The Feast of 7 Thanksgiving Leftovers

November 21, 2016

I do love Thanksgiving, our most food-facing holiday, but sometimes my over-filled turkeystuffingmashedandgravy plate can feel pretty soft and brown, leaving me feeling that way too. Next day, I don’t really want to go back there, but since leftovers are jamming up the fridge, I try to do some magic and take them for a little trip abroad. Leaves of crisp lettuces and sprigs of fresh herbs are best brought along too.

The morning after the big feast, here are just a few ways your leftovers can look—revived, bright, and full of life. Share them with family, friends, and neighbors alike:

Pearl Onions

Stemperata is a Sicilian sauce to spoon over grilled or fried fish. Sauté a handful of mint leaves and some thinly sliced celery in olive oil for a minute. Add salt, a spoonful of white wine vinegar, and enough water to not quite cover. Simmer till the celery is nearly tender, then add the onions, a heaping spoonful of well-soaked and drained capers, and a small handful of pitted and roughly chopped olives. Simmer to bring it all together, add chopped parsley, and serve warm or at room temp.


While the kids make sandwiches, a cool salad can be made for adults with thinly sliced white meat, a few lettuce leaves, and thick stripes of tonnato sauce: lemony mayonnaise with pounded garlic and chopped anchovies, capers, parsley, and marjoram. With the dark meat, stir-fry thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, onions, and carrots till getting tender. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, a splash of rice wine vinegar, and shredded dark meat to make a sauce for thin spaghetti that’s almost chow mein-ish. Pass the jar of sambal oelek.

Mashed Potatoes & Roasted Roots

Form cold mashed potatoes into little cakes and pan-fry in cast iron. They’re too fragile to turn, so brown one side really well, then pop the pan into a hot oven for a few minutes. Consider poaching some eggs. Flip the potato cakes out onto plates, crispy brown side up. Reach for the red sauce you prefer, sweet or hot.

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Mashed potatoes also make a useful base for pureed leek, (green) garlic, spinach, cress, or root vegetable soups. If it’s too something, like thick or butter-creamy, add turkey stock.

Reheat roasted roots in a hot oven for a few minutes, then toss with sturdy frisée, radicchio, or escarole and a toasted cumin/paprika/garlic vinaigrette for a nice warm salad lunch. Add mint and/or cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. A slice of goat feta? Ready for cold wine?

Cooked Greens

Chop drained greens and mix with bread crumbs, egg, chopped cilantro, and crumbled queso fresco. Form little balls, dredge them in flour, and deep fry for a snack or vegetarian meatball that can go wherever meatballs go.

Chop the greens and mix them with toasted chopped almonds, currants, sautéed onions and garlic, a little hot pepper, and Pecorino cheese. Stir in some nice olive oil and a splash of vinegar or lemon and spread on toasts or crackers for crostini with drinks.

Winter Squash Purée

For squash fritters, first make a batch of pâte à choux (see recipe: boil 1/2 cup water with 3 tablespoons butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour all at once and stir with a whisk, over low heat. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir until the dough forms a ball and a cooked film develops in the pan. Let cool for a few minutes and stir in an egg. Stir up another egg in a small bowl and add only enough of it to make the dough shiny, smooth, and elastic—you may not need the whole second egg.) Stir an equal amount of squash purees into the pâte à choux and flavor with herbs like sage or thyme, or spices like fennel or cumin. Drop little blobs of dough into 325-degree oil and fry until well browned. Eat hot.


Sizzle some ground curry spices, garlic, and ginger in butter and stir into the stuffing, with or without extra bits of turkey picked from the carcass. Wrap little bundles of the mixture in boiled cabbage leaves and pan-roast them for chou farci (stuffed cabbage) Indian-style.

Cranberry Sauce

Make into chutney with sautéed onions, coriander, and mustard seeds. Sprinkle in a little ground hot chili. If there’s something that chutney’s not good on, I haven’t found it—grilled or fried anything, cheese, a bowl of rice or beans, eggs, a sandwich… ice cream even.

Cal's newest book is A Recipe for Cooking. All illustrations by Tim McSweeney.

52 Days of Thanksgiving
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52 Days of Thanksgiving

Top-notch recipes, expert tips, and all the tools to pull off the year’s most memorable feast.

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Cal Peternell

Written by: Cal Peternell

Cal Peternell grew up on a small farm in New Jersey where his family tended vegetable gardens and raised an assortment of livestock. Convivial family dinners were a focal point of every day, when homegrown seasonal produce, eggs, and meats were enjoyed, o


caninechef November 21, 2016
I love the article title, it sounds like something celebrated on Seinfeld.
Ali S. November 21, 2016