How many times have you acquired a bigger bird than you really need for a holiday celebration, just in case? I allowed myself to be talked into buying a much bigger turkey than I planned on for Thanksgiving because I was buying direct from the farmer, special ordering for a month earlier than most people here in Britain, and I didn’t want to be rude. As I told him, I’d rather have leftovers than run out on the day. In the end, we used just over half the bird.
Having so much turkey left over in itself is not so very unusual. When I was growing up, our extended family would have the main feast at mid-day, leftovers in the evening, and everyone would go home with enough for a meal or two, so the host family wouldn’t have too much the next day. When that routine isn’t the norm, a bit of planning is required. Once any leftovers have been sent home with guests, the next thing to do is figure out how much extra turkey is still available.
Begin by removing as much meat as possible from all the bones. If there is a lot, you may want to separate large pieces of white meat and dark meat, with a further collection of smaller bits of meat. Set aside bones, gristle, fatty skin and squidgy bits to make stock. Weigh out the rest of the meat. If there’s more than your household can comfortably use in about 5 days, consider freezing some. You could make a big batch of some casserole from the small bits and freeze it in meal-sized portions, or cut up the larger pieces of meat into convenient size cubes and freeze them covered with stock, in boxes, again in meal sized portions.
For more immediate use, white meat slices nicely for sandwiches; chunks of dark meat reheat well for simple ‘leftovers’; small pieces and crumbly bits from the carcass are ideal for casseroles, soup, curry, turkey pie or bubble and squeak. This is our menu for the week:
Day one: Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings (some brought by guests): Roast turkey, Mom’s bread and giblet stuffing, mashed potatoes, mashed parsnips, gravy, boiled turnips, baked sweet potato wedges with garlic and rosemary, steamed green beans, green salad, home made bread rolls, cranberry salad. Plus desserts!
Day two: Reheated dark turkey meat, leftover stuffing, fresh gravy (using new stock), beans and cranberry salad.
Day three: Turkey curry: made with scrappy meat, leftover turnips and fresh carrot. Served with rice. (Use stock for the liquid in both the curry and the rice.)
Day four: Bubble and squeak: made with turkey, leftover mashes and fresh steamed cabbage. Cranberry salad if there’s any still left; otherwise apples on the side.
Day five: Turkey soup (made on day two, using new stock), including leftover sweet potatoes and other veg, served with fresh bread.
Plus: Lunch sandwiches made with sliced white meat. And maybe a pizza using a few choice bits of turkey.