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..