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Wishbone U students add pizzazz to Thanksgiving leftovers

TAMPA — The first time Lanny Calhoun sampled turkey, she thought it was some "large, wild and strange chicken." • Calhoun, 61, never tasted turkey in her native Indonesia, but she has come to love it at Thanksgiving time in her adopted country, where she has settled in St. Petersburg. Still, she finds there's so much left over after the big feast that she doesn't know what to do with it all. • The same is true for Tonija Pelt, 47, of Tampa. Her problem is that the family won't even touch the day-old food. She doesn't know when that came to be or why, but she's just plain tired of tossing out perfectly edible leftovers. • We don't want them to feel guilty anymore, which is why we invited Calhoun and Pelt and 10 other readers to join our ninth annual Wishbone U Thanksgiving cooking boot camp at Publix Aprons Cooking School in Citrus Park last month. This year, we focused on leftovers, because while the turkey and stuffing are the Thanksgiving stars, finding ways to make them as delicious the next day can be daunting.

This year's stellar class of enthusiastic students ranged in age from 13 to 87. Chris Gomez, the Tampa teenager, is already adept at making Cuban sandwiches and buttermilk-fried chicken, or so said his grandmother, Rose Singleton, 70, who nominated him for the class. She also took part.

Gerry Browne, the octogenarian who looked much younger, caught our eye — and got a spot in the class — with two words: Turkey Tetrazzini. She's sick of it, she said. Plus, "I am an 87-year-old lady, so I need to get with it."

Browne epitomizes what we believe about cooking: It's never too late to learn something new in the kitchen.

To repurpose the traditional fixings, Aprons resident chef Rich Norris and sous chef John Barbie provided instructions for Butternut Squash Bisque, Turkey Stew With Drop Dumplings, Turkey Club Sliders With Cranberry Herb Aioli and Old-Fashioned Cheese and Potato Griddle Bread. All required a heaping helping of what usually graces the holiday table. Even the stew was made more luscious with a few scoops of stuffing and mashed potatoes.

Nearly all of the more than 100 people who wrote to the Times to apply for a spot in the class mentioned that they wanted to be better cooks for the benefit of someone else. Firefighter Rich McCartney, 37, wanted to up his game for the benefit of his colleagues at the Largo firehouse.

"The holidays are tough for firefighters because we are away from our families … I would love to provide the boys a nice, home-cooked meal similar to that which they would get at home," he wrote.

Alexis Joy Price, 24, also of Largo, is headed to Ohio to spend the holiday with her in-laws of just two years. Her mother-in-law is a wonderful cook and she wants to go north armed with skills of her own. Now she can volunteer to wrangle the leftovers; she promises to let us know how it all turns out.

Rounding out the group were:

• Cathleen Schott, 53, of St. Petersburg, who persuaded us to give her a spot in the class with her darling illustration of a tutu-ed woman cradling two turkeys, definitely enough for leftovers. "My Thanksgiving leftover 'go-to' is the same as I assembled when I was eye level with the cracked Formica countertop. Two slices of bread, slosh of mayo, gelled cranberry sauce, dry turkey, sticky stuffing sprinkled with salt and pepper to taste. After 50 or so of these sandwiches, they're ready for retirement," she wrote.

• Yenaidy Schrot, 27, of Tampa was nominated by her mother-in-law, Becky Schrot. Yenaidy and her husband, who have two young sons and just finished renovating their home, will have Thanksgiving at their house this year. The class was a good way for her to improve some already decent skills. Her mother-in-law did have an ulterior motive: "I am so looking forward to it," she said, "since my husband and I have had Thanksgiving at our home for 31 years."

• Sisters Alice Krisel, 51, and Patty Danks, 57, of mid Pinellas County will be entertaining a host of family members the day after Thanksgiving so they are looking for ways to feed the crowd with leftovers. Patty is the better cook, so says Alice, who mostly does the assisting. Their mother turns 80 on Nov. 30, another reason to celebrate. "Mom taught us to work, play and stay together."

• Julie Branaman, 36, of St. Petersburg left for college with this cooking advice from her mother: "If you want to cook a whole chicken, put it in a plastic shopping bag, tie the handles, poke some holes and throw it in the microwave for 5 minutes." She never tried it and learned to cook on her own. Still, she wants to learn more.

Thanks to Wishbone U, we think she did.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586. Follow her @roadeats on Twitter.

>>EASY

Butternut Squash Bisque

1 tablespoon butter

1 sweet onion, diced

1 celery rib, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary

4 cups cooked butternut squash

5 to 6 cups chicken stock

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon parsley, minced, for garnish

Heat butter over medium heat in a 4-quart Dutch oven. Saute onions and celery until translucent. Add garlic and rosemary, and saute 2 to 3 minutes.

Add butternut squash and 5 cups chicken stock. (Add more, depending on how thick you like your bisque.) Stir to combine. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, then blend with an immersion blender.

Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with minced parsley.

Serves 4.

Source: Aprons Cooking School, Publix

>>MODERATE

Turkey Stew With Drop Dumplings

2 slices bacon, diced

½ onion, diced

2 carrots, sliced

1 rib celery, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

8 cups chicken or turkey stock

1 cup cooked turkey, shredded

½ cup mashed potatoes

½ cup stuffing

½ cup gravy

For the dumplings:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

⅔ cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat a 5-quart stock pot over medium heat. Add bacon and begin to render the fat, about 5 minutes. Add onions, carrots and celery; cook until soft. Stir in garlic, poultry seasoning and parsley and cook 2 minutes more. Add stock and bring to a boil.

