Maybe I ought to call this one Planning for Turkey Leftovers, since I’m still in the middle of things. Yes, Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, and our not-quite-on-the-day-because-it-isn’t-a-holiday-here celebrations have also come and gone. Although the repeated practice of years means I’m pretty good at estimating how much food to prepare for a varying number of guests, there’s always the possibility that someone will have to cancel at the last minute, or ask to bring one special extra person, so I’m still likely to err on the side of over-catering. And of course, turkeys don’t come in an unlimited range of sizes, so there’s usually plenty of leftover meat to deal with after the holiday, even if, as this year, there isn’t much else left over.
To a certain extent, there are some ‘obvious’ things to do with leftover Thanksgiving (or Christmas) turkey, depending on your family’s habits. When I was growing up, dinner was at noon on the dot at my grandparents’ house, and supper was about 6.00, even if nobody thought they felt hungry after the feast. Somehow, everyone always had room for cold turkey sandwiches, more cranberry salad and oh, yes, another piece of pie, thank you very much. And then we were all sent home with disposable plastic leftovers dishes (usually from margarine or Cool Whip) with whatever hadn’t been used up, and these things showed up on the dinner table and seemed to disappear over the next few days.
This morning I sat down with pen and paper and came up with a list of old stand-bys as well as new and different things I could make with leftover turkey, most of which use non-leftover other ingredients. I won’t make all of them, but some I’ll make in larger portions than we need so I can freeze the spare for another day, when turkey will feel fresh again.
Basic leftovers: Large, recognizable portions of turkey, reheated with the best of the rest of the sweet potatoes, stuffing and vegetables; fresh fruit for dessert.
Cold turkey sandwiches: Sliced white meat on a bun, topped by a generous spoonful of cranberry salad; sliced carrots & celery on the side.
Hot turkey sandwiches: Sliced white or dark meat on bread, topped with a scoop of mashed potato and slathered with gravy; steamed green beans on the side. These were a firm favourite in the greasy spoon I was a waitress in once upon a time.
Turkey hash: Small bits of meat fried up with any fatty skin, cut up leftover potatoes and veg from the big day. Cook gently so everything keeps its shape. Or go for the Bubble and Squeak version, where everything is mashed together and fried a bit more vigorously like a giant potato pancake.
Turkey pasties: Chopped bits of leftover meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, & a bit of turnip or swede, wrapped in pastry and baked. Don’t forget to put ketchup on the table!
Onion bhajis with turkey: Just add small pieces/shreds of turkey to a bhaji recipe. Serve with a cold salad.
Turkey pizza: Spread a white sauce on your favourite pizza base, topping with shredded turkey, pineapple tidbits and dried herbs.
Turkey and noodle casserole: Turkey instead of tuna, and yes, put in loads of frozen peas!
Turkey curry: Apparently this is a British classic for New Year’s Day. Serve with plain white rice.
Turkey soup: You didn’t think I’d leave this out, did you? I’ll be using fresh parsnips from the allotment for ours.
What do you do in your house? What do you absolutely have to have with leftover turkey? What clever tricks are up your sleeve? Share, please!