Five Tricks for Thanksgiving Leftovers

We are crazy about Thanskgiving, both for being the only real food-centric American holiday and for giving us an excuse to make all kinds of things that we don’t make the rest of the year. One of the few downsides is that we usually end up eating the same leftovers for days on end afterwards. These can be amongst the best leftovers that you get, however even your favorite dish can start to wear on after having it reheated for the fourth meal in a row.

The solution? Food hacking– a tasty form of recycling! Incorporate your leftovers into new recipes to bring them back to life. While reworking leftovers certainly isn’t a new process (Bubble and Squeak, anyone?), it is one that benefits from a fresh approach from time to time. After the jump, a few of our favorite out-of-the-box approaches to eating well on Black Friday.

1. Egg Nog French Toast

Just the thing for Friday morning breakfast– if you aren’t still full!

First warning: Do not use “grocery store” egg nog from the carton! It isn’t real! It doesn’t taste as good! We won’t even vouch for it to congeal properly as required. Make the authentic stuff with eggs and cream (and as much booze as called for in The Joy of Cooking), and then use any remaining as batter for whatever kind of bread you also have leftover. Gingerbread, nut bread, white bread, challah, rustic breads…just slice, dip in egg nog and fry. Yum.

2. Turkey Banh Mi

Banh mi, sometimes just called Vietnamese sandwiches, are the fabulous deli sandwiches available at French Vietnamese bakeries, which are painfully difficult to find in many parts of the US. We found a basic but spot-on recipe for the slaw and other accessories here and have used it several times with success. While turkey isn’t traditional material for banh mi, one of the beauties of the recipe is that it does genuinely work well with almost any kind of meat. Roasted and shredded turkey is no exception.

The quick summary: Put your leftover turkey in a french roll or baguette with mayonnaise, and a slaw consisting of shredded carrots and daikon that have been marinated in vinegar and sugar. Garnish with jalapeno slices and cilantro. Eat. Repeat.

3. Stuffed Bell Peppers

With the wild variety of Thanksgiving stuffings available, there’s no single recipe that can treat all of them as an equal ingredient. One thing that does work, of course, is to use the stuffing as… well… stuffing for something else. Stuffed bell peppers can be made with great success using either bread-like, cornbread, or rice-based stuffings and dressings. You can even do it with leftover mashed potatoes and other root vegetables.

For all variations, slice the top off of sweet bell peppers, remove seeds and ribs. How to proceed from that point varies a bit with the type of stuffing that you use:

  • For moist bread and cornbread based dressings, pack your dressing firmly into the pepper shell. Optionally top with grated cheese.
  • For dry and crumbly dressings, for every two peppers you are stuffing, beat one egg and mix it into the stuffing to act as a binder.
  • For rice stuffing mix with 1/4 cup shredded parmesan or romano for each pepper you are stuffing.
  • For mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, acorn squash and other moist but starchy vegetables, mash as needed and apply spices liberally. Firmly pack the pepper to the top, rounding over the top gently, forming a slight dome on the top. Beat an egg or two and dip each of the stuffed pepper tops into the egg. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil into a hot skillet and put the peppers in upside down for a minute to form a crispy seal over the top of each.

To bake the peppers, arrange them snugly upright in a baking dish just big enough for the number of peppers you are cooking. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the peppers begin to crisp and sag and are warmed through.

4. Autumn Vegetable Samosas

This one is great because you can start with any number of different raw materials– starchy things that have lost their appealing texture after two days in the fridge– and make them totally appealing all over again.
You can pick leftover mashed potatoes, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and/or yams. Whatever it is, mix it all together, moisten with cream or butter if too dry, and season to taste with garam masala. Mix in some frozen peas. For the wrapper you can use crepes, egg roll or large won ton wrappers, or other similar materials. (Although if you use a tortilla, it might be better to label the output as a burrito of some sort.) Wrap some of your filling up tight in your wrapper. While traditionally you might deep fry something like this, you can also do very well in the oven: place on a lined baking sheet, mist with oil. Bake until golden.

5. Cranberry Turnovers

In general we are partial to uncooked cranberry relish as it keeps very well and can be used as a spread for many purposes. But if you went with a traditional fresh cooked cranberry sauce, you have something a little less versatile on your hands. (And if it came out of a can, and kept the shape of the can– sorry– we can’t help you.) One thing that you can do is to treat it like pie filling. But, since you don’t want a whole cranberry pie, you can make some great cranberry turnovers.

Use a slotted spoon to place a dollop (that’s a technical term, by the way) of the solids from your leftover cranberry sauce in the middle of a puff pastry square. Fold over diagonally and seal the edges well. Optionally add an egg wash and sugar sprinkles on top. Bake until golden. Alternate filling: the extra sliced apples that didn’t fit in the pie but are already tossed with cinnamon. What could be better?

4 thoughts on “Five Tricks for Thanksgiving Leftovers

  1. Glad to see you go with the traditional Joy of Cooking egg nog recipe. That’s our favorite. Of course, we use fresh local eggs that taste like eggs and raw Jersey milk so we don’t have the left over problem. (At least we don’t grow our own nutmeg. It grows wild up in Queensland, you know).

    Our favorite leftover turkey hack is Tiki Turkey which is especially good for using up breast meat. The dark meat vanishes, but we often have a breast or two left over so we make Tiki Turkey. This is a great luau dish and incredibly easy to make. (We tell our friends it’s nene). Cut up the turkey into chunks. Make a dressing of sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, scallions, garlic and fresh coriander. Toss. Heat to taste in the oven.

    Also, punt cranberry sauce. Make cranberry chutney instead. Cranberry chutney is a preserve, so it lasts forever, and it is great with cheese. Try it cold with brie or cheddar. For a real treat, get some puff patry and make a cranberry chutney brie en croute.

    I’ll also say bravo for sweet potato latkes. For a real kick, make brussels sprouts latkes. That’s what food processors are for. (You can mix in carrots, potatoes and other left overs as well).

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