And Now the Leftovers
There's gotta be more to be thankful for than a Famous Bowl
Leftovers are the undisputed second best thing about Thanksgiving. No noisy relatives with political chitchat or prying questions about your personal life. Just a plate of of food that reminds you that you’re loved—the first best thing—to be enjoyed on your terms.
You can enjoy them on the couch, clad in your choice of elastic waistband or nothing at all. You can graze on individual sides or nuke it all together in a single bowl that makes you wonder why’d it take KFC until 2006 to think up the Famous Bowl?
If you’re bored of the Smorgasbowl and Hawaiian Roll turkey slider tradition, I’m happy to report a few ideas.
Before I get down that rabbit hole, though, chances are a lot of us are celebrating the holiday on a much smaller scale than usual this year. Maybe even making it ourselves for the first time. If that describes you (or bland describes your family’s turkey), I’ve got an easy, local fix.
Idea 1: Re-examining the Hot Brown
Making gold of leftovers is one of a good chef’s superpowers. Typically referred to as the plat du jour, some improvised dishes wind up as menu staples. Some go on to inspire troves of copycats.
In 1926, Chef Fred Schmidt whipped up such a dish. Looking for an alternative to ham and eggs, Schmidt began serving an open-faced turkey sandwich dressed with bacon and Mornay sauce. It was dubbed the Hot Brown.
Louisville diners are all too familiar with the Hot Brown. Over the last 90 years the city’s restaurateurs have blessed (or burdened) diners with their own spin. It’s been re-imagined as everything from a pizza to an omelet.
If you’re thinking whoa hold up, I’m already sold, no worries. The recipe from The Brown Hotel—where it was created—is available free on its site. If you’re a Hot Brown vet that’s not browned out on them yet but would certainly appreciate a spin or two: good news!
First is a simple cheese substitution. Adam Steckler, GM at Harvey’s Cheese, recommends switching out the Pecorino Romano for Raclette cheese. You might recognize Raclette as a short-lived internet craze, but the Swiss cheese’s melty, smooth texture makes for a perfect spin on the original open-faced serving.
But this is about leftovers, dammit. You deserve a quick working-from-home lunch spin. And to achieve it, we have to consider the thing that the Hot Brown was made to avoid: ham and eggs.
Enter the Croque Madame. In laymen’s terms, a ham and cheese melt dressed with béchamel and topped with a fried egg. Comparing the Croque Madame and the Hot Brown is akin to learning about distant relatives. Only, you know, no concerns about affairs.
Consider: first, the Hot Brown’s Mornay sauce is a béchamel derivative made with the same cheese that accompanies Croques; second, adding bacon and eggs makes almost any sandwich complete; and third, we’re trying to burn out turkey.
To keep the process quick, skip the roux and instead scald heavy whipping cream in a pan over medium heat. Once the cream bubbles, toss in nutmeg, paprika, and cheese and reduce to a low heat until the cheese melts. Compile your sandwich, fry your egg to your liking, and you’ve got a 15-minute lunch that’s saved you the better part of $20.
Idea 2: Grand-Dad’s Cranberry Sauced
This condiment concoction comes from Joe Phillips at Pints&union.
Add to leftover cranberry sauce the zest and juice of one orange, a few dashes freshly-ground cloves, sugar (to taste), and a loving pour of Old Grand-Dad bourbon.
Asked for an estimate on the bourbon, Joe remarked, “I free pour bourbon.”
And to that I say God bless, stay warm, and check back here for word on my lobbying success for the guys at Peril to make a Krampus Christmas hot sauce.