When you've spent days preparing one meal, what can be better than knowing your refrigerator is stocked with prep for at least a few more? By adding just a handful of extra ingredients, only you will know that you're serving leftovers.
There are many reasons why I over-cater for the holidays. Of course I want to make sure that everyone can eat as much as they want of whatever they want. But the other truth is that I adore leftovers. When I’ve spent days preparing one meal, nothing makes me happier than knowing that my refrigerator is stocked with prep for at least a few more. By adding just a handful of extra ingredients, only I know that I’m serving leftovers.
Leftover stuffing becomes breakfast hash or strata
Some like their stuffing soft and steamed from inside the turkey, and some like it cooked separately so that it gets crispy and light, and next thing you know you’ve made twice as much stuffing as your guest list could possibly consume. With very little effort, all that extra stuffing means you’ve got breakfast covered for the next couple of days.
Chef Charlie Durham at Hudson Public House likes to make turkey and stuffing “hash” by adding chopped turkey, pan frying the mixture to get the bottom brown (I use olive oil and butter) and serving it with eggs.
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Or if you can get someone else to load the dishwasher, make a breakfast strata before you go to bed and just pop it in the oven to bake in the morning. Simply fill a baking dish with multiple layers of leftover stuffing, leftover vegetables (or sautéed onions and red bell pepper), and either grated sharp cheddar, Gruyere or your favorite cheese. Then whisk together 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for every 4 cups of stuffing you used, season with salt and pepper, and pour the mixture evenly over the baking dish. Wrap well and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and set. Serve hot.
Leftover cranberry sauce and turkey become salad
If you’ve got a houseful of guests in the days after Thanksgiving, sometimes it’s kind to follow that great big turkey dinner with some lighter fare. Durham suggests a hearty salad of romaine, walnuts, a good blue cheese, turkey and a vinaigrette made by adding vinegar and oil to leftover cranberry sauce.
I like to repurpose my favorite chicken salad recipe. I combine shredded white meat turkey, plenty of halved seedless red grapes and coarsely chopped toasted walnuts in a tangy vinaigrette made with rice vinegar and fresh basil (recipe follows). It’s delicious as is, on a bed of butter lettuce or stuffed into a crispy baguette.
Leftover gravy becomes Turkey a la King; leftover potatoes become shepherd’s pie
This time of year, comfort food is a crowd pleaser. So if you can plan ahead and make extra gravy, you’re halfway to turkey a la king, and if you’ve got mashed potatoes, too, you’re well on your way to turkey shepherd’s pie.
To make turkey a la king, sauté lots of sliced mushrooms in butter until they’re tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add peas, diced turkey and enough gravy to make it saucy. Cook to heat through, and serve over rice.
To make shepherd’s pie, mix diced or shredded turkey with whatever cooked leftover vegetables you have, peas, and just enough gravy to hold it all together. Spoon the mixture into a baking dish and top with mashed potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees until hot and beginning to brown (about 25 minutes). If necessary, you can broil it for a couple of minutes at the end.
Leftover sweet potatoes become soup
For a light winter supper or warming lunch, Durham suggests turning leftover sweet potatoes into soup by sautéing onions in butter, adding the sweet potatoes and some chicken stock, and simmering to let the flavors meld. Purée the soup in a blender, or with an immersion blender, return it to the pot, add cream or coconut milk to taste, and season with salt and white pepper.
Vinaigrette for turkey salad
½ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup chicken or turkey stock (can be instant)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup extra virgin olive or canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced
Put the vinegar, shallot, garlic and mustard in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the stock and lemon juice and blend to mix. While the blender is running, remove the insert from the middle of the lid, and slowly add the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the basil ribbons (do not blend once you’ve added the basil).
Leora Y. Bloom is the author of Washington Food Artisans: Farm Stories and Chef Recipes.