Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter leftovers

We've been away for a couple of days over Easter so we don't have any leftovers to finish up. But this is the kind of weekend that generates them so I'm wondering what I would do if I had.

First turkey, which is now almost as popular an Easter meal as a Christmas one. The most helpful approach, I find, is to divide the leftovers into three categories - white meat, brown meat and the carcass.

White meat's not the problem. Everybody loves it - it eats well cold: in sandwiches or in salads.

Brown meat (the kind you get on legs and thighs and on the underside of the carcass) I find needs to be cooked up into something else - a pasta bake or a pilau or saved for a soup or soupy stew. Which is where your third component comes in - the carcass - which you should, if you're feeling truly frugal, use to make a stock. (Or freeze until you have several cooked carcasses then make a big batch)

The key things to remember are to cover the bones with cold rather than hot water which will make the stock cloudy, to skim it once you've brought it to the boil (again to keep it clear) and to cook it slowly so that you don't extract the more bitter compounds from the bones. Then cool it, refrigerate it and skim it. That may sound like quite a palaver but it's a routine that becomes familiar and it's worth it for a really great tasting base for soups, stews and risottos.

The only thing I don't do is pick the meat off the carcass once it's boiled. It's simply overcooked by then and all the taste and texture has gone out of it. If you've saved some of the leftover turkey meat for a soup add it at the last minute. Heat it through thoroughly, yes, but don't cook it for longer than you need because it's been cooked already.

The best use, I think for leftover lamb is a middle-eastern style pilaf with dried apricots and nuts. Again don't re-cook the lamb in the stock when you cook the rice. Chop or shred it, fry it in a separate pan (with the nuts, if using) until lightly browned,then fork it through the rice once it's absorbed all the liquid and other flavourings. Turn the heat off, leave a lid on the pan and leave for 5 minutes for the flavours to amalgamate.

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