What To Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers

 wine dinner table

Your guests have left. Your dining room and kitchen are finally clean. Being a gracious host/hostess you ensured everyone who attended left with a Thanksgiving plate to enjoy later on. But, what do you do with all the remaining food?

Let’s start with the turkey. Remove the remaining turkey from the bone and store in smaller containers for freezing. Turkey intended for immediate use can stay in the refrigerator for up to four days. There are a bounty of recipes for turkey tetrazzini, pot pies and tortilla soups on the internet if the simple sandwich becomes boring. Follow this link to recipes.

Wondering how to use side items? Consider the cranberries. These can be frozen and used as a delicious topping for ice cream or added to a smoothie or banana quick bread to add moisture and flavor. Mashed potatoes can become the base for shepherd’s pie or, with a little egg blended in, can be fried to become potato pancakes to go alongside breakfast. Sweet potato croquettes can offer a new way to enjoy this leftover.

Do you have leftover wine from Thanksgiving? Prepare for the holidays by freezing it by color for mulling later with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and honey. If there is a small amount, add it to salad dressing, stew or use it to poach fruit.

Consider creating a new tradition with friends or neighbors and host an after Thanksgiving leftover meal together over the weekend. Everyone brings leftovers to share and everyone participates in the clean-up.





How to Brine a Turkey this Thanksgiving

For those of us for whom the turkey takes center stage on Thanksgiving, we often keep our fingers crossed, hoping for a moist, crispy-skinned bird. You can remove some of the guesswork by brining your turkey.

Brining loosens the protein structure and makes the meat tenderer. You will need to plan ahead as the process takes a minimum of 12 hours prior to oven roasting time. If you have never done this before, here are some tips to remember:

  1. Start with a thawed turkey
  2. Remove leg restraints, gizzards, neck and trim the tail flap
  3. For a turkey between 12-20 pounds, use a 5 gallon sterile glass or plastic container. Make sure there is room in the refrigerator for the container. A brining bag will also work.
  4. For each gallon of cold water, add ¾ cup of kosher salt, ¾ cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup of boiling water and a teaspoon of black pepper. You may also add beer, cider or garlic, if you like.
  5. Place in the refrigerator for 12 hours. You may need a plate to keep the turkey in the brine. Do not salt it again when preparing to cook.

If you happen to live in the Memphis region, you can stop by our Thanksgiving turkey class on Saturday, November 22. Save yourself the trouble and leave with a turkey in brine.

The History and Our Event for Gingerbread Houses

gingerbread cookies

The scent of baking gingerbread is, for many of us, an essential part of the holiday season. Whatever your preferred form such as gingerbread houses, shaped cookies, snaps or cake, it may make an appearance in your holiday celebrations this month. Culinary curiosity made us wonder where this holiday staple originated.

The History of Gingerbread

The Chinese began cultivating ginger for medicinal use. Depending on your source, the spice made its way to Western Europe either via the Silk Road or was brought back by Crusaders from the Middle East.

Queen Elizabeth I is credited with popularizing the gingerbread cookie, which she had baked in the likenesses of visiting dignitaries in their honor. Her father, Henry VIII, used ginger as a way to ward off the plague.

Gingerbread Houses increased in popularity with the publication of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. The largest recorded gingerbread house was built in 2013 by Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas. Coming in at 40,000 square feet, it is impressive indeed.

Gingerbread House Competition at L’Ecole Culinaire

L’Ecole Culinaire in St. Louis has a long tradition of gingerbread house making. Since 2006, L’Ecole has partnered annually with Lydia’s House, a domestic violence shelter, to host a gingerbread house competition to raise funds for the organization. Professional chefs, avocational bakers and culinary schools all create houses around a theme and compete for the best house by category. This year’s theme is National Monuments. The houses are on display from November 15 – November 23rd in the center court of the St. Louis Galleria Mall, near Santa. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Please join us!

Our Gingerbread Recipe

Thanks for staying with us. Looking for a tasty gingerbread recipe? Here is one from our chefs at L’Ecole Culinaire:

Sift together:

Flour      3.5 cups

Ginger  1 ½ teaspoons

Cinnamon 1 ½ teaspoons

Salt         ¼ teaspoon

Cream together:

Shortening   ½ cup

Brown Sugar ½ cup

White Sugar       ½ cup

Egg                         1

Warm Molasses   ½ cup

Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda in 8 ounces of room temperature water. Add to creamed mixture. When blended, add the dry ingredients and roll the dough on a well-floured surface to approximately 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out gingerbread shapes with floured cutters. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degree for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on size. Allow to cool. Enjoy!

