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9 Fresh Ideas For Memorable Thanksgiving Leftovers

Red turkey enchiladas. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Red turkey enchiladas. Credit: Brooke Jackson

It’s the morning after Thanksgiving. Bleary-eyed you stumble to the refrigerator to get some milk for your first cup of coffee. You open the fridge door and there is a monster inside, or possibly a monster with babies — a large lump wrapped in foil along with hundreds of little foil packages and plastic containers. You are hard-pressed to find the milk and suddenly feel overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with all that food.

After years of feeling this way post-turkey day, I’ve come up with a method to deal with the leftovers and leave behind that overwhelmed feeling.

First, have some plans for the leftovers so you can craft your turkey day dinner accordingly. For example, if you plan to make turkey pot pie (see recipe below), be sure to make extra gravy so you’ll have enough left for this pie. Second, pick all the meat off the turkey carcass and get stock going after the holiday meal — otherwise the big lump wrapped in foil in the fridge will be easy to avoid and end up going to waste.

Making stock is an easy exercise and will really pay off in the days and months ahead. It freezes well and can be used in any recipe calling for poultry stock or as a base for soup during the winter.

Wrap all the turkey meat carefully in plastic wrap or foil and then seal the packet inside a plastic bag. If you don’t plan to use the meat within three days, then make several meal-sized packets and put them into the freezer.

Of the following recipes, the enchiladas and the minestrone soup both freeze well if you would like to make them now and freeze them for another time. Here are some other tips for using up the turkey day meal parts:

For sweet potato casserole

Leftover sweet potatoes can be made into patties and fried, then served alongside sausages. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Leftover sweet potatoes can be made into patties and fried, then served alongside sausages. Credit: Brooke Jackson

Scrape off any marshmallows and swirl in a teaspoon of chipotle purée (purée a can of chipotles in adobo and store in a ziplock bag in your freezer — this makes it easy to use a little of this spicy condiment at a time) for every 2 cups of sweet potatoes. Make patties using about 1/2 cup potatoes per patty and then fry in butter in a sauté pan until golden on each side. Serve with grilled sausages and leftover cranberry sauce.

For mashed potatoes

Use them as a topping for shepherd’s pie. Brown 1 pound ground beef with half a chopped onion; add 1/2 cup of frozen peas. Put all this in a shallow baking dish and cover the top with mashed potatoes. Grate on a little cheddar cheese and bake at 350 F for a half-hour until cheese is melted and potatoes are a little crusty on top.

For stuffing/gravy/turkey

Make hot turkey sandwiches by placing a slice of bread on a plate and topping it with a scoop of heated stuffing and a couple slices of turkey. Cover the whole thing with piping-hot gravy and you have Thanksgiving revisited.

For vegetables

Use cooked vegetables in the pot pie or soup recipes below. You could also use them in the shepherd’s pie or slip them into a frittata for weekend brunch.

Turkey Stock

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 2 hours

Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Yield: 6 quarts

There are more complicated recipes for making stock involving roasting bones, but you’ve already cooked enough. This recipe will yield a flavorful stock suitable for soups, risotto, sauces or anything else calling for poultry stock.

Ingredients

Turkey carcass

2 medium onions, quartered

2 carrots, cut in large pieces

2 celery stalks, cut in large pieces

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

1/4 cup fresh parsley sprigs

Directions

1. Break the carcass into 2 or 3 pieces with a cleaver, large knife or your hands.

2. Put turkey into a large (8-quart) pot with the other ingredients and cover with water.

3. Simmer 2 hours. Do not bring to a hard boil.

4. Strain into another pot and refrigerate overnight.

5. Before using, skim the fat from the surface.

6. Use within 4 days or freeze in 3- to 4-cup containers.

No Stress Minestrone

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

I don’t put turkey meat in this soup, but you could if you like. A steaming bowl will ward off the chill of a November day. It’s also good as a remedy for colds and the flu.

