There are unfortunately people who claim not to care for the leftovers of Thanksgiving dinner.
Or so I am told. I wouldn't know - the leftovers are my favorite thing about this holiday. Even if there was no one to share that dinner with me, I'd make it just to have them.
I suspect the reason so many people whine about those leftovers is because theirs always taste, well, like leftovers. And no wonder, since all they seem to do is slap them on a plate and zap them in the microwave.
The secret to making leftovers inviting once again is to forget about your microwave and repurpose them in a way that isn't merely warmed-over Thanksgiving dinner.
For me, Thanksgiving dinner is all about nostalgia: Give me the tried, the true and the classic every time. I really don't care a fig about being creative with it. But after the fact, when the fridge is full of all those delicious leftovers, my creative juices really start to flow.
With very little finesse, it's possible to make the choosiest member of your clan not only eat the remains of the day but look forward to them.
So, if you're one of those cooks who's itching to be creative, remember when you step into the kitchen tomorrow that, for the people who will be around your table, it's really all about nostalgia and tradition. If you want to make them happy, it's not the day to go reinventing things.
The day for doing that is Friday.
And Saturday. And Sunday. And even Monday.
KEEPING THE REMAINS
* When serving the dinner, use separate serving utensils for each food and don't mix them up. Some foods keep longer than others: if you dip a dirty utensil into something, you're setting it up to spoil faster.
* When you're putting things away, use clean storage containers and clean utensils to transfer the food to them. Don't store things in their serving dishes.
* Don't store the leftover turkey whole for more than a day. If possible, break it down as soon as you can after dinner.
* First, remove all the meat, slicing or dicing it according to how you plan to use it later. To keep it moist and flavorful, instead of piling the meat into one big container, divide it among several small ones. Moisten it with a little of the broth you made with the neck and giblets, lay wax paper directly on top of it (or if it's slices, wrap them a few at a time in the paper), cover and refrigerate promptly.
* Once the carcass is picked, separate the wings and legs at the joints. Cut the back from breastbone at the side rib joints with kitchen shears and chop or break it in half crosswise. Even if you can't make broth right away, this will make it easier to store the carcass without having it taking up too much space in the refrigerator.
* If not making broth immediately, refrigerate the turkey carcass in a clean zipper-locking bag.
* To store everything else, let hot food cool before transferring it to well-covered storage containers or zipper-locking food storage bags. Don't let cold food get warm, cover it well, and refrigerate it promptly.
* Consume stuffing and shellfish leftovers (such as scalloped oysters) within two days, vegetables and turkey within four. Turkey stored as directed above freezes (and thaws) well, and will keep for up to two months.
* Always thoroughly reheat leftover foods that you plan to serve hot.
The turkey carcass may be picked clean, but it still has a lot left to offer in the soup pot. Broth made with the carcass is a great base for soups or for making extra gravy, creamed turkey, turkey dumplings, and potpie. If your family has picked the meaty bones pretty clean, for better depth of flavor add a couple of fresh turkey wings or necks to the pot.
Makes 4 quarts
1 leftover turkey carcass
Turkey neck and any leftover broth from neck, if you made it
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced thin
2 ribs celery, sliced thin
2 quarter-sized slices gingerroot
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig each thyme, sage, and parsley
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1. Break down carcass (see notes above) and put bones with any meat scraps and skin in large stockpot. Add neck and leftover broth and enough water to make 6 quarts liquid (it should completely cover bones). Bring to simmer over medium low heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, gingerroot, bay, thyme, sage, parsley, peppercorns, and salt to taste.
2. Bring back to simmer and cook gently at least 2 hours, until liquid is reduced to 4 quarts. Cool enough to handle, strain broth and discard solids. Let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate until needed. When fat congeals, remove and store to use instead of butter or oil, or discard it.
TURKEY SOUP WITH DRESSING DUMPLINGS
Since the broth has to be made a day ahead, this takes two days to make, but it's mostly just time, not work, and it's well worth the wait. You may also add leftover vegetables to the soup such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts, cut into bite-sized pieces.
Serves 6 to 8
3 quarts turkey broth (see above)
4 slices fresh ginger root
1 large or 2 medium onions, split, peeled, and diced small
4 slender medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 ribs celery, strung and diced
1/2 pound crimini or shiitake mushrooms, diced, optional
Salt and whole black pepper in a mill
2 cups leftover dressing or stuffing
1 large egg yolk (only if making dressing dumplings)
2 cups diced leftover turkey
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup thin-sliced green onions
1. Bring broth and ginger to boiling point over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms if using. Bring to simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 12-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, if using dressing or stuffing, mix with egg yolk and roll into 1-inch round dumplings. Drop into soup and simmer until firm and hot through, about 4 minutes.
