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How To Make Croissants Stuffed With Delicious Thanksgiving Fixings

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If this is the product of a jet lagged brain, I should travel more often. (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
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Having just got back from an assignment in Australia, jet lag has hit me hard and nothing seems to help. It's in this hazy, sleep-deprived state of mind that I decided that I had nothing better to do than to hack a recipe for Thanksgiving croissants that I'd been fantasizing about since reading a late-night post on my iPad.

Chef Christina Tosi has been making these stuffed holiday treats at NYC's Milk Bar annually since 2011. Though I've never had the privilege of trying them, the idea is sheer genius. Stuff laminated dough—interspersed with herbed compound butter—with gravy, stuffing, turkey, and cranberries. Bake, and then wait for the lines to form around the block.

In my sleeplessness, I started mapping out how a cook might be able to make these pockets of perfection at home. I knew making croissant dough from scratch would be a bit too involved. A fun project on its own, yes, but odds are you want to save your energy for other holiday endeavors. So once the clock struck a human hour, I tried calling various restaurant supply stores and bakeries to see if they had pre-made croissant dough, but even Surfas doesn't supply unrolled sheets.

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This is what happens at my house after-hours. Try not to get too jealous. (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
I opted to go with something that we can all find pretty darn easily in the freezer section of your local grocery store whether you're in Los Angeles or at some far-flung relatives' home: puffed pastry. If you're in New York, then you can get the proper rolled out croissant dough at Zabar's or Dean & Deluca or Agata or Valentina. Then again you can also just head to Milk Bar. But what's the fun in that? I know, a lot of fun. Damn you.

As described in this video by Serious Eats, Tosi freezes the individual elements before rolling into the laminated dough, but I find that chilling them in the fridge works just fine. She freezes each ingredient separately, but I opted to make a hash of smoked turkey leg, sweet potato, and collard greens, adding in the gravy at the end. The greens and the sweet potatoes are two of my favorite parts of the holiday meal that aren't included in the Milk Bar recipe. I imagine you could throw some kale in there instead of the collards if you wanted, too. Think of it as an encased version of that mixed up leftovers plate you know and love so well.

Instead of putting the cranberries inside the croissants like they do at Milk Bar, I made a cranberry orange glaze by reducing some OJ and cranberry jelly, cooling it, then placing it into a squeeze bottle to drizzle over the baked croissants once they'd cooled. If you really like gravy -- and who doesn't -- you can use another squeeze bottle to drizzle that over the top of the croissants too. You can even get crafty and make fancy designs on the plate. Maybe it was the delirium, maybe it was the fact that I'm a 5-year-old at heart, but I had fun with this. You should, too.

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Getting wild with the squeeze bottles (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
Another little cheat I made involved sprinkling celery salt on top of the croissants before they went in the oven. Tosi uses an herbed celery seed compound butter in between each layer of the sheeted dough, but since our dough came pre-made, adding layers of butter would ruin the croissants.

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I tried the recipe using two different meats: a smoked turkey drumstick from Whole Foods and lean turkey sausage that you can get at any grocer. Both tasted great, but I'm a sucker for smoke so that one won out.

Check out the recipe below and feel free to riff a bit. It's a great way to get rid of Thanksgiving leftovers, and can even be served for a morning-after brunch.

If you're anything like me this'll prevent you from hopping on to the next plane to New York to get a Milk Bar fix. I should probably wait a while before my next dose of jet lag.

Ingredients
*makes 10 Thanksgiving croissants

1 cup chopped smoked turkey leg, chopped or cooked lean turkey sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cubed yams or sweet potato, about 1/4 of an inch squares
1/4 cup organic chicken stock
2 sprigs thyme
3 leaves sage, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded collard greens
1/4 cup turkey gravy
1 package puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon celery salt

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For glaze:

1 can cranberry jelly
1 cup orange juice, ideally pulp-free
zest of an orange to garnish

Method

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium low heat, then sauté red onion until translucent. Add minced garlic and heat just until aromatic, being careful not to let it brown or burn. Add yams, chicken stock, and herbs, cooking until they are fork tender and chicken stock has evaporated, adding more stock if it's reduced before the yams have cooked. Then add turkey and collard greens turkey, allowing for the greens to wilt. When that is done cooking, add in turkey gravy and mix. Transfer mixture to a bowl and place in the refrigerator to let cool for about an hour.

While the mixture is cooling, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine the cranberry jelly and orange juice. Bring to a boil, stirring to combine. Once mixture has boiled, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture bas reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Let it cool on the stovetop, then transfer into a plastic squeeze bottle and place in the refrigerator.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the puff pastry. If your package doesn't have instructions for croissants, follow the video below. Place a heaping spoonful of the turkey mixture into the dough triangles and roll up, shaping into a croissant. Paint the egg wash onto each croissant, then sprinkle with celery salt. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown.

Let the croissants cool. When you're ready to serve, garnish by drizzling the cranberry glaze over the croissants. Grate some orange zest on top for added aromatics. Then gobble them up!

Video: How to Roll Out Puffed Pastry For Croissants