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!
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.
Once a week, we have Fancy Burger Night. We take a pound of lean ground beef and try to make it the unleanest thing we’ll eat all week. And that right there, that was my husband’s latest contribution, The Eggs Benedict Burger.
It’s part breakfast, part dinner, and part 75% arterial blockage. Okay maybe it isn’t that terrible for you…
Crispy bacon, a poached egg, and a spoonful of dreamy hollandaise sauce top a plain burger. Okay, it’s definitely that terrible for you.
Eggs Benedict Burger
Crispy bacon, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce top this dinner-meets-breakfast burger.
For the hollandaise sauce:
3 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
For the burgers
1 lb lean ground beef
3 eggs, fried or poached
3 slices of bacon, cooked to a crisp
English muffins or burger buns
Heat grill to medium-high heat.
In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisk egg yolks with water, whisking vigorously, until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice.
Whisk in 1-2 pieces of butter at a time until melted.
Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over the doubler boiler, whisking occasionally and adding 1-2 tsp hot water if the sauce thickens too much.
Season ground beef with a pinch of salt, black pepper, and a few dashes of Worcestershire.
Divide ground beef into 3 equal portions and form into a patty.
Cook on the grill 4-5 minutes each side, until cooked to desired doneness.
Assemble on buns and top with crispy bacon, an egg, and a spoonful of hollandaise sauce.
Grilled cheese night usually means two things: 1) I’m too lazy, or tired, or lazy, or really lazy to cook a “real” dinner and 2) rehashing of the now 8-year-old debate over which cheese makes a “real” grilled cheese sandwich.
One of us expects slices of school bus yellow-orange processed cheese food, which melts beautifully and oozes out of the sandwich in picture-perfect drips. The other expects pricey, in-store, hand-made fresh mozzarella, which melts beautifully and oozes out of the sandwich in picture-perfect drips.
You might be a little surprised, but I am the processed cheese food lover of the house.
Whenever I mention grilled cheese, I get The Look. (And I’m betting you know the one.) It’s quickly followed up with an eyeroll, a sigh, and then a request: “Will you please buy real cheese this time?”
So I bought real cheese. Two real cheeses: horseradish white cheddar and Monterrey Jack. And then I proceeded to make a white pimento cheese using hatch chiles after not being able to think of anything else for like 3 days. I owe that to my friend Liz, who also is responsible for my new two-three-four-episodes-a-night Castle habit. Which, technically, would also mean that she’s the one to blame for the mountain of clean laundry on my bedroom floor bed. Yeah, let’s go with that.
But back to grilled cheese. Melty cheese and hatch chiles that ooze out of the sandwich in picture-perfect drips.
Hatch Chile Pimento Cheese
The Southern classic gets a summer makeover with hatch chiles. And then it's grilled between slices of crusty white bread for the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich.
For the pimento cheese:
4 oz Monterrey Jack
4 oz white cheddar (white horseradish cheddar will give it a nice kick)