Greetings! No wine notes this week, just a wish from all of us for a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Plus a recipe to use up some of your leftovers. It’s a turkey variation of Chicken Tetrazzini, supposedly created by a San Francisco chef in the early 20th century for Italian soprano Luisa Tetrazzini. In an age when coloratura sopranos seemed to have thin, delicate upper registers, she had killer ringing high notes and vocal flexibility and stamina to burn, plus a personality that leaps through the din of the ancient recordings. She also had a cutting sense of humor. In the midst of a long-running feud with another soprano, she learned that her rival had just arrived at the same hotel where she was staying – Tetrazzini is reported to have asked the hotel manager (in front of an assembled crowd) how many cats he had residing there. And, evidently, she liked to eat, so while she might not be someone who comes immediately to mind for your imaginary dinner with famous people from the past, she certainly would make a good fill-in guest were one of your picks not available.
As far as we can tell, the original Chicken Tetrazzini was diced chicken with mushrooms and spaghetti in a sherry-cream sauce. Perfectly respectable, but you know we never leave well enough alone (and think Luisa deserves a bit more). So we’ve added more mushrooms, some onion, and a topping of buttered bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. You can also add vegetables like peas or broccoli to the mix. Serve it with leftover Thanksgiving wine, especially a rosé, a nice crisp white, or even champagne. Put on some music – Tetrazzini was famous for her interpretations of Verdi’s La Traviata and Bellini’s La Sonnambula– and raise a glass to those who have left us a legacy to be thankful for, whatever it might be.
Dare & Tom
12 ounces thin spaghetti
4 cups or so of diced cooked turkey
2 cups chicken or turkey stock, heated (canned is fine)
1 cup heavy cream
One-quarter cup dry sherry
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced into thin half rounds
One stick (8 tablespoons) butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dried bread crumbs
One-half cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: 2 cups frozen peas, rinsed under cold water and drained, or one head of cooked broccoli florettes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking dish and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti for about two minutes less than the package recommends. It should be mostly tender but a little firm in the center. Drain and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl, and set aside.
While the spaghetti is cooking, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients (including the cooked spaghetti). Saute the onion with a little salt and pepper until it is just starting to brown, and add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more. Add the turkey to the skillet and turn off the heat.
At the same time, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour, cayenne, and a teaspoon of salt, and whisk to combine. Cook the mixture over medium heat for a couple of minutes, whisking constantly. Stir in the hot stock in 3 additions, whisking well to combine. When the mixture has thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the cream and sherry.
Put the spaghetti in the skillet with the turkey mixture, then pour the sauce over and mix everything well. Add the vegetables if you’re using them. Taste the mixture for salt and pepper. Pour into the greased baking dish, top with the crumb mixture, and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot.