Get creative with your Thanksgiving leftovers

November 26, 2020

One of the most treasured Thanksgiving traditions is the promise of leftovers. After the big meal has been served, the table is cleared and the football games are over, you can begin imagining the many ways to put the remaining food to creative use. A key step to leftovers is making sure they're safe to eat, which means you’ll need to have airtight containers, aluminum foil or beeswax-coated food wrap on hand.

Any remaining turkey should be carved, wrapped and placed in the refrigerator within two hours. Remove the wings, thighs and legs (if they haven’t already been eaten), wrap and refrigerate. Side dishes like stuffing and potatoes should be transferred to containers that are smaller than the original baking or serving dishes to keep them from drying out around the edges.

Once the carcass is bare, break the bones into smaller sections and toss them into a large pot filled with water. Since no one in our family ever eats the wings, I also throw them in the pot, along with any drippings or shavings left on the cutting board. If you have some chopped onion and celery, add them as well. Set the pot over low heat and simmer an hour or two for a flavorful broth or soup base.

On the subject of turkey sandwiches, I am a fan of less is more, with basic mayo and turkey at the top of the list. If you choose flavorful bread like sourdough, the simple approach lets its tangy essence shine. I am definitely not a fan of the kitchen sink sandwich, where you layer the bread slices with stuffing, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. I know it all goes to the same place, but I’d prefer they travel separately.

For the panini in the photo, we added a few extra ingredients to enhance both flavor and texture. Shaved Parmesan cheese melted onto slices of buttered sourdough became the outside of the sandwich, giving a cheesy crunch to the toasted bread. Cranberry sauce, frilly lettuce and white-meat turkey created layers of colorful filling that hit all the highlights of Thanksgiving.

Once you’ve had your fill of turkey sandwiches, tetrazzini casseroles and white chili, consider a cold salad as a destination for the leftover turkey meat. This recipe includes a mixture of wild and brown rice, steamed butternut squash, dried cranberry and diced turkey in an orange-juice infused vinaigrette. It would work equally well with quinoa or couscous instead of rice.

After one-too-many sides of whipped sweet potatoes, consider turning them into a quick bread seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. You can use a basic banana bread or pumpkin bread recipe and swap in the sweet potatoes. Mashed potatoes are delicious warmed in butter long enough to crisp the edges, but they also work well in potato pancakes, seasoned with chives and white pepper.

You can transform your leftover stuffing into a breakfast casserole by mixing it with crumbled sausage, whipped eggs and cream. Combine the ingredients in a baking dish the night before and pop it into the oven the next morning. Alternatively, spoon the mixture into the wells of a cupcake tin to bake Thanksgiving-themed breakfast muffins.
And, as far as leftover dessert goes, if your home is like ours, you won’t have any.

Parmesan & Turkey Panini

2 slices sourdough bread
1 T softened butter
1 T shaved Parmesan
2 T cranberry sauce
3 oz sliced turkey
2 large lettuce leaves

Butter both sides of bread and place them in a grill pan* over medium-low heat. Scatter Parmesan cheese evenly over both slices; cover and cook until cheese has melted. Turn over one of the bread slices and spread with cranberry sauce (off heat); layer with lettuce and turkey. Place the other piece of bread on top, cheese side out, and return to low heat. Press the sandwich with a bacon press or the bottom of a cast-iron skillet and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn over the sandwich and continue cooking another 3 minutes for nice grill marks. *Note: this can also be done in a panini press. Yield: 1 sandwich.

Turkey & Rice Salad

1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 C orange juice
3 T sherry vinegar
1 T Balsamic vinegar
pinch allspice
pinch brown sugar
salt & pepper, to taste
2 T olive oil
1/2 C wild rice
1 C brown rice
3 1/3 C water
1/2 t salt
12 oz butternut squash
1/4 C water
10 oz cooked turkey
1/3 C dried cranberries
snipped chives

Whisk together chicken stock, orange juice, vinegars, allspice and brown sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium high. Add both rices, and stir to coat and separate the grains, about 2 minutes. Add 3 1/3 C water and 1/2 t salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Peel the squash and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine squash with 1/4 C water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to low; cook just until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Dice the turkey into 1/2-inch pieces; place turkey in a serving bowl. Drain squash and add to the bowl. Fluff the rice and add to the bowl. Whisk the dressing until smooth and pour over the salad. Add cranberries and stir to combine thoroughly. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Before serving, adjust seasonings to taste with salt and pepper; garnish with snipped chives. Yield: 6 servings.

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