talking turkey, and a casserole: turkey tetrazzini

I’ve had Thanksgiving on my mind a lot lately. Every day, at random times through the day, thoughts of that upcoming holiday sneak in, just enough to distract me for a few minutes. Roast turkey and giblet gravy. Cornbread dressing. Should I iron the tablecloths this weekend? Perhaps I should buy a new cake plate. I wonder if I could rent folding chairs? Pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake – or both?

It’s these little details of the holiday meal that keep worming their way into my brain, prompting a warm fuzzy feeling inside, mixed with a hint of excitement and little bit of stress.

Usually my parents host the Thanksgiving meal, and all of us – extended family, in-laws, and friends – fill my parents’ remodeled, early 1900s farmhouse with lively conversation, laughter, and great food. With all that has happened lately with my father, though, Sam and I are taking it over this year. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this, though I have to admit that I am more than a little sad that my dad won’t be the one roasting the turkey and making his famous mashed potatoes this year. Dad was finally moved to a rehabilitation hospital earlier this week, and it’s very likely that he’ll be there through the holiday – and maybe even a little beyond.

This may sound crazy to some of you — or all of you — but I have never roasted a turkey for Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or for any occasion, ever. This year will be my first.

[I can almost hear my in-laws shrieking in horror right now.]

Sure, I’ve roasted a chicken before. Many times, in fact. But the chicken doesn’t intimidate me the way the big bird does. Trying to make space in our freezer, having to defrost it for many hours (days!), the whole ordeal of brining something that large…these details make me nervous before I’ve even turned thought of turning the oven on. Olga shared with me her method here, so I might try that. No brining is required if I can find a kosher turkey.

I got into the Thanksgiving spirit this past weekend by roasting a turkey breast. No, not a whole turkey — just one breast. Enough to make a batch of Turkey Tetrazzini for us to have for dinner this week. Enough to fill the house with the heavenly, savory smells of the upcoming holiday.

Enough that I’m feeling ready to take on the whole bird.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Have Thanksgiving leftovers? This casserole is a great way to use up leftover turkey after the big meal is over. And, if it's not holiday time, or if you prefer chicken, feel free to substitute chopped cooked chicken for the chopped turkey.


8 ounces mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 3/4 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry sherry
12 ounces medium egg noodles
3 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
2/3 cup freshly grated Gruyére, divided
1/3 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and move oven rack to the middle position.

In a large heavy saucepan cook the mushrooms and shallot in the butter over medium heat, stirring, until most of the liquid they give off has evaporated. Stir in flour, thyme, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add milk, broth, and sherry in a stream to the mushroom mixture, stirring, and bring to a boil. Continue stirring; simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling salted water cook egg noodles until al dente [follow directions on package for time] and drain noodles well.

In a large bowl combine well the egg noodles, the mushroom sauce, and the chopped turkey. Stir in 1/8 cup of the Parmesan and ⅓ cup of the Gruyére. Transfer mixture to a buttered shallow 3-quart casserole dish and spread evenly in dish. In a small bowl stir together the remaining 1/8 cup Parmesan, ⅓ cup Gruyére, the bread crumbs, a pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over the casserole. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is bubbling.

Note: This casserole can be made in advance. Cover the unbaked casserole well and store in freezer for up to one month. Allow to thaw overnight in refrigerator prior to baking, and then increase baking time to 50 to 60 minutes, depending on how frozen it still is..

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10 Responses to “talking turkey, and a casserole: turkey tetrazzini”

  1. 1
    Kathryn — November 3, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    What a delicious way to use up some leftover turkey – they’re normally such big beasts that there’s plenty to go round and then some!

  2. 2
    Kate @ Savour Fare — November 3, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    You’ve got to do a dry brine! It’s 100% easier than a wet brine (who has a big enough vessel?, let alone refrigerator) and yields turkey that tastes like turkey, not like ham. Here’s my recipe:

    And the LA Times:

    And now I’m trying to figure out how to make turkey tetrazzini BEFORE Thanksgiving.

  3. 3
    jenn s. — November 3, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    Steve smokes our turkey on the grill. Even people that aren’t crazy about turkey love his grilled/smoked turkey! I always buy with the intentions of having enough leftover turkey meat to make turkey tetrazinni. It has become a tradition for us (I usually make it on Sat. or Sun. after T-giving to give the bloat of Thursday’s meal time to level off, LOL!) The smokey flavor of the turkey gives the tetrazinni a unique and certainly delicious flavor.

  4. 4
    Paula — November 3, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

    I haven’t been on Twitter a lot lately and I’m not sure if you sent any tweets about your Dad so reading today that he has been moved to a rehabilitation centre does sound encouraging and I hope and pray the he continues to see some improvement in his condition over the next several weeks. I know that prepping a dinner for such a large crowd can be stressful, especially if this is your first big turkey roast. I have no doubt however that your meal will be wonderful and I’m sure that everyone will be more than willing to pitch in and help. Perhaps they’ll just leave the turkey to you and they will bring all the other dishes…a big family pot luck 🙂
    Your tetrazinni looks good!

    P.S. I did see Gail’s tweet however on your Exemplary Teacher Award but never sent a congratulatory one to you. I think it’s wonderful that you received this award and can only imagine how proud you must be of it. Sincere congratulations Merry-Jennifer!

  5. 5
    Nutmeg Nanny — November 7, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

    I have never done a whole turkey either. Last year Mr. Nutmeg Nanny was getting over a cold so we had to stay home (his dad was recovering from cancer surgery.) So I ended up making roast turkey parts but not actually the whole bird. I wish I would have seen this recipe for the leftovers. I would have been all over it! I love tetrazzini!

    P.S. I hope all is going well with your dad. I’m sending lots of prayers your way.

  6. 6
    Lucy — November 15, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    So glad your dad is doing better. It’s exciting to host Thanksgiving! I’ve been hosting my husband’s family for years. Though you didn’t ask for turkey advice, I highly recommend brining the turkey (you can buy a 5 gallon stock pot at Walmart for about $45-50 that’s perfect for a 20 lb turkey) and then rubbing all over with herb butter. Both recipes on my site. And give yourself plenty of time to let the turkey rest before and after roasting. You’ll do a great job and can’t wait to hear about it!

  7. 7
    Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos — November 15, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

    Such a great idea for leftovers 🙂 Hopefully your father has a speedy recovery!

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