Thanksgiving leftovers don’t have to suck. I mean they can, and after 3 days of the same exact thing, they usually do. But they can be reimagined in non-sucking ways. Take cranberry sauce, for instance.
Leftover cranberry sauce is something that I firmly believe can never be a bad thing. Cranberries themselves are good with chocolate, turkey, tequila, and even cheese. And cranberry sauce can be slathered on and in anything. Like hamburgers.
We’re “blessed” with the kind of weather that allows us to grill nearly year-round in southeast Texas. There are still plenty of times that I’d like to trade 10-day forecasts with a further-up-north friend – it really is a little depressing to need the AC on Thanksgiving. But being able to grill fajitas and enjoy a pitcher of Pomegranate Margaritas under a gorgeous, fiery Texas sunset is a trade-off that’s gets easier and easier to accept, the farther away we get from the oppressive heat of August. And September…
And let’s be real here. All but 3 days of October, too.
But the weather has changed enough to allow a person to believe that the holidays are fast approaching and I can now get my annual overdose of cranberries and grapefruit and Christmas Vacation.
Fancy Burger Night last week was the perfect way to help use up some of the leftover cranberry-apricot chutney. And the little bit of brie that I somehow managed not to eat all by myself.
The tangy, barely sweet cranberry sauce is the perfect balance to the rich, buttery brie. We used ground beef for the burgers but ground turkey would be just as good, if not better!
I grew up in a very small town where, by today’s standards, the “exotic” food choices weren’t exotic at all. There were many common foods that I never tried until into my mid-20s. Yet somehow in my early 20s I gained the “Martha Stewart” nickname among my girlfriends, despite being very much a connoisseur of Lean Cuisine and Duncan Hines.
What that really meant was I had a subscription to Martha Stewart Living, I kept my apartment clean, and I could make a mean chocolate chunk cookie and wrap a fancy sheet of puff pastry around a wheel of fancy cheese topped with a mound of caramelized onions. An appetizer that’s still one of my very, very favorite things to eat to this day.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, those caramelized onions are replaced with a cranberry concoction. The appetizer comes together pretty quickly – place a few generous scoops of cranberry-apricot chutney over top, wrap in puff pastry, pinch the sides to seal, and bake. The end result is a melty, creamy cheese topped with a sweet & tangy sauce, all wrapped in a buttery, flakey crust. I haven’t done the math but I’m pretty sure it’s close to 2500 calories a bite.
A side note: Don’t shoot me… but if you have a lull before the holidays, set aside some time to make homemade puff pastry if you can swing it. We’re talking 20 minutes of hands-on + an hour rest. It’s pretty much just butter and flour but it’s ridiculously amazing. And a side-by-side taste-test with the box from the freezer section proves that it’s totally worth the effort. I made a batch last week, which yields the equivalent of 2 store-bought boxes (4 sheets total) and have 3 sheets left to get me through the holidays.
Baked Brie with Cranberry-Apricot Chutney
Tangy cranberry-apricot chutney tops a creamy wheel of brie wrapped with flakey, buttery puff pastry.
Lightly spray a small baking dish with baking spray or cooking oil. I have a small 6-inch mini-casserole dish that works perfectly - otherwise, just select something that has a slight lip or sides in case your brie tries to make a run for it.
Unfold the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it a couple of times each direction.
Place the wheel of brie in the center of the dough and top the wheel with cranberry chutney.
Fold the sides around the brie, pinching to seal (it may or may not cover the top) and trimming if necessary.
Place the wrapped brie in the baking dish.
Whisk egg with 1 Tbsp water and brush the dough.
Bake for ~25 minutes, until golden brown.
Let cool ~10 minutes and transfer to a dish.
Serve warm or room temp with crunchy dippers like pita chips and toasted bread.
Here in southeast Texas, we don’t really get a ceremonial changing of seasons to signal that fall is (according to the calendar) here. We know by the crates full of pumpkins piled up outside the grocery stores, the first glorious bags of glorious grapefruit from the glorious Rio Grande Valley appear lined up next to them, and suburban front lawns are overtaken with a layer of pine needles and those gigantic inflatable Halloween decorations.
Who knew life felt incomplete without a 12-ft tall inflatable Halloween snow globe out front? (My neighbor puts up and decorates a “Halloween tree,” I think she earns bonus points for that out here. Probably more bonus points than I get for pushing that gigantic plastic car shopping cart at HEB.)
There are pretty much no other signs of fall at this point, certainly not the thermostat of my black interior/black exterior car that lives in a sunny driveway (which, by the way, could really use that interior detailing that comes with an oil change… in another 1047 miles) just two zip codes north of the Seventh Circle of Hell.
And while an endless supply of pumpkin and apple goodies (and grapefruit margaritas!) are great and glorious, next in line to start driving that “no really – fall is here!!” feeling home is the appearance of a particular sandwich at a local chain deli.
