Thanksgiving turkey without leftovers? That’s absurd!
In a lot of households, a whole, roasted turkey is a once-, maybe twice-, a-year kind of thing. In between, turkey is pretty much a deli item or something we buy in parts. So when we do it, we tend to do it big—making a larger turkey than we need for a single meal. Thereby, we extend the joy and enjoyment of a home-roasted turkey.
The truth of it is that without all the nap-inducing, enriched, starchy, and sweet accompaniments traditional to Thanksgiving dinner, having plenty of left-over turkey is a high-protein, low-fat antidote to holiday excesses. And it’s endlessly variable and adaptable to recipes and on-the-fly culinary creativity in your own kitchen.
Once Thanksgiving dinner is over and the clean-up begins, it’s a good idea to strip the turkey carcass of all remaining meat in as large chunks as possible rather than slicing. Chunks retain moisture; slices lose it. 2. Wrap the leftover meat in plastic wrap then aluminum foil; store in airtight plastic bags; or, in the best of all possible worlds, use a home vacuum sealer.
If you are of the mind to do it, chop the carcass with a heavy cleaver into chunks, put them in a stockpot, and use it as the basis for homemade turkey stock. Here’s a recipe for a very traditional-style turkey soup with mire poix vegetables (onion, celery, and carrot) from Meat by the Lobels. Or, if you have some additional ingredients left-over after the big day, perhaps you can work them into your leftovers as well. For example, if you happened to serve Portobello mushrooms Thanksgiving Day, you can make Turkey and Portobello Mushroom Soup (Lobel’s Prime Cuts, page 192).
Alternatively, freeze the stock in 1-, 2-, or 4-cup containers for future soups, gravies, and sauces, or as a substitute for recipes calling for chicken stock.
Cubed or shredded leftover turkey is a terrific addition to pasta dishes or casseroles. Turkey is perfect for pasta dishes that call for light-cream, aglio-olio (garlic-oil), or cheese sauces, such as pasta alfredo. Or try our recipe for Penne with Turkey, Garlic Spinach, and Cherry Tomatoes (Lobel’s Prime Cuts, page187), a recipe for penne pasta in a light cheese and wine sauce with a Tuscan accent. Or you can use turkey along with other left-over ingredients in a rice or noodle casserole—cubed butternut squash or sweet potatoes are a great ingredient.
Leftover sliced turkey is best used the next day before it has a chance to dry out. But don’t just settle for the ordinary. Try unique and exciting ingredients, like roasted tomatoes, pesto-infused mayonnaise, onion marmalade, feta cheese, olive tapenade, or melted brie and roasted pears. Or create an inspired wrap, such as a south-of-the-border wrap that marries a chunky guacamole with a rustic homemade salsa (or one of our delicious Fischer & Wieser salsas).
Turkey strips and cubes are also the basis for such dishes as omelets; salads, including a Waldorf-style variation; turkey divan with broccoli and cheese; pot pies; a la king; or turkey hash, a dinner or breakfast treat that helps use up leftover stuffing and gravy too. Check out our recipe for Turkey Hash from Meat.
What’s your favorite dish to create with turkey leftovers? Do you usually incorporate your other leftovers into new dishes? What’s the most unique dish you’ve made out of leftovers? Or do you just enjoy having turkey dinner and turkey sandwiches for a couple of days?