It’s easy to get carried away when cooking for the masses, and Thanksgiving leftovers are often inevitable. But there’s only so many times you really want to eat the same mashed potatoes, stuffing, dried-out turkey — you name it. Instead, repurposing those leftovers in creative ways can lead to entirely new and exciting meals.
A Classic Sandwich
For example, when it comes to an ideal post-Thanksgiving lunch, you can’t go wrong with a sandwich. Executive chef Matt Smith of Alta Strada in Fairfax says his go-to leftover dish involves getting “a sub roll and [making] a cold deli-style sandwich using the leftover turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayo. I have even served it as a lunch special at restaurants the day after the holiday, and dubbed it ‘The Gobbler,’” he said.
Joe Goetze, executive chef and managing partner of culinary and bakery at Farmers Restaurant Group, recommends a simple turkey grilled cheese, “turkey salad on good, toasted sourdough,” or a “hot turkey or ham slider [is] always a good lunch go-to.”
For something a bit heavier for dinner, Goetze recommends making a casserole. “It’s a great way to clean things out of the fridge. Mix your leftover turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, and gravy together in a casserole dish. Top with a simple pie crust, bake, and serve with any leftover cranberry relish on the side.” He also recommends repurposing leftover turkey into a turkey soup, chili, or gumbo.
If you have a waffle iron handy, Brandon Whitestone, director of culinary and partner at Alexandria Restaurant Partners, suggests reviving your leftover stuffing into the ultimate waffles. It’s “a great play on chicken and waffles that really transforms the stuffing into something unique,” Whitestone says.
Simply mix one beaten egg into your leftover stuffing and add turkey stock or water to moisten if necessary. Preheat your waffle iron and spray with non-stick cooking spray, then add your stuffing mixture to the iron, making sure to pile the stuffing about ½ an inch above the grid so there’s enough to press into the top portion of grid.
Close the iron and flip it (if possible). Cook until deep golden brown and crisp, about 3–6 minutes. For a savory topping, top your waffle with turkey and gravy. For those with a sweet tooth, mix leftover cranberry sauce, maple syrup, orange juice, and any jelly you have on hand to make a jazzed-up cranberry-maple sauce.
Fry It Up
If you have a stuffing surplus, try making fried stuffing cakes. Goetze recommends taking cold stuffing, forming it into small balls, dipping them in a wet tempura batter, crusting in panko breadcrumbs, deep-frying, and serving with “your favorite dipping sauce or … cranberry BBQ mustard.”
If you have leftover mashed potatoes, Whitestone recommends making potato and turkey fritters. Combine your leftover cold mashed potatoes, corn, and diced turkey with an egg (1 egg per cup of potato mixture) and 1 tablespoon of cheddar cheese. Form the mixture into 1-ounce or 1-inch balls. Roll the balls first in flour, then a beaten egg, then panko. Deep fry in canola oil at 350 F until the centers reach 165 F, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can bake them in the oven at 350 F for about 20 minutes. For more browning, add Parmesan to the panko coating.
For more leftover ideas, check out the four full recipes below. Instead of dreading those storage containers, you’ll be just as excited for the next day’s meal as you were for the main event.
Recipe courtesy Brandon Whitestone, director of culinary and partner of Alexandria Restaurant Partners
Makes 10 servings (1 cup each)
- 1 cup (4 ounces) raw bacon, diced
- ¾ cup (6 ounces) leftover gravy
- 2 cups hot water
- 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces) minced garlic
- 1 cup (6 ounces) corn, leftover or canned
- 1 cup (5 ounces) raw white onion, diced to ¼-inch pieces
- 1 cup (5 ounces) raw celery, diced to ¼-inch pieces
- 7 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (16 ounces) heavy cream
- 1 cup (8 ounces) half-and-half
- 2 teaspoons (5 grams) fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 teaspoons (0.3 ounces) kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- ½ teaspoons (2 grams) ground black pepper
- 1 cup (4 ounces) peeled, blanched potatoes, diced to ¾-inch (roasted leftover potatoes also work)
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) lemon juice
- 2 cups (1 pound) chopped leftover turkey
- Render bacon in large pot over medium heat until crisp.
- Whisk turkey gravy into hot water and set aside.