Time to Take a Fall Caramel Tour

For many of us, certain visuals trigger our fall food impulses: changing colors of the leaves, the crisp air, and pumpkins at the roadside stands. Now you can add a caramel tour to this list. Yes, caramel – that gooey apple dipping sauce from your childhood. The fresh dipped apples from the county fair. A simple pleasure which, in recent years, has found its way back into the embrace of culinary hands.

In St. Louis, there are great caramel resources such as the Caramel House, Bissengers and Merbs with their Bionic Apples. We found ourselves wondering where this delightful treat came from. In speaking with L’Ecole Culinaires’ resident caramel expert, Chef Bryon Grant, we learned some enlightening things about caramels. Caramel-like candy first appeared in Arabian culture around 1000 A.D. The first appearance of the word caramel was in 1725, probably derived from French and Spanish, with the product originating in the United States. Milton Hershey incorporated it into his chocolate business in 1886, increasing demand. It crossed the pond in 1880s and gave rise to the toffee business in England.

Want to try making your own caramels at home? Chef Grant was gracious enough to share his recipe for caramel here:

Before starting this recipe, you will need a candy thermometer, wooden spoon, saucepan and square pan lined with oiled parchment.

1 ½ c granulated sugar

1, 12 ounce can of evaporated milk

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

½ c heavy cream

¾ c light corn syrup

3 tablespoons of butter

½ teaspoon of salt

Combine sugar, scraped vanilla bean seeds and hull, evaporated milk and heavy cream over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mix boils. Add corn syrup and continue to cook while stirring until mixture is 230 degrees. Add butter and continue to cook while stirring until the mixture reads 240 degrees. Stir in salt and remove from heat. Pour into 8×8 inch square pan lined with oiled parchment. Cool for at least 2 hours and cut with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Caramels may be stored for several weeks.

Consider discovering your own caramel tour in your town and let us know what sweet things you find.

To Sous Vide or Not to Sous Vide…Is That The Question?

Ever since French chef George Pralus first found a way to reduce fois gras waste by cooking in plastic in 1974, many chefs have been using vacuumed plastic as a way of conserving flavor, reducing waste and enhancing flavor. Over the next thirty years, chefs began expanding the use of this method, especially for tender foods, such as lobster, to reduce moisture loss. What began as a specialized water bath method reserved for higher-end restaurants, became, at a lesser level, a popular method all the way to the home cook with the less complex food-saver machines.

Concern about plastics and the way they interact with the human body began raising concerns about sous vide. BPA, a chemical found in many plastics, which has been shown to disrupt hormone activity, can leech into fatty foods such as meats, cheeses and fish. Professional sous vide plastics are BPA free and do not seem to pose a threat to humans. However, the less expensive food storage models may have BPA.

As recently as 2006, the New York City Health Department and Mental Hygiene put in place a set of guidelines for sous vide. Vacuumed foods had to be thrown out immediately and, if discovered, the offender would be charged $300 per offense. It represented, according to the New York Times, “the first time a city agency had singled out a technique and how chefs use it”.

As the debate over plastics continues, the concern over sous vide cooking temperatures is getting attention as well. In 2013, the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom conducted a study with the Institute for Food Research Standards to explore sous vide cooking temperatures, typically ranging from 42 degrees to 70 degrees celsius, where bacterial death of e.coli and salmonella occur at 55 degrees to 60 degree celsius. The study recommended further exploration.

We sat down with L’Ecole Culinaire Program Director and Chef Darren Zesch and asked him what he thought about this cooking method. “I had the finest guinea hen in Italy where the chef added herbs and cooked it sous vide. The texture and flavor was unsurpassed. Cooking sous vide offers many benefits in terms of the retention of valuable nutrients and the even cooking of meats. An immersion circulator is needed to ensure consistent convection temperatures. In order to prepare sous vide, an HACCP plan is required.”

As a chef, do you use sous vide methods in your cooking? What do you think?

Making Great Pizza at Home

So, it’s Friday night, no one has the energy to cook a big meal and it is too cold to go out to dinner. Think outside the box and make it at-home pizza night! Pizza can be prepared in many different forms with seemingly endless topping options. Give a nod to St. Louis for a thin cracker-like crust, embrace New York with a well-oiled bubbly crust, or go deep dish Chicago style. Whatever your crust preference, there is a pizza for you.

There are many different origin stories around pizza. The Ancient Greeks had a form of pizza called plakous. The French had the pissaladerie. Legend has it that, in 1889, pizza as we know it appeared for the first time when Chef Raffaele Esposito made a flatbread topped with the colors of Italian flag – red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil), in honor of the Kings consort, Margherita of Savoy.

In many homes, the pizza stone is king. It heats evenly and allows for that pizza-oven effect on the crust. According to L’Ecole Chef-instructor Nicole Shuman, “high heat and intense bottom heat will provide plenty of bottom crispness and a nice chew to the crust”. She says that even with a frozen or prepared pizza, a pizza stone can enhance the crust.