Ideas to Take Your Turkey-Day Leftovers to the Next Level
The game’s over, the shopping’s done, and none of your pants fit. Who’s ready for a snack?
Photos by Dave Zucker
Possibly the greatest part of Thanksgiving — second only to that first scoop of sweet potato casserole with the little marshmallow on top — is wrapping up a big plate of turkey and trimmings to take home so you don’t have to think of cooking for the rest of the week.
The not-so-great part: Having to reheat that paper plate of limp veggies and dry bird for the third time.
Why? Why must we do this to ourselves? We spend so much time crafting one elaborate meal only to give no effort in repurposing its excess? No. Not anymore.
Below, find a few ideas on ways to “reappropriate” those sides and slices and craft them into enough varied meals to get you through the weekend and then some. In the vein of our “Ten Ingredients or Less” meals, each of these dishes is composed only of typical sides and household staples, and generally contain only five or six ingredients if you count leftovers as “one” apiece.
What We’re Working With
I also found an apple that I intended to dice or slice into something, but honestly I just got hungry and ate it while I was cooking.
To begin, let’s take stock. We’ve got some leftover chicken stock, apropos enough, some cranberry sauce, stuffing, a ton of white meat turkey, some candied sweet potatoes, an apple, and about a pint of leftover gravy. I also lucked out and found a carrot as well as a shallot in the crisper drawer! Other than that, all you’ll really need is salt and pepper to taste and perhaps some mustard but we’ll get into that later.
The Classic Sandwich
I call this “The Midnight Snack,” which is exactly why it’s higher on the list than breakfast. This beast is everything you love about a turkey dinner piled between thick slices of fresh-baked whole grain Panini bread. (Of grab a sizable dinner roll; it’s entirely your call.)
Layering is the key to victory here. First spread on a generous amount of cranberry sauce. It’s essentially a jelly, so your bread won’t get too soggy. To that add mashed candied yams or sweet potatoes. Pile some thick slices of turkey on that, followed by crumbled stuffing with a drizzle of gravy. (You can also add a slice of gravy-soaked bread called a “moistmaker” à la F*R*IE*N*D*S, but our solution has far more flavor and a way less gross sounding name.) Finish the top slice of bread with your choice of condiment(s). We went with a nice whole grain mustard for a little zing while keeping with the hearty flavor palate.
If you didn’t realize it, the bulk of Thanksgiving dinner involves lean protein, a few veggies, and copious quantities of various root vegetables, and that screams one thing the next morning: hash browns.
The first option is to mix leftover mashed potatoes (or mash your diced potatoes first) with about 1 egg for every 3 cups of potato. Add about ½ cup flour or more until the mixture reaches your desired consistency, then scoop and fry in a thin layer of oil about 3-4minutes per side until golden brown. Congratulations, you just made Turkey Day latkes. The same recipe also holds for sweet potatoes and yams, so feel free to gussy up those potato pancakes with some added color.
If you’re potatoed out, you can also mix up some patties out of stuffing (about 2 cups per egg in this case) and fry them up for deliciously crispy pucks that go great with apple or cranberry sauce, gravy, or even a touch of maple syrup!
I took the middle road and called it “Compromise Hash.”
Mixing a little leftover stuffing and diced candied sweet potato, really all I had to do was add some shallot, season them with salt and pepper, and pan fry for a few minutes, periodically smashing them with a solid spatula to get that crispy, flat, familiar hash texture. You can also add onion, celery, peppers, or other veggies to taste. Serve them up with eggs, any style (But we like poached so the hash soaks up some yolk.)
Bonus: We all know that “turkey bacon” is a lying imposter. It’s barely turkey and it is in no way a convincing facsimile of bacon by even the most lenient of criteria. For a far superior option which holds no pretenses as to it’s real nature, slice some white meat turkey as thin as possible and fry them up beside your hash. They come out deliciously crispy and flavorful, and best of all they don’t lie to you.
You can also just throw everything together in a pan and call it an omelet, but where’s the style there? Instead, and with even less effort on your part, you can make an incredible looking Thanksgiving quiche:
First take any leftover stuffing and firmly press in into the bottom and sides of a leftover pie tin. Remember that firm spatula from before? It’s your friend here too. If the stuffing seems a little dry, feel free to add a tiny bit of that chicken broth that went unused. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes, until crisp and browned.
Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 350°. Fill the crust with equal parts turkey and veggies. I went with candied sweet potato, cooked carrots, and shallot, but you can use anything, really. Pour over the top enough eggs to not quite cover the top, about 3 eggs for 6” quiches and 6 eggs for 12” pie pans. Bake 25-35 minutes depending on pan size, until the egg is set. Toss on some crumbled cheddar if you’re feeling cheesy, and you’re good to go.
Black Friday Soup
One thing you’ll be thankful for this year is your foresight to throw that carcass and some leftover meat into a slow cooker with broth, water, and whatever unused veggies you have lying around.
For dumplings, mix some stuffing with a egg and a tiny bit of flour to reach desired thickness and boil them for 3-4 minutes in your finished soup. You’ll have the best thermos Friday morning (that isn’t mixed with Bailey’s).
If you have leftover dessert you ate wrong. I don’t know what else to tell you.