ONCE YOU'VE roasted your turkey, the success of your Thanksgiving eating experience, it seems to me, hinges on what you do with side dishes and leftovers.
Like most folks, I take my Thanksgiving side dishes very seriously. I have heard tales of how families have almost come to blows over whether or not sauerkraut, creamed onions and sweet potatoes should be sitting on the Thanksgiving table.
I understand such passion. For years, I have fought to keep our table a Brussels-sprouts-free zone. How do people eat those dark, awful orbs?
The side dish I "gotta have" on my table is hominy casserole. Its moist texture and vivid flavors complement the traditional, straightforward taste of turkey. The hominy casserole makes a terrific leftover. The trouble is that the dish rarely survives the first meal.
We usually have plenty of leftover turkey. I believe that if you plan your Thanksgiving weekend correctly, you end up cooking like a demon on Thursday, but coasting thereafter. On Friday and Saturday, all you have to do is reheat leftovers from Thursday's meal.
The trick is to make the remains appealing. After turkey sandwiches, the most pleasing treatment of leftover turkey that I have found is a Midwestern Turkey Hot Dish. The crucial ingredients are leftover turkey, stuffing and a can of cream of mushroom soup.
I first tasted this creamy dish as a boy growing up in the Midwest. I loved it then. I love it now. My mom got the recipe from a neighbor, who had clipped it from a folksy newsletter, Kitchen Klatter, published in Shenandoah, Iowa.
Somehow you can face this dish on Saturday night and still have fond feelings for turkey. It tastes even better when served with leftover hominy casserole. Brussels sprouts should never be allowed near it.
1 16-ounce can hominy, drained
1 16-ounce can yellow corn (not creamed), drained
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can green chili peppers
black pepper and salt to taste
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, thinly sliced
In a greased, 2-quart casserole dish, layer ingredients, starting with hominy and finishing with cheese. Repeat as necessary to fill dish. Cook, uncovered, in 400-degree oven for about 1 hour, until top is crusty.
Turkey Hot Dish
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/3 cup butter or margarine
6-8 cups soft bread, broken into crumbs
2 eggs, well-beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
salt, pepper and sage to taste
4 cups cooked turkey meat (or chicken), broken into bite-size pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup broth or bouillon
In a large skillet, saute onion and celery in butter until they are translucent. Add the bread, eggs, baking powder and milk. Mix well and add the seasonings. Cook for 3-5 minutes until ingredients are well-blended. Place turkey pieces on bottom of 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread dressing evenly on top of turkey. Top with can of mushroom soup. Pour on chicken broth or bouillon until you can see liquid on sides of dish. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 1 hour. Remove from oven; let stand for a few minutes. Cut into squares and serve.