No Stress Minestrone. Credit: Brooke Jackson

No Stress Minestrone. Credit: Brooke Jackson

 

Ingredients

2 cups coarsely chopped onion

1 cup coarsely chopped carrot

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup medium-diced potatoes

7 cups turkey stock

2 cups medium-diced zucchini

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, undrained

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup uncooked medium- or small-shaped pasta, such as corkscrews, elbows or gemelli

1/3 cup sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions

1. Sweat the onion and carrot in olive oil in a covered soup pot for 10 minutes over low heat.

2. Add potatoes and stock and cook until potatoes are barely tender.

3. Add zucchini, tomatoes and cannellini beans and cook another 5 minutes. Taste and add 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

4. Bring mixture to a boil and add pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes.

5. Taste again and adjust seasonings. Stir in sliced basil and ladle into bowls.

6. Top with grated Parmesan if you wish.

Note: Add enough pasta only for the portion of soup to be consumed right away. The pasta with swell and fall apart if not eaten.

Red Turkey Enchiladas

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Enchiladas can dry out easily, so have extra sauce on hand just in case.

Ingredients

2 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-size pieces

2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

1/2 cup mild onion, finely chopped

1 dozen corn tortillas

Two (15-ounce) cans of mild enchilada sauce

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Mix onion, turkey and 1 1/2 cups cheddar in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Wrap tortillas in paper towels. Microwave until pliable, about 50 seconds, stopping to turn over the packet after 25 seconds.

4. Cover the bottom of a 9-inch-by-11-inch baking dish with sauce, about half a can.

5. Lay a tortilla on a plate and put 3 tablespoons of turkey mixture on one end. Roll up tightly and place in casserole. Continue in this manner until all the filling and tortillas are used.

6. Pour enough remaining sauce over the enchiladas to amply cover them.

7. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and bake covered with foil for 10 minutes.

8. Remove foil and finish baking for another 10 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Wild Rice Salad With Turkey, Dried Cherries and Pecans

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Here is a light lunch or supper dish perfect for the days after Thanksgiving. The chewy texture of the wild rice is complemented by the earthy flavor of the turkey, the tartness of the cherries and the crunch of the pecans. This recipe was inspired by one in the first “Greens” cookbook by Zester Daily contributor Deborah Madison.

Directions

For the salad:

3/4 cup wild rice

4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb

1 large crisp apple

1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken into pieces

For the dressing:

Zest of one orange

4 tablespoons orange juice

4 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fennel leaves, (from the bulb in the salad)

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Directions

1. Rinse wild rice then place into a pot with 4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2. Bring to a boil, cover and turn temperature to low.

3. Simmer until rice grains have popped and texture is chewy and tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

4. While rice cooks, make the dressing. Put the orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and fennel seeds in a small mixing bowl.Whisk in the oil and then the herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

5. Once rice is done, drain in a colander briefly.

6. Add the cherries and fennel to the warm rice and toss with enough dressing to moisten all the ingredients. Let cool to room temperature.

7. Just before serving, cut the apple into a medium dice and mix into the salad along with the pecans.

8. Add some ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt, if necessary, before serving.

Turkey Pot Pie

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 cups leftover gravy

Turkey stock

1 tablespoon white wine

2 cups mixed cooked vegetables, such as peas, carrots, green beans and pearl onions

1 cup peeled, diced cooked potatoes

2 cups cooked turkey in bite-size pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

1 sheet puff pastry

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Heat gravy in a large saucepot and thin with a little stock and 1 tablespoon of white wine.

3. Add all the other ingredients except the puff pastry.

4. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

5. Pour into a 3- or 4-quart casserole dish.

6. Top with a sheet of puff pastry and trim to fit the top.

7. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden and flaky and the turkey mixture is bubbling.

Main photo: Red turkey enchiladas. Credit: Brooke Jackson



Zester Daily contributor Brooke Jackson is an independent food writer and recipe consultant based in Marin County, Calif. Her lifelong passion for cooking and food has carried her into kitchens, restaurants and gardens from coast to coast. As a recipe consultant, Jackson has worked with acclaimed chefs in editing and developing recipes for their cookbooks and magazines. Most recently she worked with Food Network chef Cat Cora on "Classics With a Twist" (published 2010) and was the staff recipe tester for Jewish Living magazine.

2 COMMENTS
  • Jennifer 11·28·14

    I love this article…especially since I had just looked in the fridge and saw all the leftovers. Yikes!

  • Bethe Jensen 11·28·14

    Thanks Brooke! We regularly save/store turkey and chicken broth, and yes, it is wonderful to cook with.

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