|Now that is what I call a celebration!|
Now that immediately set us a problem, as the date is the middle of November - and Christmas was quite a long time ago. The only Christmas leftovers I had in the freezer, were some cranberries. So, the first problem was where to find "Christmas leftovers". Simple - make them.
Bearing that in mind, we made a coffee and gathered in the board room (bedroom - it's where we do all our best thinking) for some brainstorming. Yes, the bouncy midgets (Jack Russell terriers) came too - it is so helpful when brainstorming, to have a couple of small terriers fighting in the middle of the board table (a.k.a. bed). You should try it sometime. Jonty, the Saluki, was there already - in his role as eye candy.
We began by acknowledging the part that both curry and pie have to play in dealing with Christmas leftovers - and moved on. Fricassee was momentarily dallied with, but rejected for being too dull. What we needed was an edge for this symphony of "what-shall-I-do-with-it-now's". A focus - that was what was required.
Hubby came up with it - "what about something for New Year's Day, that's a celebration - but uses all the leftovers from Christmas?". Now that proposal had some legs - turkey legs, in fact.
|Straight from the oven - a Pithivier with a capital P|
Now, running with the pithivier idea for a moment, what would "Christmas leftovers" comprise? Well, turkey (obviously), plus stuffing (always too much stuffing), chestnuts (always left with some of those lurking in the cupboard) and cranberries (which I did still have in the freezer, from last January!). It's not beyond the realms of expectation to find a couple of pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon) lurking under an abandoned roast potato, either. We rejected the brussels sprouts idea, because - to be completely honest - nobody wants to find a twice-cooked brussels sprout in their New Year Pithivier. No, no. I doubt anyone would object to a piece or two of juicy carrot, mind you.
|Filling the bowl with leftovers - the final layer|
So the next thing to settle upon was what comprises "turkey leftovers"? Well, I guess that depends on how big your turkey is and how many people you have eating it - but generally, I think it's true to say that leg meat is the largest part of leftover turkey.
Hence, we went out and bought a turkey drumstick with which to create said "turkey leftovers". If you have any breast meat leftover from your turkey - don't hesitate to include it!
|Thanking the gods of well-oiled bowls may commence ..|
A pithivier is more defined by its shape, than the ingredients of its filling - in the same way as a Cornish Pasty is immediately recognisable by its shape. They have to be dome-shaped rather than a lump of filling inside a casing of pastry - and have the traditional centre-to-outside edge curved lines carved into the pastry (that are a lot more difficult than they seem, particularly when your hand is shaking!). They also need to have their edges quite deeply scalloped - which I think I failed at, pretty much. They looked plenty scalloped when it went into the oven, but the puff of the pastry blew them out a bit!
|It is a BIT like a hat, don't you think?|
Sorting out whether to layer the fillings or be all random about it, took a bit more pondering. I had intended to be all random with the ingredients, but in the end opted for the layered look. I don't really know why I bothered, as once cut, the layers weren't exactly obvious - so it's up to you whether you go for layers or not!
My pithivier had layers of sliced cooked venison & red wine sausage (from The Dorset Smokery), stuffing with cranberries, stuffing with chestnuts, cooked turkey meat, cooked carrot, celery and asparagus. The vegetables had been cooked with the turkey drumstick, so were tender and juicy with the flavour of the turkey stock.
|What a triumph of wobbly lines and crimping|
Once I'd made the stuffing mix (a packeted version, I'm afraid - but I was running out of energy by then!) and divided it into two for the cranberries and chestnuts, I was all set.
I spent quite a while pondering on which bowl to use to get the requisite dome shape of the filling - and finally settled upon my Nanna's brown glass casserole dish that had been handed on to me when she died. It was perfect for the job and, after a judicious oiling, filling, pressing and a lot of prayers, the filling popped out onto the base pastry in perfect formation.
After that, it was a matter of doing some patchwork cutting and rolling to get the covering pastry the right size. I had a couple of trial runs over the base of the bowl, as I figured that once it was laid on top of the filling pile, it wasn't coming off again!
|See the asparagus, cranberry, turkey & carrot?|
I even remembered to press the pastry close to the filling to expel any air pockets that might disfigure the pastry, before cutting it to size. My hands were shaking by the time it came to the delicate task of cutting the pastry and carving in the decorations. Ridiculous, really, it's not as though I was being filmed for Masterchef or anything - but it was stressful. I mean, just imagine if your beautifully crafted bowl-shaped pile of filling had collapsed at the wrong moment. ~shudder~ Horrible thought!
So you can imagine what a relief it was to get the egg wash done and put it to bed in the oven!
