Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Eats Sheet, Extreme Leftover Edition: Grilled Turkey Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Steak Fries

Well, if I were to be all Italian, I guess I would call them panini. But I prefer the American Grilled Sandwich. Yesterday this became a new day-after-Thanksgiving tradition for our family. It's wonderfully simple, but so much better than simply nuking a plate of turkey and mashed potatoes. I picked up the idea for the sandwiches from Williams-Sonoma the other day, but added a few of my own embellishments.

The Fries:

The thing about sweet potatoes, sometimes called yams, is that they are a pretty darn good vegetable; it makes little sense to turn them into a mediocre-at-best dessert. That awful marshmallow concoction you sometimes see at the table tries to parade a vegetable around as if it were a fruit. Marshmallows should never come near sweet potatoes, in my opinion. If you want to make sweet potatoes into a dessert, just go all the way and make a freakin' sweet potato pie.

Otherwise, allow sweet potatoes the dignity of being what they are: a good root vegetable. This is what I did: Take one or two sweet potatoes and slice them in half, the long way, and then slice them up into 1/4 inch thick steak fries. Put them in a bowl with about 1/3 cup of olive oil. Season them well with salt and pepper, and then sprinkle in some rosemary and thyme. Spread them out on a large cookie sheet (it helps to spray the cookie sheet) and stick them in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Then take them out, stir them, and stick them back in for another 10 minutes or so until they are nice and crispy. The great thing about these fries is that the sugar in the sweet potatoes caramelizes really nicely, but without being overhwlemingly sweet. They'll be crispy and caramelized on the outside, but soft and mellow on the inside. When you take them out, taste one and salt them again if they need it.

The Gravy:

While the fries are cooking away, get some gravy heated up, because you're going to serve it with the sandwiches---french dip style. I don't know about you, but my gravy is always a little more like meat-flavored jell-o the day after Thanksgiving. Not very appetizing. But what I've found out is that if I heat the meat jell-o in a saucepan with a little turkey stock and maybe a splash of milk, the old gravy is really more like a gravy base and it produces a nice new gravy. Get the gravy good and hot, but reduce the heat when it boils and everything is well combined. Taste it, because you might need to add some more salt. Keep it hot, but not boiling, until the sandwiches are ready.

The turkey stock is something that we usually have a lot of the day after Thanksgiving. It's pretty simple, and a great way to not waste all those bones and bits of meat. You can either divide the turkey bones into two even piles or do it all together if you have a big enough soup pot. Either way, you throw some bones into a stock pot with a quartered onion (don't even bother peeling it, but wash it), two or three crushed garlic cloves, one or two split carrots, and few broken stalks of celery. Season it well with salt, oregano, a little thyme or rosemary, and parsley. Throw in a small handfull of peppercorns and cover it all with water. Get it boiling, redice the heat, and let it simmer for about 2 hours. Then pour it through a fine strainer and skim the fat. You can use it right away for soup or freeze it and save it for making soups, braising meat and veggies, or to spice up a sauce. It handy to have around and its a lot better and less salty than chicken boullion.

The Sandwiches:

Like any Thanksgiving leftover dish, the turkey is the foundation. This is where it becomes important to carve your bird the right way, removing the meat in big chunks and carving the chunks across the grain in thin slices. That way you get tender, juicy meat that works great in sandwiches. For my sandwich I used a combination of breast and thigh meat. But what sets this apart from any old Turkey sandwich is the condiments. First, you spread a piece of thick crusty bread with mayonnaise, and another one with cranberry sauce. Then you stack some turkey on both pieces, and place a slice of cheese on the turkey. I used Colby Jack. Then you put a scoop of stuffing on and put the two slices together. Brush each side with olive oil and grill in a panini press until the bread is golden and it's all heated through. Cut it in half and then serve it up with a nice helping of fries and a cup of gravy to dip it in.

The idea of stuffing in a sandwich seemed odd and a little redundant, but since I used corn bread stuffing, it was a nice variety. And the celery and apple we put in the stuffing was a good compliment for the sandwich. For a spicier variation you could use chipotle mayo, replace the cranberry sauce with a hot creole mustard, and maybe throw a few banana peppers or jalapenos on. If you have folk who don't like sweet potatoes (probably because they've been led by the marhsmallow heresy to believe that they are a gross fruit instead of a decent veggie), you can throw a few regular potatoes into the mix. They take a little longer to cook, but they work as well. Another interesting variation for the fries would be to reduce the salt and throw a splash of soy sauce into the olive oil.


ke said...

Another option: combine your main and side dishes and mash some sweet potatoes into your sandwich. The sweet potato adds a lovely low-fat creaminess.

JKC said...

That could be good. But then, the sandwich would look a little lonely on the plate with no fries.

Cabeza said...

If you add enough butter and brown sugar, sweet potatoes in a casserole with marshmallows on top are just as good as pie. And you don't have to bother with a crust.

I really like the idea of the sweet potato fries. I tried baking a sweet potato a few month ago and eating it like a regular baked potato. It was really good.