Add turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, lower heat and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes. While soup is simmering, make the dumplings. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, basil, garlic powder and onion powder in a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to incorporate ingredients.

Mix together milk, egg and oil. Combine the wet and dry ingredients just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Drop the dumpling dough by ¼-cup scoops onto the top of the boiling prepared stew. Cover, venting the lid slightly, and cook dumplings over medium heat until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. To check dumplings for doneness, the top will continue to look moist and will have expanded, but the inside will be cooked through and will appear somewhat dry.

Serves 4.

Source: Aprons Cooking School, Publix

>>MODERATE

Turkey Club Sliders

With Cranberry Herb Aioli

4 tablespoons cranberry sauce

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, minced fine

½ teaspoon rosemary

½ teaspoon thyme

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups shredded roasted turkey

3 tablespoons turkey gravy, warmed

6 dinner rolls, top and bottom separated

½ cup mashed sweet potatoes

½ cup stuffing

4 slices bacon, cooked

In a small bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients for the cranberry aioli. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and reserve.

Place turkey and gravy in a small bowl and toss until combined; set aside.

To make the triple-decker turkey club sliders, you will need 3 halves for each slider.

Spread cranberry aioli on the cut side of each half; set aside. Spread a tablespoon of sweet potatoes over the aioli on bottom bun. Top with the turkey mixture; add the middle bun and top with stuffing and bacon slice that has been cut in half. Finally, top with the last half of the dinner roll, pressing down gently on the top of the sandwich to compact slightly.

Serves 4.

Source: Aprons Cooking School, Publix

>>EASY

Old-Fashioned Cheese and Potato

Griddle Bread

2 cups cooked mashed potatoes

1 teaspoon salt

2 ounces white cheddar, grated

2 tablespoons good quality butter, melted

1 to 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus a little to coat working surface

Reheat mashed potatoes; add salt, cheese, melted butter and as much flour as the potatoes will absorb.

Turn onto a slightly floured surface and knead lightly so that all the flour is incorporated. (The amount of flour can often be a little less, depending on the variety of potato.)

Divide dough with a knife into four parts and shape each into a ball. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll each ball of dough into a ¼-inch-thick circle. Cut each circle into 4 triangles to make 16 pieces.

Preheat a cast-iron pan over medium heat. Lightly flour pan surface. Cook bread triangles for 3 minutes per side or until they are golden brown.

Makes 16 pieces.

Source: Aprons Cooking School, Publix

.Cooking class

The students

Julie Branaman, 36, St. Petersburg

Gerry Browne, 87, New Port Richey

Lanny Calhoun, 61, St. Petersburg

Patty Danks, 57, Seminole

Alice Krisel, 51, Largo (Patty's sister)

Chris Gomez, 13, Tampa

Rose Singleton, 70, Tampa (Chris' grandmother)

Rich McCartney, 37, Seminole

Tonija Pelt, 47, Tampa

Alexis Joy Price, 24, Largo

Cathleen Schott, 53, St. Petersburg

Yenaidy Schrot, 27, Tampa

Aprons Cooking School chefs

Rich Norris, head chef

John Barbie, sous chef

Tips from the chefs

During the two-hour Wishbone U Thanksgiving cooking boot camp,

chefs Rich Norris and John Barbie imparted their culinary wisdom for each recipe. Their tips:

Butternut Squash Bisque

• This recipe is best for roasted, minimally seasoned butternut squash.

• Roast squash with seeds, then remove afterward. This intensifies flavors.

• Use hearty herbs like thyme, sage or rosemary to flavor. Milder herbs like basil will be overpowered.

• Ingredients are added in stages to build the flavor of the soup.

• It's best to use a stick — or immersion — blender and puree the soup in the pot. If you use a blender, you run the risk of the hot liquid splattering out and burning you.

Turkey Stew with Drop Dumplings

• Save uneaten celery and carrots and dice them for the soup.

• If you are using both dark and white meat in the soup, add the moister dark at the beginning and the light at the end so it doesn't dry out.

• You'll know that the veggies have sauteed sufficiently when they look shiny in the pan. If they are dry — or you don't have enough rendered fat from the bacon — add olive oil.

• The batter for the dumplings will be quite wet. Don't worry. They will puff nicely and be tender in the pot.

• Whatever herbs you used to flavor the turkey can be used in soup. Mince extra and store in refrigerator.

• Leftover stuffing and mashed potatoes — a heaping scoop of each — thicken and flavor the soup. Really.

Turkey Club Sliders with Cranberry Herb Aioli

• Cranberry aioli is made from equal parts cranberry sauce and mayonnaise, plus garlic and herbs. You can adjust if you would like more or less of either ingredient.

• Depending on how your turkey turned out, you might want to use more gravy to moisten the meat.

• This is an easy recipe to tinker with. Don't like sweet potatoes? Leave them out. Prefer dark meat over white? Only use that. And so on.

• The only thing you'll need to cook for these sandwiches is the bacon. Bake slices in the oven at 350 degrees on foil or parchment paper for about 20 minutes.

Old-Fashioned Cheese and Potato Griddle Bread

• Don't have enough mashed potatoes left over to make the bread? Use refrigerated varieties.

• Knead the dough on a floured counter until it has a hollow sound when thumped.

• The cakes are cooked in a dry pan sprinkled with flour. Wipe out the pan after each batch for best results.

• Looking for an accompaniment? Spread warm cakes with butter and a bit of berry jam. Even apple butter would go well with the cheesy cakes.

• The recipe calls for the cakes to be formed into triangles, but you could also make small discs.

Wishbone U students add pizzazz to Thanksgiving leftovers 11/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, November 18, 2013 5:28pm]

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