Almost better than Thanksgiving dinner is the leftovers.
In fact, some people enjoy leftovers so much that if they lack them in their own kitchen because they had Thanksgiving dinner elsewhere, they cook a turkey at home the next day.
“We get a lot of calls the day after Thanksgiving — people making their own Thanksgiving dinner again because they didn’t have any leftovers,” said Alice Coffey, supervisor for the Butterball Turkey Talk Line.
Some people will even cook two turkeys, or a turkey and a turkey breast, so that they have plenty of leftovers following Thanksgiving.
Food safety is critical when using up leftovers. As tempting as it is to leave the turkey out on the counter while enjoying the afternoon or evening with guests, it should be removed from the bone or refrigerated within two hours of coming out of the oven, and kept in the refrigerator no longer than three days. If you’re not going to use it up by then, freeze it for up to two months.
Coffey suggests dicing the turkey and freezing it in two-cup containers so that it will be easier to use later on.
Chef Jerry C. Mohr of Malden Bridge Chef Cooking and Pastry Classes advocates using leftovers up even sooner, by the day after.
Coffey recommends taking the stuffing out immediately when the turkey comes out of the oven because it holds heat. Then you can remove the breast lobe in one piece and the leg and thigh and refrigerate those immediately. Being prepared ahead of time with containers or zipper seal bags makes the process easier.
“If you have something you can put it in, you’re more likely to cut it off and put it away real quick,” she said.
The possibilities for leftovers are endless, but one of the most popular is to make soup from the carcass. MaryAnn Benson of Clifton Park learned how to make turkey soup from her grandmother and mother.
“When we visited my grandmother in Buffalo, we always knew that she would have a big pot of turkey or chicken soup on the stove,” she said. Now her own kids make it, too.
Benson doesn’t follow a recipe. First, she picks off much of the meat left on the bones, leaving some on. Then she cooks the carcass covered in water on the stove with the water at just the start of a boil.
“If you can leave part of the skin and wings on, that gives it more flavor,” she said. She also adds a couple of onions, carrots and the tops of celery stalks to the water along with salt, pepper and one or two bay leaves.
Cooking the carcass takes a couple of hours, during which she skims off any foam that forms on the top of the water.
For more flavor, if necessary, she adds a couple of bouillon cubes or some canned chicken broth to the water. If you add some of the juices from the turkey pan, you’re less likely to need bouillon, she said.
She just removes the carcass, adds some of the turkey meat she picked off earlier along with some pastina and Parmesan cheese. She might add garlic powder, rosemary or poultry seasoning, too.
You can also strain the broth, eliminating any of the gristle or other parts you don’t want.
If you refrigerate it until the fat rises and hardens, you can skim that off, Benson says. If you don’t have time for that, drag a slice of bread over the top of the broth to soak up some of the fat that way.
Mohr created a recipe that uses leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and stuffing and is a variation of the French dish Hachis Parmentier, sort of a shepherd’s pie, French-style.
Popular leftover recipes from the Butterball Turkey Talk Line include pumpkin black bean turkey chili, turkey melts with cheddar and chutney on an English muffin, and a grilled turkey apple cheese sandwich. These can be found at www.butterball.com.
Turkey Soup Vanja’s Style
Recipe courtesy of Valerie Luguna, who writes the cooking blog “A Canadian Foodie” (www.acanadianfoodie.com). This is an Eastern Bloc variation on traditional turkey soup.
1 turkey carcass
1 bundle of parsley
1 coarsely chopped onion with skin
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, with leaves, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 dry or 3 to 5 fresh bay leaves
8 to 10 whole black peppercorns
Enough water to cover carcass and ingredients
Homemade noodles (or something similar)
Fresh garden carrots, coined
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients into a stock pot. Bring to a boil. Maintain low boil, lid ajar, 5 to 6 hours, removing surface scum. Cool overnight. Strain stock from solids; discard vegetables.
Remove meat from bones. (Keep succulent meat for soup; keep coarse meat for a pate or a sandwich salad.) Add meat, noodles and coined carrots to stock.
Taste broth; if it is strong and lovely, season now; otherwise, leave the lid off and reduce liquid as you cook the vegetables at a low boil.
Season to taste.
Turkey Leftovers Casserole
Recipe from Jerry C. Mohr of Malden Bridge Chef Cooking and Pastry Classes. (This is a variation of the French classic Hachis Parmentier.)
Leftover turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes
Garlic, if desired
Grated Swiss cheese
Take the meat off the turkey and chop it with a knife or in a food processor. Chop the stuffing in the same way. Mix meat and stuffing.
Peel an onion and chop it; then pan-sear it in a large pan with hot olive oil until lightly brown, (you may add some chopped garlic also if you like, but add it when the onion is already colored or it might burn).
Deglace (add a liquid in a hot pan to bring up the flavor of what you are cooking) the cooked onion with some white wine. Let boil for a minute. Add the chopped meat and stuffing, mix well, taste and rectify the seasoning if needed. You may add some chopped fresh herbs of your choice. Mix well and cook 2-3 minutes, the end result should be moist. Put aside.
Cook a potato or two (depending on how much sweet potato you have leftover) in boiling water and mash them. Remove the skin from the leftover sweet potatoes and mash them with the already mashed potatoes; add some melted butter in it while mixing.
Put the cooked chopped meat and stuffing mix in an greased oven tray, cover with the mashed potatoes mix, cover the top with grated Swiss cheese and some bread crumbs. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes in an oven at 375 degrees or until the top is nicely browned. Serve hot with a side dish of salad.