stir to combine, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Add the cooked spaghetti and stir it to combine. Splash in more broth as needed; you want the mixture to have a little extra moisture since it will cook off in the oven. If it's a little soupy, that's fine! Add up to 2 more cups of liquid if you think it needs it.

Pour the mixture into a large baking dish and sprinkle the top with Panko crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown.


Okay - first off, the dish was absolutely delicious as is.  But since I am always critical of anything I cook, my mind is usually 12 steps ahead, planning revisions.  So for next time: 

Ingredients - I used bucatini instead of thin spaghetti, but I would stick with that decision.  Bucatini is a thick spaghetti with a hole in the center, and it is good for hearty dishes like this one.  I also cut back the pasta to 12 ounces.  I would increase the turkey to four cups, and a note to myself is to use just the white meat.  For some reason it worked better in the casserole.

I would also like to try this cutting back slightly on the black olives, and then adding a small can of fire-roasted green chilies, and a very small jar of chopped pimentoes.  Both of these should be drained before adding them.  Most importantly, this dish screams out for sautéed onions, and I will be adding them even if I do nothing else to change the recipe.

No bread crumbs, panko or otherwise.  Possibly French's onion rings, or crushed potato chips, or more cheese.  Or I might keep the bread crumbs, but first toss them with melted butter.

Technique - my sauce just did not come out the way I envisioned, so I thought it best if I reverted to my tried and true cream sauce technique.  I also like more sauce in any dish that includes pasta, so I will adjust amounts accordingly:

12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 stick)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 pound white mushrooms, quartered (I might like to substitute crimini here)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 cup white wine (I'm leaning towards using 1/2 cup sherry instead)
3/4 cup flour
6 cups turkey (or chicken) stock
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce
A few drops of Tabasco (optional)

In a large pot, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic then sauté for a couple more minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables then stir around for another minute. Pour in half the stock and stir, cooking for another few minutes until the roux thickens.  Gradually add about two-thirds of the remaining stock until the sauce is a little thicker than the final result you want.  Stir in the wine or sherry.  Add as much of the remaining stock as you like to achieve a medium thick sauce.  Add the Worcestershire and Tabasco.


I'm going to try this the next time I have leftover turkey.  Which will not be for Christmas.  In the meantime, I highly recommend you follow Ree Drummond's recipe just as she wrote it.  If you don't have any turkey, you can poach 4 or 5 chicken breasts, or even better, pick up a rotisserie chicken from the market.  Truly delicious, the epitome of "home-cooked."

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