Trotting Out The Turkey

May 01, 1991|By Rosemary Knower

Whenever you begin to feel really sorry for yourself, you migh consider the case of Frances Trollope.

Mrs. Trollope overcame a fiscally disastrous and disappearing husband, turned herself into an author, and supported her brood by writing 114 books.

The feat is particularly remarkable in view of the restrictions of her century -- the 19th -- and her circumstances -- she was often in shocking financial straits.

Nevertheless, she managed to bring up the novelist, Anthony, as prolific as his Mama in chronicling human foibles, and author of the beloved Barchester-Palliser novels. Mrs. Trollope's best-known book is probably the 1833 "Domestic Manners of the Americans," a spirited rollick from New Orleans to New England in which Mrs. T. recounted her travels with humor and astonishment.

She made few friends this side of the Atlantic for some of her observations. "The theory of equality may be very daintily discussed by English gentlemen in a London dining room, when the servant, having placed a fresh bottle of cool wine on the table, respectfully shuts the door, and leaves them to their walnuts and their wisdom; but it will be found less palatable when it presents itself in the shape of a hard, greasy paw, and is claimed in accents that breathe less of freedom than of onions and whiskey," she sniffed. "Strong, indeed, must be the love of equality in an English breast if it can survive a tour through the Union."

After the rough-and-ready of the Ohio River country -- "We found linen on the beds which they assured us had only been used a few nights" she shuddered -- she fell upon Baltimore with delight. "A beautiful city. . . . Even the private dwelling houses have a look of magnificence, from the abundance of white marble with which many of them are adorned. If we had not arrived in London or Paris, we had, at least, left far behind the 'half-horse, half-alligator' tribes of the West, as the Kentuckians call themselves. Excepting on a very brilliant Sunday at the Tuileries . . . I think I never saw anywhere so many beautiful women at one glance."

She was delighted with the food, especially with turkey, which most Europeans were astonished to find cheaper than farm chickens and so plentiful that the noise they made was a frequent complaint.

Baltimore was in the midst of a tremendous revival when Mrs. Trollope arrived. Between going into raptures over the vegetables and flowers, deploring the lack of subtlety in the sauces, and sneering at the Peale Museum, she seems to have spent most of her time in church, riveted by sermons and scenes she can hardly have seen in London, including a spectacular 12-foot leap from the gallery by a woman in the grip of religious ecstasy.

What were her own domestic accommodations? I like to imagine Mrs. Trollope standing at the family stove, with her sheets of foolscap on a high stool beside her: a pen in one hand and a spoon in the other, stirring fricassee for her brood and writing fulminations with equal vigor.

Even if the thought of all that energy leaves you tired, you might like to try the thrifty turkey concoctions below. One basic sauce splits into spaghetti, chili and lasagna, all three lower in fat and cost than their beefy versions.

Basic sauce

1 28-ounce can of Don Pepino's or other savory pizza sauce

3-4 pounds of freshly ground turkey

1 cup chopped onions

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1 finely diced green bell pepper

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2-3 teaspoons dried crushed oregano leaves

1 teaspoon crushed thyme leaves

salt and pepper to taste

Brown the turkey over low heat in a heavy skillet. Add the sauce and spices and simmer for about two hours, covered, stirring from time to time. When the sauce is thoroughly blended and the meat no longer clumps, remove it from the heat. Divide it into three containers. Cool, then refrigerate or freeze.

Turkey-skillet

spaghetti sauce

Serves four to six.

1/3 of the basic turkey sauce

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 chopped fresh tomatoes

1 small can chopped ripe olives, drained

Stir together, heat until the sauce bubbles for 10 minutes, and serve over cooked cappelini.

Two-layer turkey lasagna

Serves four to six.

8 pieces ripple-edge lasagna

1/3 of the basic turkey sauce

1 14-ounce can of pizza sauce

1 cup feta cheese, grated or crumbled

1 can condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted

1/2 cup light cream cheese

1 teaspoon chopped oregano

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sliced, canned, drained mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch (or other oblong) pan.

Cook the lasagna noodles until they are just firm in boiling salted water. Drain and lay them out on a towel to dry.

Cook the turkey sauce with the additional pizza sauce until it simmers. Remove from the heat.

Stir the feta, condensed celery soup, and cream cheese together until they are smooth. Add oregano.

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