Thanksgiving Leftover Potluck

There is nothing like leftovers to get me going. In some ways, I prefer all the things I can make with leftover turkey to the slices of turkey on my dinner plate on the big day itself. And all the great leftover mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Oh, yum.

Here are my Big Three favorites: turkey sandwiches, stuffing-topped baked turkey and gravy casserole, and finally turkey soup.

Lots of us eat Thanksgiving Dinner in the early afternoon on Thursday, scraping up last bits of pie around 3:00 p.m., and then after a nap, more conversations with family and friends, maybe a little football on television, and the inevitable dishwashing, one might feel a little peckish come 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. Perfect time for two pieces of bread spread with mayonnaise, some thinly sliced turkey, a dab of cranberry sauce, and maybe even some stuffing. Personally, I don’t do stuffing, but I know those who do, even slicing it and toasting it on a griddle before sandwich assembly. I love turkey sandwiches. I could easily skip dinner and proceed directly to sandwiches.

The next day, for lunch or supper, hot turkey sandwiches are wonderful, too. This time you heat up the gravy and put the bread, toasted, on a plate, pile on the turkey, and slather it with gravy, and have cranberry sauce on the side. You can warm up mashed potatoes instead and serve them under the turkey and gravy instead of bread. That’s pretty darn good, too. Come to think of it, why not use sliced and fried stuffing patties under the turkey and gravy?

Leftover pieces of light and dark turkey meat with gravy, baked for a half hour at 350 degrees in a casserole with leftover, or freshly-made, stuffing on top, is really delicious. Don’t forget the cranberry sauce.

Another thing I like to do with the assembled leftovers is to make a kind of turkey shepherd’s pie: turkey bits and pieces with gravy, enhanced, if you wish, with onion, peas, leftover green beans, and topped with a layer of mashed potatoes, baked until it is all bubbly. Or turn it into turkey pot pie by topping with pie crust and baking it.

Some like turkey tetrazzini with pasta and mushrooms. Or how about turkey à la king with peas over mashed potatoes, or toast, or served in puff pastry shells? Not bad.

Most of these dishes call for the leftover gravy in its original form, but you can jazz it up with curry or chili powder, and when you run out of gravy, you can make sauce with flour, butter, and turkey stock, then jazz that up if you like.

If you are a tortilla fan, you can make quesadillas with leftover sliced turkey, cranberry sauce, and jack or cheddar cheese. Cranberry sauce can stand a little capsicum heat with the addition of a little chopped jalapeno or hot sauce.

I like turkey salad, too, with raw celery, chopped shallots, mayonnaise, and a sprinkle of dried cranberries served on a bed of lettuce.

When you have used up the meat on the bird, then you have this big, gorgeous pile of bones with fragments of turkey attached, that you can make into soup. My favorite form of the soup has lots of onions and celery in it, and no carrots. I like rice, orzo, or barley in turkey soup. Your choice.

I heard about someone having a Thanksgiving leftover potluck where participants brought along some dish they made out of leftovers. What a great idea for a weekend get-together after Thanksgiving. Being the sensible Downeast cooks I know you to be, I bet I have hit on something you always do anyway. If by any chance, you have a leftover wrinkle you’d like to share, send it along and we’ll put it out there. Meanwhile, consider this a potluck on paper. And I don’t know about you, but I need an actual recipe less than a new idea. I hope this sparks something for you.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.