Everyone says that leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. While you could make just enough food to feed your friends and family on the big day, you’d miss out on one of the best parts of Thanksgiving: leftovers. Many cooks actually plan to have food left over so they can send it home with guests—or keep it for themselves to enjoy several satisfying post-holiday meals. So what do you do with pounds of leftover turkey, a pile of meaty bones, cranberry sauce destined to hang around for months, pans of stuffing, and cold mashed potatoes? Your Resident Gourmet Newsletter is to share two great recipes destined to give you a helping hand in turning those leftovers into delicious meals that will get you into next week.
There are two basic approaches to leftovers. The first is simple: Store and then reheat everything. The other option is to turn your extras into new dishes, including soups, pot pies, and casseroles. With General Guidelines for Leftovers, these recipes and a little creativity, you can transform leftovers into a completely different feast.
General Guidelines for Leftovers:
No doubt you’ve already had your turkey-stuffing-potatoes-cranberry-sauce sandwich, the official meal of post-Thanksgiving Dinner snack. Even though the perishables may have been in the refrigerator before you settled into an afternoon of football games and coupon clipping, they’re still vulnerable to bacteria, so here is a quick reference on food safety.
- First, it’s a good idea to make sure your refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer is 0 degrees or colder. These temperatures can be checked with an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer. A warmer environment gives bacteria a more hospitable environment to grow, so keep them cold.
- Cooked poultry can stay refrigerated for three to four days and frozen for four months. After that, it should be thrown away.
- If you cooked ham instead of turkey, sliced leftovers can stay in the fridge for three to four days and in the freezer for one to two months.
- A cheese platter is a nice appetizer or perfect finish to your Thanksgiving feast, and leftover cheeses can be saved. Soft cheeses are OK in the fridge for a week, hard cheeses, like sharp cheddar, are fine for three to four weeks if they’re open.
- When reheating leftovers, Food Safety Guidelines recommends using a meat thermometer to make sure foods are reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- That goes for reheating food in the microwave too. If yours doesn’t have a turntable that helps ensure even heating, give the container of food a 180-degree turn halfway through the heating time, to make sure everything gets hot. Wait one minute before testing it with the thermometer.
- The most commonly identified food-borne illnesses are caused by the bacteria trifecta of Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli, and by a group of viruses best known as Norwalk-like Viruses. Symptoms of eating foods with these organisms are pretty much the same: diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and sometimes fever and vomiting. So be smart about eating your leftovers and don’t let things linger too long, no matter how tempting they may be.
- Store each dish in its own container to avoid cross-contamination.
- Divide food between small, shallow containers so that it cools down quickly.
- When freezing, use heavy-duty foil and freezer-appropriate containers and bags; wrap items tightly and in a double layer to maintain moisture and prevent freezer burn.
- Store leftovers promptly: The USDA recommends discarding any leftovers that have been at room temperature more than two hours. Do not let leftovers ‘cool off’ before putting them in the refrigerator.
Potato Cakes with Fried Eggs and Turkey-Red Pepper Hash
Recipe Courtesy Wes Martin
Fuel up your houseguests for some serious holiday shopping with this hearty breakfast recipe. The potato cakes can be flavored with just about any herbs left in the fridge; leftover turkey and gravy can be transformed into this delicious hash by adding those last few spoonfuls of corn, peas, or even chopped Brussels sprouts.
Yields 4 servings
- 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, plus 4 for frying
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped sage
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- 8 ounces diced leftover turkey meat, about 2 cups
- 1/2 cup leftover turkey gravy
- 1/4 cup leftover cooked corn kernels
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix the potatoes, egg, and milk together until combined. Add the flour, season with salt and pepper, and mix until smooth. Heat 2 teaspoons oil on a non-stick griddle over medium heat; pour about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the warm griddle, gently spread it to a circle about 4″ wide, and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook until softened, about 4 minutes more. Add the turkey, gravy, and corn and cook, stirring, until turkey is heated through. Season hash with salt and pepper, stir in the parsley, and keep warm over low heat.
Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil on the griddle over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs onto the griddle and cook until desired doneness. To serve, put a warm potato cake on each of 4 plates; top the cakes with a fried egg and divide the hash evenly among them.
Leftover Thanksgiving Panini
Recipe Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma Kitchen
A sandwich made with leftovers from the Thanksgiving dinner is traditional, but a panini can be every bit as memorable as the big feast. Enjoy crisp, golden toast filled with tender slices of turkey, provolone cheese and stuffing, balanced with a touch of piquant cranberry relish and creamy gravy.
Yields 4 servings
- 1/2 cup turkey gravy base
- 1/2 cup milk
- 8 slices sweet batard, each cut on the bias about 1/2 inch thick
- Olive oil for brushing
- 1/2 cup cranberry relish
- 4 slices provolone cheese
- 12 oz. thinly sliced roast turkey breast meat
- 1 1/3 cups leftover cooked stuffing
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the turkey gravy base and milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and keep warm.
Brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil. Lay the slices, oiled side down, on a clean work surface. Spread 1 Tbs. cranberry relish on each slice. Place 1 cheese slice on each of 4 bread slices. Top with the turkey and stuffing, dividing evenly. Cover each with one of the remaining bread slices, oiled side up.
Preheat an electric panini press on the “panini” setting. Preheat an oven to 200°F.
Place 2 sandwiches on the panini press, close the lid and cook until the bread is golden brown and crisp and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes. Place on a rack-lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining 2 sandwiches. Carefully open the sandwiches and spoon on the warm gravy. Close the sandwiches, cut in half and serve immediately.