2 cups roasted chicken/turkey, diced (thanksgiving leftover meal!)
1 large white onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1.5 teaspoons herbes de provence
0.5 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons white flour
4 tablespoons unsalted sweet butter
2 tablespoons e.v.o.o.
3 cups dried pasta (fusilli is my favorite for this dish)
4 cups whole or 2% milk
2 bay leaves
1.5 cups gruyere or swiss style hard cheese
0.5 cup bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
salt and pepper to taste
listening to: edith piaf – la vie en rose
i don’t know about y’all, but i’ve always witnessed the ritual of tossing away leftover turkey a week or so after thanksgiving. it’s a sad thing to see. the turkey did nothing to deserve this treatment — except be at the wrong place at the wrong time. yeah, the last thing anyone wants after that epic thursday in november is another coma-inducing slice of reheated poultry. let’s face it . . . aside from your club sandwich or those nifty packages of sliced lunch meats, we don’t encounter turkey too often, minus bacchus’ favorite holiday. i hope this recipe saves a bit of the turkey from hitting the garbage can in a few days. if not, chicken works just as well, so grab a rotisserie bird from your nearest grocery store!
i begin by preparing a bechamel (besh-ah-mel) sauce, or a cream sauce. i have another entry detailing this process, step by step, (bechamel) but a quick bechamel can be made by melting two tablespoons of butter on low heat, whisking in two tablespoons of flour, and slowly (as in, cup by cup) adding about 4 cups of milk to this mixture. please do this SLOWLY on LOW heat, or it’s going to suck — meaning, you’ll start to see little flecks of burnt brown mess float to the surface. yuck. you probably need to start all over, if this is you. once all the milk is incorporated, raise the heat to medium and add two bay leaves, as well as 0.5 teaspoon of fresh, ground nutmeg. whisk this to a low boil and remove from the heat before stirring in about 4 tablespoons of gruyere cheese. add salt and pepper to taste, but be careful not to over-season. set it aside to cool.
preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and fill a pot with water and a splash of e.v.o.o. set the pot on high heat for the pasta.
in a saute pan, put 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of e.v.o.o. on medium low heat. once the butter melts, add the diced onion, carrots, and celery to the pan. this assortment of vegetables is known as a “mirepoix” (meer-pwah) in french cooking, and is often seen as a basis for many dishes. once the onions start to wilt, add the 2 chopped cloves of garlic and 2.5 teaspoons of herbes de provence.
once these vegetables are about halfway cooked (the carrots and celery should still be bright in color and retain a bit of bite), toss in the chopped poultry. add salt and pepper to taste before removing from the heat.
follow the instructions on your pasta box to prepare the pasta, and strain the noodles back into the pot they were cooked in. now, add the mirepoix and chicken to the pasta. gently fold the ingredients together.
your bechamel should be somewhat cooled by now, so beat the egg in a separate bowl and carefully fold it into the cream sauce. now, pour all of this onto the pasta/mirepoix mixture and incorporate.
spray the sides of a medium casserole dish with cooking spray or e.v.o.o. from a mist0. pour the ingredients into the dish and spread it into an even layer. in a small bowl, mix together the remaining gruyere cheese with the 0.5 cup of bread crumbs before sprinkling it on top of the gratin.
bake the dish in the oven for at least 20 minutes, or until you see the cheese browning and the sauce bubbling. perfectly browned cheese with bubbling sauce always makes me smile.