When Thanksgiving is over and Advent has begun within a few days…
Advent, (from Latin adventus, “coming”), in the Christian church calendar, the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas and also of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. In Western churches, Advent begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30 (St. Andrew’s Day) and is the beginning of the liturgical year. In many Eastern churches, the Nativity Fast is a similar period of penance and preparation that occurs during the 40 days before Christmas. The date when the season was first observed is uncertain. Bishop Perpetuus of Tours (461–490) established a fast before Christmas that began on November 11 (St. Martin’s Day), and the Council of Tours (567) mentioned an Advent season.britannica.com
(below: Next-door neighbor Mike carving the charcoal grilled turkey at his house. He cooked the bird in a disposable pan, collected the juices, and I made yummy gravy from it. I whisked a 1/4 cup or so flour into a cup of water and added that slurry to the pan- right on the stove- along with salt, pepper, and a drop or two of hot sauce.)
…I’m a little behind the eight ball because I’m totally and nearly irrationally attached to Thanksgiving and am always disappointed if it doesn’t receive its due. It’s my holiday because it’s a food holiday, right? But it’s also my holiday because I’m so convinced giving thanks is a spiritual practice bringing health and relief from anxiety in our running-the-roads or living-online American culture. It’s the time when even the most devoted restaurant meal eaters manage to light at a table somewhere and maybe even stay with friends or loved ones for an entire day.
(below: Dave carving our .97 a pound ham at Mike and Sara’s house— Recipe HERE from Diane Morgan Cooks)
I don’t mind celebrating Thanksgiving at another table as long as I have a chance to cook something — even it’s just a loaf of pumpkin or cranberry bread brought along in my tote bag on an airplane. I simply need to cook. But I’m most happy when there are a few leftovers needing a new home because, as some of you know well, the best part of Thanksgiving — or any holiday meal — is the leftovers. The late-night turkey sandwich, the eggs fried up and served on stuffing, a big pot of turkey noodle soup, and, saving the best for last, pumpkin pie for breakfast.
Luckily, sharing a meal with nearby neighbors also means we all get to take home a few small containers for weekend — or even the next week’s — cooking. If you froze some turkey and/or ham — or had Thanksgiving on Saturday or Sunday and still have a baggie or two in the fridge — there’s a new cheesy chowder beckoning. It’s quick, uses up those pesky cooked veggies and even the potatoes should you have them. The recipe will work anytime you have chicken, too — or just ham. No leftover vegetables? There’s time in the cooking to accommodate fresh ones, too; just cut them into small pieces. When your mom said, “Waste not, want not,” she might not have had anything this yummy in mind. One thing, though: it’s not going to freeze well! Cheesy soups are kind of like Humpty Dumpty–they’ll separate and won’t go back together again, so eat all you can or share with friends.
By the way, it’s a great time to snag a good buy on turkeys and/or hams at the grocery. Freeze a turkey for Christmas and check the date on the ham to make sure it’ll keep in your fridge until you need it–maybe New Year’s Day.
However you manage it, I hope you do try this; it’s a bit addictive.
cheesy ham and turkey chowder
- 1 tablespoon each salted butter and olive oil
- Medium red onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and siced into 1/4-inch coins
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons dry thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Handful minced fresh parsley
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
- 4 cups water or more, as needed
- Dash or two of hot sauce
- Leftover roasted turkey leg, thigh, or wing bone (or a chicken carcass), optional
- 2 cups cooked chopped leftover vegetables*
- 1 -2 cups leftover mashed potatoes (or peeled potatoes cut into small dice)
- 1 cup EACH diced or shredded cooked turkey and cooked ham
- 1 cup milk–whisked together with ¼ cup all purpose, unbleached flour
- 1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar-plus extra for garnish (4 ounces) –not pregrated (Can use more cheese if you like.)
- Minced fresh chives or thinly sliced scallions for garnish
- In a six-quart heavy soup pot or dutch oven, heat the butter and oil over medium-high flame for two minutes; stir in onion, celery, garlic, and carrots. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, the thyme, bay leaves, and parsley. Sauté, stirring, for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are softening. Pour in wine and let simmer until reduced by half. Add chicken or turkey stock, water, and hot sauce; stir well. Bring to a boil and add the bones or carcass, if using. Reduce to a good simmer, and cover; cook 15 minutes. Using a spider or two large spoons, carefully remove the bones or carcass and discard. Check soup for bone bits or cartilage that might have detached. Stir in leftover vegetables, potatoes, ham and turkey and simmer 10 minutes. Whisk in the slurry of milk and flour and simmer a few minutes or until thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add cheese, turn off heat, and cover until cheese is melted. Stir well, adjust seasonings a last time, and serve hot garnished with extra cheese and/or chives or scallions. This soup will keep for only a day in the fridge, assuming you’re using food cooked perhaps two or three days ago. It’s a great last-ditch use of holiday leftovers, but it won’t freeze well, so you’ll need to eat it all or share with neighbors.
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Breathe and enjoy the days. Christmas will come no matter what.