What emerged, after the requisite time, was a very impressive blancmange shaped pastry creation that impressed the heck out of me - and I made it!
|Look! The filling all stayed put!|
What impressed me even more, was that during the delicate operation of removing a slice to put on the plate, the filling (pretty much) stayed put! I had visions of it all flowing out from between the two layers of pastry in an unstoppable tide. Oh - and speaking of the pastry, it was what Paul Hollywood would call "a good bake" in that there were no soggy bottoms in sight - the pastry was beautifully cooked all round.
Now I expect you're wondering how it tasted. Well, I was glad that I'd made some gravy with the stock from cooking the turkey leg - but I am quite sure that even cold with some pickle, it will taste just as good as it did hot. Because of the diversity of the layers involved, each mouthful had a different texture, a different flavour involved. Sometimes you got a piece of chestnut, or a cranberry which burst with an intense sweet/sourness that worked beautifully as a palate cleanser. I'd left the turkey meat in some quite big chunks, which were lovely to find. The stuffing acted as the glue that held it all together - and made it very pasty-like. The venison sausage slices added to the meatiness of the filling and, of course, added another dimension of intense flavour.
|Feeding the family with Christmas's leftovers - now does it get better than that?|
I served the pithivier with some mini roast potatoes and parsnips, some Brussels sprouts and peas, along with the ever-popular pigs in blankets. The gravy, made with the turkey stock, was just divine.
So there you have it! Don't throw away the remains of the Christmas turkey - you're already half way to making this gorgeous pithivier for New Year's Day! Strip the turkey of every little bit of meat you can find and freeze it, along with all your leftover bits of stuffing, sausages and vegetables. Then, all you need is two large pieces of puff pastry, a bowl and to remember to take the lot out of the freezer in time - and you too can be impressed as heck when you take it from the oven and place it in pole position on your New Year's table.
TURKEY PITHIVIER (serves 8-10)
1 tsp rapeseed or vegetable oil
a selection of Christmas Dinner leftovers, sufficient to fill a 1½ litre bowl, including :
- turkey meat;
- cooked carrot pieces;
- anything else you might like to find in your pithivier, that's left over. Plus
5 chestnuts, each cut into 3 pieces
a handful of fresh cranberries
2 x large sheets of ready rolled puff pastry
1. Pre-heat your oven to 200degC/400degF/Gas 6.
2. Take the leftover stuffing (or make up a box of pre-made stuffing, for convenience) and divide into two bowls. Into the first bowl, add the chestnuts and stir to combine. Into the second bowl, add the cranberries and stir to combine.
3. Take a 1½ litre bowl and add the oil. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, make sure the oil covers the inside of the bowl. This is what will prevent the contents from sticking - so make sure it is well covered!
4. Begin to fill the bowl with the leftovers and stuffing mixes. You can do this in layers, or randomly, it is completely up to you - but remember, every so often, to press the ingredients down so as to compress them into the bowl. The better you press them, the less likely it is that they will collapse when turned out.
5. Take your baking tray (non-stick preferably - or if not, cover with non-stick silver foil) and place the first sheet of pastry over it.
6. Whilst uttering prayers to your own particular god and whilst holding the pastry onto the sheet with your fingers, upturn it onto the open end of the bowl.
7. Next, whilst continuing to utter prayers, upturn the bowl, pastry and baking sheet ensemble and gently tap the bowl - but without cutting through the pastry. Remove the bowl, hoping against hope that you oiled it well enough and the contents will fall in a neat mound - and stay together.
8. Whilst breathing a sigh of relief and thanking the gods of bowl-turning-out, break the egg into a small bowl and remove half the white. Whisk the remainder of the egg together and with a brush, egg wash around the edge of the pastry base.
9. Take the next piece of pastry and make sure it will cover the mound of ingredients, by having a trial run over the upturned empty bowl. Once you are happy that it will fit, carefully lay it onto the mound of ingredients.
10. Gently, without stretching the pastry and using the edge of your hand, snug the pastry in to the mound, making sure no air pockets exist inside.
11. Leaving a lip of an inch or so, cut around the mound until you have a hat shape.
12. Cut a small hole in the top of the pastry, and then carve radiating curved lines - but without going through to the ingredients below - into the surface.
13. Carefully crimp the edges of the pastry, which will seal it. You can afford to breathe a sigh of relief, as your ingredients are now all safely contained.
14. All that is left, is to egg wash the surface of the pastry and add a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.
15. Put into your pre-heated oven for 45 minutes - remembering to turn it half way for an even bake.