As wonderful as Thanksgiving dinner is and as much as I love eating it, I really live for the leftovers in the following days and weeks. It may be that after working in the kitchen for three to four days in preparation for the big day, my olfactory senses are overloaded and I can’t appreciate the food as much. After a good night’s sleep and airing out the house, I am rejuvenated and excited about reinterpreting my initial culinary efforts.
Here are some of my favorite ideas for changing your Thanksgiving leftovers into tasty treats everyone will enjoy …
This year I bought a container of farmer cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and will be adding fresh thyme, chopped flat-leaf parsley and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice to turn it into an incredible spread for our turkey and tomato sandwiches. It would also be great served with crispy crackers for a snack while we are watching football and cheering for our favorite teams.
Use a seasoned spread instead of plain mayonnaise on your turkey sandwiches. Add a little fresh lemon juice, grated garlic, curry powder, smoked paprika, or harissa. You can easily add a nice spark to a boring sandwich! Rethink the classic grilled cheese and try adding a slice or two of turkey along with some cooked bacon. If you want a healthier option, consider chopping the turkey and using it along with bacon, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and crumbled bleu cheese (or my favorite, ricotta salata) in a Cobb salad. I swear it will have you planning to make a larger turkey next year just to have more leftovers!
If you have a lot of turkey and won’t be able to eat it all, chop it into cubes and place in plastic resealable bags. Add a little of the gravy thinned with chicken stock to the turkey and freeze it. The liquid will help keep the turkey moist when you reheat it. Extra gravy and dressing also freeze well and will make a wonderful meal during the cold blustery days of January.
Of course you should absolutely use the carcass to make a healthy and warming broth with some celery, carrots and onions. I like to take it one step further and use this broth to make a satisfying version of Tortilla soup. Adding mild to medium chiles, especially good if you have charred them over a fire on the grill, some chopped tomatoes, cubed avocados and crispy tortilla strips turn an ordinary soup into something really special. Try serving it with cheese quesadillas on the side, which you can add a touch of cranberry sauce to. YUM!
Use chopped cooked turkey to make a wonderful breakfast hash. Serve it with a poached egg over the top for a decadent brunch entrée. If you roasted root vegetables for a side dish, use those in a Shepherd’s pie with a little of the gravy and stuffing. Top it with mashed potatoes and bake until golden brown and warmed through. Or turn the potatoes into patties and fry until crispy for breakfast or lunch.
In addition to your turkey sandwiches, leftover cranberry sauce is incredibly good with roasted pork or duck. One of my favorites is to make a Roast Crown of Pork and baste it with cranberry sauce. Oh my, is that good! Or you can combine it with maple syrup, strain out the seeds and create cranberry pancake syrup! Because cranberry sauce freezes so well, you can put part of it away and bring it out just in time for your Christmas dinner, saving you a little extra work.
Here are some of my tried and true recipes that I turn to for entertaining my weekend guests. My family loves all of them and I hope you will too!
Sometimes I buy too many cans of pumpkin (can you ever have too many in the pantry?). If that is the case for you too, you can also make these wonderful recipes that are good all on their own. The pumpkin bread is one of my most requested recipes and something I often make for hostess gifts or as a nice way of saying thank you to generous friends.
The Web is an outstanding place to find other ideas too. Here is an excellent article from the New York Times with twenty, yep, a whopping twenty ideas of ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers! Epicurious, as always, has a fabulous array of ways to utilize leftovers. Click on the images of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and cranberries to see ideas for each. I love Serious Eats’ list of recipes. They have some especially creative ways to use up your leftovers. And the team at Martha Stewart.com has beautiful and inspiring photos to accompany their equally great 36 recipes! I especially like the idea of using leftover turkey in a Banh Mi sandwich.
Just as important as these fun and creative ideas are, don’t forget the importance of food safety when dealing with leftovers! Here is a very good article from the LA Times covering all important points to remember. The last thing you want is to wind up in the hospital (or worse, your guests do) after eating that turkey sandwich!
If you have weekend guests, take them up on their offer to help and turn the kitchen over to them. You might just discover that their ways of utilizing the leftovers are better than what you usually make and you get a chance to sit back and just enjoy the food without having to make it yourself. It is hard for me to give up control, but the relief of not having to worry about making all of the food is worth the risk, LOL!
Most of all, relax and enjoy having your family and friends around you. Have a wonderful holiday weekend my friends – see you for Chocolate Monday in a few days!!
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