They call it a Turkey Cranwich. And for as excited as I get about seeing it back on the menu, it’s kind of a total mess of a sandwich. They always sloppily throw it together in that typical lopsided, assembly-line, lunch-rush fashion and put enough red onion on it (but always clumped together on one side of the sandwich) to cripple a vampire. (That’s a lesson you only have to learn once. [shudder])
But it oozes melty cheese and cream cheese (when they remember that I order it grilled, with cheese) and tangy cranberry chutney with every bite. It’s like having Thanksgiving leftovers in mid October, only without the 4 loads of after-dinner dirty dishes. And it makes me far happier than any sandwich not wrapped in money and Super Bowl tickets should.
To whip up the sandwich at home, I added brie, omitted the cream cheese and red onion, and slathered generous amounts of a quick & easy homemade cranberry-apricot chutney (a sort of mash-up of thesetwo recipes). No lopsided, assembly-line, lunch rush mess here! And bonus – the homemade cranberry-apricot chutney doesn’t cost nearly as much as the tiny jar from that shiny, gourmet kitchen store.
And PS. It goes great served with a bottle of Riesling, just in case you were at a loss for what “vegetable” side to serve with your fancy sandwich
Turkey & Brie Cranwich
Homemade cranberry-apricot chutney is the star of this turkey and brie panini.
For the cranberry apricot chutney:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 spicy red pepper, seeded and chopped (optional; I used a red serrano)
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
1 tsp worcestershire
3 Tbsp brown sugar (more if desired)
Pinch of ground ginger
12 oz bag of cranberries
12-15 dried apricot rounds, chopped
1 cup water
Pinch of salt
For the sandwich:
Slices of brie from a small wheel
Handful of salad greens
To make the chutney, heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
Add onion and pepper (if using), and cook ~3 minutes, until the onions have softened.
Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
Add the remaining chutney ingredients to the pan and bring to a boil, let cook covered for ~10 minutes until the cranberries have softened and then remove the lid and cook until nearly all of the liquid has cooked away, about another 10-15 minutes.
Taste for sweetness and add another tablespoon or 2 of sugar, if you think it needs it (I was looking for just enough sweetness to take the edge off the cranberries).
Let cool and then transfer to a jar or bowl and keep in the refrigerator (will last a good 2 weeks).
To assemble the sandwiches, heat your panini maker or grill pan to high.
Lightly brush the outside of the bread slices with olive oil and the inside with a generous smear of chutney.
Pile turkey, brie, and salad greens on top and grill until golden brown.
I was fortunate enough to not only grow up in southeast Texas amid an incredible abundance of Tex-Mex restaurants, but to grow up just down the street from an incredible Mexican woman. Homemade tortillas, migas, and tamales were just a very few of the authentic Mexican dishes that Martha turned out of her kitchen.
I remember helping roll out flour tortillas (because Martha didn’t use a press) and wrapping tamales (because child labor was easily rewarded with leche quemada, a Mexican confection, or Nintendo time back in the day).
We do love our quesadillas around here. Matter of fact, there’s a member of this household who rarely glances at the menu when we go out for Tex-Mex. The other member of this household is less discriminate, whether it be a traditional variety or a more exotic mixture of caramelized onions and brie, a barbecue & brie, or a “black & bleu.”
Martha understood the relationship between a good life and good food – the woman was always busy in the kitchen cooking for a big family event. So even though the mixture would probably be met with raised eyebrows and a few words I wouldn’t understand, I know she wouldn’t object to me violating a Tex-Mex classic with a homemade mango-barbecue sauce.
Project Pastry Queen tackled this dish a few months ago when Tara selected the recipe. I originally blogged this back in November of 2007. I’ve since learned a little more about food photography – and how to bust out the crockpot for this recipe.
Brisket & Brie Quesadillas with Mango Barbecue Sauce
Tacos or quesadillas loaded with sliced brisket, brie, monterrey Jack, and topped with a mango barbecue sauce.
3 lb brisket
Ground black pepper
1 Tbsp chili powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz Dublin Dr. Pepper (made with real sugar)
Mango Barbecue Sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 – 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp Creole (spicy brown) mustard
1/4 cup mango chutney (1/4 cup homemade or purchased)
8 8-in flour tortillas
8 oz brie, thinly sliced
1 cup monterrey jack, shredded
olive oil or cooking spray, to brush tortillas
cilantro, for garnish (optional)
To make the brisket: Rub the meat with salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic.
Place brisket in the crockpot and pour the Dr. Pepper over the top.
Cook on low for 8 hours.
Remove from the crockpot and let rest for 15 minutes.
Slice against the grain (1/8-1/4 inch thick).
To make the barbecue sauce: Heat olive oil in a 2-qt sauce pan.
Saute onions for 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes.
Transfer to a blender or food processor and run until smooth.
To assemble the quesadillas: Heat a griddle or large pan over medium-high.
Lay out the tortillas. Divide the meat, brie, and monterrey jack between the tortillas, placing the meat and cheese on half of the tortilla.
Top with a spoonful or two of barbecue sauce and fold the other half over.
Place on the heated grill (brushing the tortilla with oil or cooking spray will prevent sticking).
Cook until the bottom is crisp and flip over.
Remove from heat and cut into 2-3 wedges. Serve with extra barbecue sauce.