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What To Do With an Overload of Thanksgiving Leftovers

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Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, leaving our refrigerator's packed with leftovers. Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra Cooks shows us how to transform them before tiring of them.

Today: Lighten up after the big day with a comforting soup.

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In the preface to the November chapter of Canal House Cooks Every Day, Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer recall a "Thanksgiving With No Tears," one attended by friends, colleagues, and neighbors; a potluck affair, all holiday woes checked at the door.

What a dream -- a grand gathering without the drama! No navigating family dynamics in order to get to that first spoonful of cold mashed potatoes relished standing at an open fridge. Or to that first bite of cold turkey piled with cranberry sauce sandwiched between mayo-slathered bread.

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Dining on leftovers is, after all, the greatest boon of the days -- weeks? -- of preparation: a fridge full of tupperware requiring no instruction, no ironed linens, no polished silver, no warm plates. Extending the fruits of our labors is as intuitive as opening storage vessels and tucking in. 

More: Pack up your leftovers prettily with these oven and freezer-safe glass containers.

Alongside turkey sandwiches this next week, I'm particularly looking forward to Hamilton and Hirsheimer's Turkey and Potato Soup, essentially mashed potatoes thinned with turkey stock, sprinkled with chives. Making this soup requires no recipe, but should you plow through your supply of leftover mash, you might want a little guidance -- the Canal House ladies created this recipe to allow them to enjoy the soup all winter long. Adding shreds of turkey will make the soup more substantial, but after days of indulging, there is something nice about the soup as it is -- light, soothing, restorative.

A few more ideas for making use of Thanksgiving leftovers follow below, but what's most important is that you keep it simple. Drama or not, you've survived the first major holiday of the season and that deserves a toast -- cheers! 

How are you planning to savor your leftovers?

What To Do With an Overload of Leftovers:

Soups: I love the simplicity of the Canal House Turkey and Potato Soup featured here, but if you are looking for a little more spice and substance, here are two one-pot wonders:

  • Turkey Pho, seasoned with toasted coriander, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon, loaded with shredded turkey breast and cellophane noodles.
  • Turkey Pozole Verde, a mix of homemade green chile and tomatillo sauce, hominy, and shredded turkey meat. 

Sandwiches: You need no guidance, but this one sounds particularly promising, especially if you've made paté (I did! it was SO good). And when you tire of eating everything cold, think about making a panini with a good melty cheese. 

Side Dishes: Make a jambalaya with sautéed vegetables, andouille sausage, and cajun seasoning, or fried rice with cabbage, ginger, and pineapple

Salads: Warm a simple red wine vinaigrette on the stovetop, add shredded turkey and leftover roasted potatoes or other vegetables, and cook until heated through, then toss with Bibb lettuce and serve. Or shred some cabbage and carrots (or any vegetables you have on hand), toss them with a soy vinaigrette, and make Asian Turkey Salad Lettuce Wraps.  

Entrées: Turkey Tetrazzini, a baked pasta seasoned with nutmeg, topped with buttery Parmesan bread crumbs. Turkey Chilaquiles, corn tortillas layered with homemade tomatillo salsa, roasted poblano peppers, and queso fresco. Croquettes, a mix of ground turkey and chorizo bound together with béchamel, shaped, breaded, and deep fried until golden. 

Leftover...

...bread or rolls? Blitz them into crumbs and store them in the freezer.

...vegetables? Toss them into an omelet or frittata

...stuffing? Slice it, griddle it, and top it with a fried egg. 

More: Fry your egg like a professional.

...cranberry sauce? Serve it at breakfast along side Swedish pancakes (or aebelskivers or blintzes). 

...mashed sweet potatoes? Make a shepherd's pie. Or purée them into a hummus with tahini, lemon, and garlic. 

Sick of turkey altogether? Make something you can freeze for later. This turkey pot pie is loaded with vegetables and topped with puff pastry, a snap to throw together. And best of all, you can divide it among four loaf pans to freeze for future occasions.

Canal House Turkey and Potato Soup 

Adapted from Canal House Cooks Every Day (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012)

Serves 4

Turkey stock:

Turkey neck, giblets, and heart or two turkey wings
1 onion, quartered
1 peeled and chopped carrot
1 chopped celery rib

Turkey and potato soup:

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 to 4 cups hot turkey stock
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

See full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Alexandra Stafford


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Tags: thanksgiving, holiday, leftovers, turkey, potato, soup