- Add garlic to the pot with the bacon, stir for 15 seconds, then add corn, celery, and onion and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes over medium heat until fragrant and the onions turn translucent.
- Sprinkle flour over veggies and stir constantly for 5 minutes or until flour disappears.
- Add gravy/water mix and whisk until no lumps remain.
- Add cream, half-and-half, thyme, salt, and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking until it thickens.
- Once soup has thickened, approximately 8 minutes, add potatoes, lemon juice, and turkey. Stir for 5 minutes until turkey is hot. Serve immediately.
Thanksgiving Savory Cake or Gateau Salé
Recipe courtesy of chefs Christophe and Michelle Poteaux, chef-owners of Bastille Brasserie & Bar in Alexandria
- 200 grams (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
- 12 centiliters (4 ounces) whole milk
- 4 eggs
- 7 centiliters (2.36 ounces) olive oil (or any oil you have on hand)
- 100 grams (3.5 ounces) grated cheese (Emmental, Gruyère, Swiss, Parmesan, cheddar)
- Pepper, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- 200 grams (7 ounces) cooked turkey, chopped
- 150 grams (5.3 ounces) cooked sweet potatoes, diced
- 150 grams (5.3 ounces) cooked green beans, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray and line a standard 8.5-by-4.5-inch loaf pan.
- Start by mixing the flour and baking powder.
- Add the eggs, milk and oil.
- Add the grated cheese, salt and pepper to taste.
- Your base is ready!
- Then, add turkey, sweet potatoes, and green beans. (Feel free to substitute other ingredients in this step. Try sausage, other vegetables, cooked fish — you just need the base mix, and the rest is up to you.
- Mix and pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan.
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 350 F.
- Can be served hot with salad and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar vinaigrette or cold as an aperitif. Garnish with your leftover cranberry chutney.
Recipe courtesy of chefs Christophe and Michelle Poteaux, chef-owners of Bastille Brasserie & Bar in Alexandria.
Makes 8–12 servings
- 3 cups turkey meat, chopped or shredded
- 1.5 cups cranberry sauce
- 4 cups mashed potatoes (see notes)
- 2 cups vegetables (see notes)
- 2 cups gravy
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 4 cups stuffing (see notes)
- ½ cup melted butter
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Combine your turkey and cranberry sauce and spread evenly on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
- Evenly press on leftover mashed potatoes and sprinkle your vegetables over the top.
- Mix the milk and gravy. Spread over mashed potatoes and vegetables. Layer on leftover stuffing and lightly drizzle butter over the top.
- Cover with tin foil and bake at 400 F for 35–45 minutes, remove the foil for the last 15 minutes to crisp the stuffing or whatever bread topping you used.
- Serve with a leftover salad, by itself or make a fresh green salad. Enjoy!
- Feel free to use whatever leftovers you have on hand. It does not have to be the same as what is listed here.
- Substitute rice or sweet potatoes for mashed potatoes.
- Substitute peas, carrots, corn or green beans, or use more than one vegetable depending on what you have. Yes, even your green bean casserole leftovers work here!
- Substitute cornbread, croutons, or breadcrumbs for the topping if you do not have leftover stuffing.
Potato Croquettes with Cranberries
Recipe courtesy of chef Roberto Donna, Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano in Vienna
- 3 cups mashed potatoes
- 1 large egg, beaten; plus 2 large eggs, beaten in a separate bowl
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 cup of dense cranberry sauce
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup flour
- In a medium bowl with a fork, combine well-mashed potatoes, one beaten egg, parsley, and breadcrumbs.
- Taking approximately 1/4 cup at a time of the potato mixture, form into a ball shape. Place 1/2 teaspoon of cranberry sauce in the middle and close well, making sure the sauce does not come out.
- Dredge the balls first in flour, then in the remaining two mixed eggs, then roll them in the breadcrumbs.
- Fry in hot oil at 350 F. Add croquettes a few at a time, turning as they brown.
- Place on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- The croquettes can be assembled up to two days ahead of time. Be sure to cover them well with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to cook.
- Potato croquettes can be frozen cooked or uncooked. Freeze them cooked and cooled in a freezer safe bag or container. When freezing uncooked, freeze them on a cookie sheet until firm, then move to a freezer-safe container. Let thaw in the fridge, then dredge in the flour and cook. They will keep for up to one month in the freezer.
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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