Food Power

The best Thanksgiving leftovers ever: A clear Houston restaurant winner emerges

The best Thanksgiving leftovers ever: A Houston restaurant winner

Falliday Leftover Throwdown tray of food
Attendees collected the dishes in these large foil pans. Photo by Jay Tovar
Uchi chef Michael Castillo
Uchi chef Michael Castillo and Little Soya's Gary Murphy pose with the first place prize.  Photo by Jay Tovar
Uchi leftover turkey balls
Uchi's Fried Pilgrim Balls won the judge's award.  Photo by Jay Tovar
Goro & Gun chef J.D. Woodward
Goro & Gun executive chef J.D. Woodward won the audience award Photo by Jay Tovar
Goro & Gun turkey gumbo
with this turkey gumbo Photo by Jay Tovar
Beaver's turkey tamale
Beaver's turkey tamales were also popular.  Photo by Jay Tovar
Falliday Leftover Throwdown Crowd
Photo by Jay Tovar
Falliday Leftover Throwdown tray of food
Uchi chef Michael Castillo
Uchi leftover turkey balls
Goro & Gun chef J.D. Woodward
Goro & Gun turkey gumbo
Beaver's turkey tamale
Falliday Leftover Throwdown Crowd

Chefs from 19 Houston restaurants competed to make the best dish that used at least 80 percent leftover ingredients at the Falliday Leftover Throwdown this week. Participants included a who's who of well-established, recently opened and upcoming restaurants. Proceeds from the $65 tickets benefited The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art.

A panel of judges from a variety of media outlets (including myself) selected Uchi as the overall winner. The restaurant's "Fried Pilgrim Balls" presented the familiar Thanksgiving flavors in a slightly skewed riff on shepherd's pie, but the "Torched Sweet Potato Balls" that were paired with mulled wine pushed the restaurant over the top. 

The crowd selected Goro & Gun's turkey gumbo as its favorite. Although the dish didn't deliver on Thanksgiving flavors, the dark roux and chicharrones topping added a satisfying, salty crunch. 

Although they didn't take home a prize, Beaver's turkey tamales honored the spirit of the competition while delivering moist turkey in a light, fluffy masa. The successful dish served as a good reminder of the well-executed comfort food that comes from Beaver's kitchen. 

If nothing else, the sight of attendees walking around the room holding giant foil pans with all of the contestants' dishes provided an amusing preview of Thanksgiving excess. 

Here's Uchi's winning recipe.

Fried Pilgrims Balls
½ lbs leftover thanksgiving turkey
½ c leftover turkey gravy
½ lbs leftover mashed potatoes
3 egg yolks
2 c leftover cornbread dressing, ground and dried in an oven
2 c breadcrumbs

Procedure: Pull the leftover turkey into small pieces and mash together with the gravy. You should be able to form a ball with the mix and it hold its shape. Form as many balls as you can with the mix and chill until firm in a refrigerator.

Whip together the mashed potatoes and egg yolks until smooth. Using your hands, wrap the potatoes around the turkey balls in a thin layer and reserve in a refrigerator.

Roll the balls in the mixture of dressing and breadcrumbs until completely covered. Fry the balls in a 350 degree fryer until they're golden brown and hot in the center.

Cover with hot turkey gravy, eat 20, and pass out in a leftover coma at the table.

Torched Sweet Potato Balls
1 lbs leftover sweet potatoes
1 c cranberry sauce, the thicker the better, pureed in a blender
½ lbs candied pecans, crushed
2 c jalapeno meringue (or marshmallow fluff)

Procedure: Whip the sweet potatoes in a stand mixer until smooth. Roll the potatoes into balls and chill until firm.

Put the cranberry puree into a squeeze bottle and insert the tip into the center of the sweet potato balls. Fill each ball with some of the puree and seal the hole with more of the sweet potatoes.

Dip half of the filled balls into the crushed pecans and the other half into the meringue. Torch the meringue and eat!