If we’re going to celebrate Christmas in July, then we’d better have Thanksgiving in June. But, don’t worry. I have no intention ofspending all day in a hot kitchen on a smoldering summer day. Tonight’s meal will have all of the flavor and satisfaction of a Thanksgiving feast, but we’re going to keep the ingredient list short, the preparation simple, and serve it up open-faced sandwich style.
Let’s talk turkey… Thanksgiving day is the only day of the year when I’ll even think about dealing with a whole turkey. And even on Thanksgiving, I’ve been cooking the breasts separate from the drumsticks for the past few years. (I’ll explain in November.) For turkey on any other day of the year, I use boneless, skinless turkey breasts or turkey tenderloins. They’re lighter, cook faster, and will work perfectly for our open-faced Thanksgiving sandwiches.
Let’s gab gravy? As far as the gravy goes, I’d normally incorporate the turkey drippings for a flavorful sauce. But, the tenderloins I’m using today are so lean that they’re not going to generate much in terms of drippings. So, to capture some of the turkey essence in the gravy, I’m searing the turkey, then baking it in the oven in a bit of chicken stock. Then we’ll combine the turkey-infused chicken stock from the pan with a bit more chicken stock and thicken it with a simple flour-butter roux to make a full-flavored pan gravy.
Let’s speak stuffing… (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.) For the stuffing, we’re using a slightly simplified incarnation of my traditional Thanksgiving stuffing. I’ve been cooking some version of this sausage and apple stuffing for the past few years. I love it. The original idea comes from a recipe I found on the Food Network website (click here for the original recipe), but I’ve cut down on the spices for simplicity and because I think there’s enough flavor in the sausage, apples, and leeks. I can’t get enough of this stuffing. It’s quick, incredibly flavorful, and delicious! The key is to not add too much chicken stock. You want the stuffing to be moist, but not mushy. Add the stock slowly and stop as soon as it just starts to get sticky. You should end up with a stuffing that is moist, but bakes with a firm crust.
For the mashed potatoes, I’m using leftover Roasted Garlic Smashed Red Potatoes from last night’s dinner. I’ll include the recipe below. Regular mashed potatoes, sans roasted garlic, would work wonderfully too!
What Thanksgiving meal is complete without cranberry sauce?? You probably won’t find cranberries in the produce section during this time of year, but most supermarkets will carry them in the frozen foods section. You can easily makes your own cranberry sauce with a bag of fresh, frozen cranberries, a bunch of sugar, and a little water or orange juice. But, tonight I’m using canned, jellied cranberry sauce. I can’t help it. I love the stuff…especially the smooth end piece that has the mark of the can on it. As a child, I remember calling dibs on that end slice and panicking that someone would get to it before I could. Ok, so the jellied stuff is completely loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Don’t eat it everyday. But it’s tasty and spreads beautifully, making it perfect for this sandwich!
All of the sandwich components can be prepared ahead of time, refrigerated and then reheated in the microwave when you’re ready to eat!
Let’s get cooking…
Thanksgiving in June
Open-Faced Turkey Sandwiches
Roast Turkey Tenderloins
- 1 pound Turkey Tenderloins (approximately 4 tenderloins)*
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 3/4 cup Chicken Stock
*You can substitute 2 boneless, skinless turkey breasts.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil over medium heat, in a pan large enough to fit the tenderloins. Lightly season the tenderloins with a bit of salt and pepper and place them in the pan. Cook for a minute or so on each side to sear the meat. Pour chicken stock into the pan. Most of the turkey should not be covered by the stock. Place the pan in the oven* and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the turkey is completely cooked. (An instant-read meat thermometer should read 165 degrees.) Remove the tenderloins. Keep the liquid in the pan for the gravy. When the tenderloins are cool enough to handle, cut into thin slices.
*If you do not have an oven-proof pan, you will need to transfer the seared tenderloins into a baking dish before adding the stock and baking.
Turkey Pan Gravy
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Tbsp Flour
- Liquid Remaining from the turkey pan (should be about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
- Salt and Pepper, if desired
Make a roux by melting 2 Tbsp butter in a small pan. Add the flour. Whisk to combine. Continue whisking over medium heat for a few minutes to cook off the raw-flour taste. You should have a pale off-white pasty mixture. Set the roux aside. (See my guide for making a roux, here.)
Add 1/2 cup chicken stock to the liquid in the turkey pan. (You should have about a cup of liquid altogether.) Bring to a simmer. Add about half of the roux and whisk vigorously until smooth. Continue simmering for a few minutes over medium heat until the gravy begins to thicken. For a thicker gravy, add more roux and simmer for a few more minutes. If the gravy becomes too thick, add a bit more stock. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if desired.
Roasted Garlic Smashed Red Potatoes
- 1 1/2 pound bag of Baby Red Potatoes
- 4 Tbsp Butter
- 1 head Roasted Garlic*
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup Milk
- Salt and Pepper
*To see my guide for roasting garlic, click here.
Cut the potatoes in half or quarters, depending on size. Place in a pot and fill with cool water, just enough to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes or until a fork inserts easily. Drain. Return potatoes to the pot. Add butter and roasted garlic. Smash the potatoes, butter, and garlic to your desired smoothness. Mix in the milk. Start by adding 1/4 cup. Add more if desired, for creamier potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing
- 3/4 pound Bulk Breakfast Sausage
- 1 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Apples, peeled and diced
- 1 cup Leeks, finely sliced (about 1 large leeks)*
- 4 cups herb-seasoned bread cubes
- 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
- Salt and Pepper, if desired
*To see my photo guide on leeks, click here.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a pan, cook the sausage until fully cooked, about 8-10 minutes. As it cooks, use a spoon to break up the sausage into small pieces. Remove the cooked sausage and place it in a large bowl. In the same pan (no need to clean it out) melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the apples and leeks. Cook for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add them to the bowl with the sausage. Add bread cubes. Stir to combine. Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring between additions to give the bread a chance to absorb the stock. Continue adding stock until the stuffing is moistened but not mushy. Most of the bread cubes should still appear as cubes. (1 1/2 cups of stock should be about right, but add a little less or a little more, as needed to get the right consistency.) Place the stuffing in a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes, until heated through and the top feels firm.
To compose the sandwich:
You’ll need 4 large slices of bread. You can use any type of bread, but something thick and doughy, like rye or sourdough will work best. I used a big slice of Pain de Campagne. Spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce on each slice of bread. Top with a scoop of mashed potatoes and a scoop of stuffing. Cover with slices of turkey. Pour a bit of gravy over the turkey. Serve hot, with creamed spinach or your favorite Thanksgiving vegetable.
Happy Thanksgiving in June! I’m thankful for all of you!