I’m thinking that the anticipation of the delights of the Thanksgiving table is as important (more important, perhaps?) as the meal itself. After all, eating the turkey, stuffing, casseroles and pies takes minutes, even with heaping plates of seconds – less than the halftime break of the Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys football game.
But the anticipation? It goes on for weeks. I was struck by this idea as a colleague, Itasca Wiggins, rhapsodized more than a month ago about one of her favorite Thanksgiving traditions: the post-feast turkey sandwich. Of course, cold turkey on bread, slicked with mayo and embellished with other treasures, like cranberry sauce or stuffing, is as iconic as the glistening mahogany roasted bird itself. But Itasca likes her sandwich hot, open face, with plenty of gravy poured over the layers of turkey, cranberry and leftover dinner rolls that gird the whole. Conjuring an old-style diner classic, her knife-and-fork version intrigued.
So I tried it, and now I’m convinced of her rightness. The version here toys a bit with Itasca’s, embellishing the gravy with sauteed mushrooms and shallots. A bit of parsley adds color, but you can skip such fanciness … maybe a scoop of green bean casserole instead? If there is no gravy left, you can stir some together in no time, following the method here. Then it’s a simple matter of heating up and assembling.
Open-face turkey sandwich
Prep: 5 minutes
Makes: 1 sandwich
1 slice crusty country bread or 1 dinner roll, halved
Some leftover turkey, warmed
Cranberry sauce or relish
Turkey gravy, warmed (or make our turkey mushroom gravy)
Fresh parsley sprigs
Assemble: Place bread or split roll on a plate; top with turkey as you like, interspersing pieces or slices with cranberry sauce or relish. Pour a generous amount of gravy over all. Top with parsley. Enjoy hot, with a knife and fork.
Turkey mushroom gravy: Heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet; add 2 finely chopped shallots. Season with a pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots soften, 5 minutes. Add 8 ounces sliced mushrooms. Stir to coat; season with salt. Cook until mushrooms have given up their water and are browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer mushroom-shallot mixture to a bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons flour, stirring to combine and prevent lumps; cook over low heat until golden brown. Add 2 cups hot turkey broth, stirring to blend; heat to a gentle boil to thicken. Stir in mushroom-shallot mixture and freshly ground pepper to taste; heat through. Taste for seasonings.