3. Add turkey and heat through. Remove and discard ginger root. Stir in parsley and serve, sprinkling each serving with green onions.
Variation I: Turkey Noodle Soup - No leftover dressing or stuffing? No problem: just omit the egg yolk and dressing and substitute 8 ounces of thin egg noodles. Add noodles at end of step 2 and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Serve as soon as noodles are done.
Variation II: Turkey Mushroom Soup - Omit dressing and egg, but include optional mushrooms. Reconstitute 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup boiling hot water. Lift reconstituted mushrooms from soaking liquid and roughly chop. Filter soaking liquid through paper coffee filter or un-dyed paper towel. Add reconstituted mushrooms and soaking liquid along with fresh mushrooms in step 1. Add 2 cups diced potatoes with other vegetables or add 8 ounces thin egg noodles at end of step 2 and simmer until noodles are tender, about 4 minutes.
Variation III: Turkey Barley Soup - Omit dressing and egg, but include optional mushrooms. Add 1 cup diced potatoes and 1/4 cup pearl barley. Simmer until barley is tender, at least 30 minutes.
TURKEY AND DRESSING SANDWICH
4 thick slices bread of your choice (We used a Tuscan round for the photo)
About 2-3 tablespoons leftover gravy
About 8 to 12 ounces thin-sliced roast turkey
1/2-inch thick slices leftover dressing or two large spoonfuls leftover stuffing
2-3 tablespoons Cranberry sauce or relish
1. Lightly toast bread. Spread 1 side of each slice with gravy. Cover gravy side of 1 piece with turkey and top with dressing or stuffing spread 1/2-inch thick. Top with cranberry relish or sauce to taste. Cover with second slice of bread, gravy side in.
2. Brush sandwich with butter. Heat skillet, non-stick pan, or griddle over medium heat. Toast, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Cut each sandwich in half and serve at once.
CREAMED TURKEY ON TOASTED DRESSING
4 3-inch-square portions of leftover dressing
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, trimmed, split lengthwise, peeled, and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, washed, strung, and diced, optional
1 tablespoon chopped fresh (or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried) sage
1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) thyme leaves
Whole nutmeg in a grater
3 tablespoons instant (Wondra) or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Madeira or dry sherry (optional)
Leftover turkey gravy and enough turkey or chicken broth to make 21/2 cups, or 21/2 cups broth (or 3 cups if wine is omitted)
Salt and whole black pepper in a mill
2-3 cups cooked turkey cut into large dice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Split squares of dressing in half horizontally and have ready to toast. Warm 2 tablespoons butter in deep skillet or saute pan over medium heat. When just melted, put in onion and carrot, and, if liked, celery. Saute, tossing occasionally, until onion is translucent and vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes. Add herbs and generous grating of nutmeg and stir, then sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir until coated and there are no lumps of flour in pan. Slowly add wine, if using, broth, and leftover gravy. Season well with salt and pepper and bring to simmer, stirring. When thickened, add turkey and let simmer 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Melt remaining butter in large, well-seasoned iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium heat. Put in dressing cut side down and toast until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Turn and cook until hot through and toasted on both sides. Transfer dressing to warm plates.
3. Stir cream into turkey and simmer until thickened, about half a minute. Taste and adjust nutmeg, salt, and pepper and spoon over dressing. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6
3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter or rendered turkey fat (leftover from roast or skimmed from broth), or a blend of both
2 medium onions, diced small
2 medium red-skinned or yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 medium clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup diced or shredded leftover vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, greens, broccoli, turnips, etc.
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups Turkey Broth (see above)
1/2 cup leftover turkey gravy or heavy cream
Worcestershire Sauce, to taste
3-4 cups diced leftover turkey
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley, plus more, for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Salt and whole black pepper in a peppermill
1. Heat butter or fat in 10-12-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent and beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until beginning to color, about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and saute half a minute, then add leftover vegetables and stir until hot through.
2. Sprinkle flour over contents of pan and stir well. Slowly add broth, stirring constantly. Add leftover gravy or cream, stir in Worcestershire to taste and cook, stirring often, until thick, about 10 minutes.
3. Add turkey and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and scrape up from bottom. Continue cooking and scraping until liquid is cooked down and hash is beginning to have crisp edges. Serve hot, sprinkled with more parsley.