Growing up in Memphis, I always feasted on ambrosia at holiday time. The day before Thanksgiving or Christmas, my mother would crack fresh coconuts with a hammer out on the driveway and peel and chop the oranges. It took hours of shredding and mixing, but eventually the vintage blue crock bowl was filled to capacity and placed in the fridge overnight.
Later, during my first newspaper job in Jackson, Tennessee, I worked across the hall from the brother-in-law of Al Gore, Sr. He and his lovely wife Pauline, sister of the U.S. senator and aunt to the later vice president, invited me and my roommate over for dinner. I don’t remember what else we ate, but I especially enjoyed an updated version of ambrosia using canned oranges and pineapple. I still occasionally haul out the tattered recipe card she gave me in preparation of holiday dinners.
The oranges called for in Pauline Gore’s recipe are mandarin oranges. Ding! Satsumas are mandarin oranges and the pride of Louisiana’s citrus crop. We’re famous for them, and their season is November through January.
I had to try it, so I combined both recipes, some ingredients fresh, some canned, and came up with my own new version. The star, of course, is Louisiana satsumas. The key to ambrosia is juiciness, so I cut the segments in half so that juice can run out. It was a hit.
Ambrosia has been labeled “the food of Greek gods,” by whom I do not know, but I’ve seen it referenced several times. I call it a fruit salad, but it can be a grand dessert for the dieting among us. Whatever you call it, ambrosia is a pretty addition to the holiday table. And, it goes well with the leftovers.
Speaking of leftovers, another delicious salad can help you use up that leftover turkey. I know because we usually deep-fry three of them, and there is plenty left for a turkey salad or gumbo the next day. I’m not a Black Friday shopper, but for those who have stood in lines all day, a tasty dish ready and waiting means you can prop your feet up a little sooner. I’m for that, shopping or not.
4 cups Louisiana satsuma segments, about 6 satsumas
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained, or 2 cups fresh, cut into chunks
1 ½ cups flaked coconut, fresh or packaged
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and halved
1 cup green seedless grapes, halved
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup sour cream or more if needed
1. Peel satsumas and pull off any excess white pith. Slice in two, and place in a large serving bowl.
2. Roast pecans on a cookie sheet in a 350-degree oven until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cool.
3. Add pineapple chunks to satsumas in bowl, then coconut, cherries, grapes and marshmallows, and toss. Add nuts and sour cream and mix well. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Serves 10 to 12.
BLACK FRIDAY TURKEY SALAD
1 pound leftover turkey, shredded or chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 cup pecans, roasted
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder and Creole seasoning to taste
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Lettuce leaves, if serving as salad
1. If shredding turkey, pull pieces or slices apart with your hands. Then chop roughly. This gives a good consistency when mixing with other ingredients. Chop in small pieces if you prefer.
2. Place turkey in a large bowl and add celery and green onions.
3. Place pecans on a baking pan in a 350-degree oven until fragrant and turning slightly brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Let pecans cool and add to bowl.
4. Add mayonnaise and Dijon and mix well. Stir in parsley.
5. If using for salad, serve on lettuce leaves. Makes about 6 salads or 8 sandwiches.
Don’t forget to boil your turkey carcass and all bones salvageable for a great turkey gumbo. Cover bones with water in a large pot, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for two hours. Strain and use as broth for the gumbo. Make a roux and sauté onions and celery in the roux. Add broth and leftover chopped turkey and sliced andouille sausage. Simmer and serve over rice. Add some raw oysters in the last few minutes of cooking, if you like.