New Reasons to Be Thankful for Thanksgiving Leftovers

So the last stragglers have finally pushed themselves away from the Thanksgiving table.  As you survey the remains of the meal on the table and in the kitchen, you think the same thing you do every year – wow, there’s a lot of food left.  And, almost immediately after that thought – wow, how am I going to get rid of all of this?  Wait!  Don’t throw it all out.  There’s hope yet for all that leftover turkey, stuffing, and veggies.

Through careful planning and execution, you can save much of your once sumptuous repast for some really great future meals.  You probably already have what you need in terms of storage containers – freezer bags, airtight plastic containers, plastic wrap, and foil.  If you’re using opaque containment such as foil, apply a label (masking tape, magic tape, or self-adhesive labels will work just fine) to identify the contents and the date they were frozen.  Actually, it’s a good idea to label everything that goes into the freezer anyway.

The Food Network website has a great article on safe food storage, the link to which is listed below. Here are a few critical points from that article.

  1. Start packing up and refrigerating the leftovers within two hours.
  2. Pack leftover food into smaller shallow containers that allow you to reheat only what you need for a particular meal. Avoid putting food into containers that are too large or too small.
  3. Get the packed food into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the contents to come to room temperature before storing.
  4. Avoid stacking the containers so that they cool down as quickly as possible in the refrigerator or freezer.

You’re probably not going to want to make stock right after you’ve carved and pulled all the meat from the turkey carcass (if there WAS any meat left), but if you have room in the freezer to store the carcass for a few days, by all means do use whatever is left to make stock.  Don’t forget to include onion skins, fibrous leek greens, and carrot tops to add depth to your stock.

There are a number of delicious ways to prepare leftover turkey, ranging from appetizers to soups to entrees and sandwiches.  Links to the recipes for the following delectables are listed at the bottom of this post.

  • Grilled turkey and cheese – this recipe by Tyler Florence features turkey, Brie, apple butter and arugula, grilled on rye bread. If you don’t have or like all these ingredients, use your imagination – thinly sliced fresh apple instead of apple butter, some other leaf green instead of arugula, and a creamy melting cheese, such as Havarti instead of Brie.  Another popular sandwich involves piling turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce onto a roll – you can either grill it or wrap and warm it, before dipping it into hot leftover gravy (who ever has gravy left over, though?)

    A classic Italian sauce adapted for turkey or chicken.

    A classic Italian sauce adapted for turkey or chicken. Bolognese pairs well with spaghetti, linguine, or fettucine noodles. Pass the grated cheese, please. (Photo © rueangrit – Fotolia.com)

  • Pasta with turkey Bolognese, by Giada DiLaurentis, is an innovative spin on a classic pasta dish. You can make your own marinara or use your favorite prepared marinara to make the Bolognese.
  • Turkey pot pie – you already know about this classic leftover comeback, I’m sure.

    Why not make turkey pot pie in a cast iron skillet?

    Why not make turkey pot pie in a cast iron skillet? This classic turkey leftover dish can incorporate leftover veggies as well, to keep it interesting. (© MSPhotographic – Fotolia.com)

  • Turkey soup three ways – turkey vegetable with potato patties by Michael Chiarello, Edward Lee’s Southern-Asian fusion turkey ramen soup, and Alton Brown’s Bird to the Last Drop.
  • Turkey finger food – Chef Seamus Mullens’ croquettes and Chef Naomi Pomeroy’s Indian inspired samosas.
  • Stews – Chef Chris Shepherd’s turkey and andouille gumbo.
  • Enchiladas – Chef Jason Vincent’s recipe requires planning ahead because you’ll be cooking the ingredients for the sauce in the bottom of the turkey roasting pan as you cook your turkey, and you’ll need to provide another liquid for basting the turkey. (So you may end up making this the next time you roast turkey or chicken.  If this is too much planning for this Thanksgiving, try making turkey quesadillas.)

    Samosas are extremely popular appetizers.

    Samosas are extremely popular appetizers, especially in central and south Asia. The unusual spices pair well with the turkey and mashed potatoes stuffed inside. You can dip these in cranberry chutney, hot sauce, or whatever personal favorites you choose. (Photo © paul_brighton – Fotolia.com)

The most important thing to remember about recipes is that they provide instructional assistance, tips on preparation techniques, and inspiration.  You can follow these recipes or be inspired, using whatever you might already have in your kitchen.  Remember that you can always use chicken if that’s what you happen to prefer or have on hand.

Who said Thanksgiving leftovers have to be boring, eh?






Read more about how to safely save leftovers here:














Header Image:  Turkey enchiladas are a great way to change up post-Thanksgiving leftovers.  (© Monart Designs – Fotolia.com)