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RBR Tailgate: Leftover Turkey Tetrazzini

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An easy crowd pleaser you can make a day ahead so Saturday morning and early afternoon can properly be spent fretting.

Those not going down to Jerdin Hare—which is most of you—are likely to spend the game in the company of a small group of friends. I’m doubting that the mood will be light and airy.

There are a multitude of worries plaguing Tide fans before this game. The most obvious concern is the decimation of our defense by injury and the loss of the greatest passer we have ever seen wear crimson.

I’m not as panicked as most on the injury front. The situation is not ideal, but the hand wringing we’ve done as a fan base over the youth and inexperience we are fielding on defense is hand wringing that we’ve been doing for eleven games. It’s hard to look at Lee and Harris right now and say they are free of freshman mistakes, but coming toward the end of this year’s campaign it’s also hard to call them inexperienced. We’ve by necessity played a lot of guys. They’re more a light olive shade than green at this point and have all the physical attributes necessary to punish any child neglecter put in their path.

There’s not much to say about the loss of Tua other than “Dammit.” But Mac is good. His only sin is not winning the starting job from a multi generational talent. No he doesn’t hit our array of wideout riches in perfect stride as reliably as Tua did, but no one does. He’s better than a typical game manager (a phrase I refuse to see as pejorative) and the coaching staff has done a good job of protecting him with an ascendant Harris and whichever of the great-Brian Robinson or the good-Brian Robinson shows up.

Additionally, and I’m sure I’ll take hell for this, I think Shark calls a more clever game with Mac on the field. If you have a shiny toy like Tua you play with it. But absent Tua, you have to bring other weapons (I know, toys and weapons - It’s mixed metaphor city around here) to bear.

This brings me to another worry. Can the line hold back maybe the best front seven in the nation long enough for Mac to make plays?

I don’t even want to think about what happens if this game comes down to an Alabama field goal attempt.

But my biggest worry, one that should have everyone with any grasp of SEC history pulling out their hair between sips of strong brown liquor, is that this is exactly the kind of game that Auburn is built for. I don’t mean this year’s incarnation of the Tigers, I mean that their brand since the beginning is that they are regional upsetters. When they have nothing on the line, which is almost always, they like to take other people’s stuff and stomp on it. It’s an all pervading ethos down there. It may even be in The Creed.

Sure they can claim two National Championships. I wasn’t around for the first, but unless the most common play call in the 2010 season was “Wide receivers show an inability to get open and then start running routless like you were in a playground while Cam scrambles and coverage inevitably breaks down,” which I doubt it was, they more found themselves national champs than won one. I do believe that they called “Have Pugh take out a knee,” pretty often though. That was effective.

Basically they are the eighty-five scholarship roster equivalent of a Lego piece left on an oriental rug waiting for a bare foot. A lone Lego won’t build anything, but it can cause pain.

That’s a lot to fret about. The last thing you want to bother with is cooking anything complex, but you do want to eat. This dish can be made Friday, stuffed in the fridge overnight and then popped in the oven when your guests arrive.

Quick confession: Since I make and photograph these things on either Tuesday or Wednesday, then write the posts for Friday publication, and I didn’t want to make Turkey twice in one week, what you see in the pictures is actually Publix rotisserie chicken. It was really good, but turkey’s better.

Leftover Turkey Tetrazzini

- 2 cups cooked pulled turkey, more or less depending on your preference

- ½ lb spaghetti

- 1/3 cup diced onion

- 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper

- 1/3 cup diced celery

- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced

- ½ cup chopped mushrooms, however small or large you prefer to chop them

- 1 cup dry white wine

- veloute sauce

o 3 tbsp unsalted butter

o 3 tbsp all purpose flour

o chicken stock as needed

o white pepper to taste

o 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

- or, in lieu of the veloute, 1 can of cream of celery soup doctored with the nutmeg and white pepper - if using celery soup, forgo the diced celery listed above

- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

- grated sharp cheddar

- bread crumbs

- salt and black pepper to taste

- olive oil

That looks like a lot of ingredients, but this is a pretty quick cook.

Pour a few glugs of olive oil into a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Next add the celery and mushrooms and continue until the celery pales. Add garlic.

After a minute add the white wine and thyme.

Bring the wine to a boil and add the turkey. Reduce to a simmer and heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

If you are going the veloute sauce route, which I recommend even though the soup option is easier and perfectly serviceable, put the butter and flour into a sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk until the butter is melted and you have a gritty roux.

Whisk in chicken stock a little at a time until you have a silky smooth sauce that coats but just drips off the back of a metal spoon.

Remove from heat, whisk in the nutmeg. Add white pepper and salt to taste.

Add the veloute to the turkey and vegetables and stir. If you think the blend is too thick, add a splash or two of chicken stock and simmer over low heat for a few minutes. I was fine without more liquid, but the option is there. Remove from heat and set aside. Salt and pepper to taste (I love a ton of black pepper in this dish)

If you are using canned soup, add it to the chicken and vegetable mix with nutmeg and white pepper, warm over low heat, add salt and pepper to taste and then, like the veloute version, remove from heat and set aside.

Boil some salted water and make your pasta. I used ½ lb spaghetti and with all the other ingredients easily fed four. I was going for a casserole more than a pasta dish but if you want to go another direction, by all means cook a lb. This recipe is easily scaleable. Double, triple, however many guests or however much leftover turkey you have.

Add the cooked spaghetti and the turkey vegetable mix to a Pyrex or other oven proof dish and stir to homogenize. If you are doing this ahead of time you can now cover with a layer of cling wrap and refrigerate for up to twenty-four hours.

When you’re ready to eat on Saturday, pull it out of the fridge, remove the cling wrap, cover with a layer of grated cheddar and a drizzle of bread crumbs.

Toss it into an oven preheated to 400˚. Cook for 15 minutes, make sure the cheese is melted, and you are ready to serve.

Set out a few bowls, forks, a little extra grated cheddar, and napkins and commiserate over a hearty meal with your fellow fretting fans.

Here’s hoping this first domino falls the right way.

Enjoy, no more injuries, and Roll Tide.