Although there’s never more than a few of us at a Thanksgiving dinner, our family always has to get a 20-plus pound turkey. We need to get the heaviest turkey so we can maximize the number of days we can eat turkey leftovers. An 18 pound to 25 pound bird is the preferred size and it has to be cooked perfectly. Our meals in the days following depend on it.
The meals my mom makes post-Thanksgiving can be more popular than the Thanksgiving meal itself: turkey soup, turkey casserole, sandwiches — there’s so many. Here’s a list of ideas to carry your food coma into the next week.
The key to making turkey soup: keep the bones. My mom will put the bones in a pot and start simmering them with water for turkey stock on Thanksgiving night. She will strain the stock, throw out the bones and use the meat that is left. She’ll only use additional turkey from Thursday’s dinner if needed. Use the stock, and then add chopped onions, carrots and celery — and noodles (or rice) and the turkey at the end — to create that flavorful, comforting soup. Since we make my nana’s “cinnamon copper pennies” (as written about in our September issue), we don’t use our leftover carrots in the soup. But if you do, add them at the end since their already cooked. If you want a soup like the ones at Bagel Central, you can add your leftover whole cranberries to the mix as well. This is also great to have with your leftover rolls.
“Gobble Good Turkey Casserole” is the Thanksgiving recipe that has stood the test of time. My sisters and I had the same second-grade teacher and we did this craft project where we made a turkey out of brown paper bags and construction paper. Attached to each paper turkey was a recipe for “Gobble Good Turkey Casserole.” The ingredients are pretty simple: you mix cream of mushroom soup, milk and dry onion soup mix and pour it over the turkey and rice. Casseroles can be pretty adaptable — add other vegetables to the mix, such as green beans, carrots, peas and carrots, or switch out the soup mix. As long as you have a creamy mixture to hold everything together, you should be good. My mom’s tip to keep the turkey from drying out is adding more milk and less rice to the meal.
Lunch can be a hard meal to plan for, but is so much easier after Thanksgiving. You can take soft bread and spread mayo on each side and put in the shredded turkey pieces. Or if you really want to go all in, slather some of the stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy in between the turkey pieces — so the bread doesn’t get soggy — and go to town. Try toasting the bread to help battle the moisture as well. All those Thanksgiving flavors come together in one bite. Of course, you can put as many, or as few, leftovers as you want on your sandwich.
This can be something else you can make for another sandwich or put on top of a bed of romaine lettuce or spinach. All turkey salad requires is cooked shredded turkey and mayo that you mix together with whatever else you’d like such as mustard, apple cider vinegar, dill or pickle relish. And there’s a bunch of variations you can try out such as adding whole cranberries for a sweet, tangy and crunchy addition.
I love to have a second Thanksgiving, but with all the yummy leftovers from the first one. This gives me a chance to eat the last few morsels of my beloved stuffing, before I have to part with it for another year. Anything we don’t finish — such as the potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce, onions and carrots — we use as a side for soup or a casserole. Believe me, no Thanksgiving leftovers should get thrown out. If you don’t finish it the first or second time, have it a third or fourth. It should still taste good for that first week — if they last that long. If we don’t have enough leftovers to make a whole meal, or we’re saving them, my mom will sometimes make some extra mashed potatoes or cook some broccoli.
Turkey pot pie
The first time we tried this, it did not go over so well. We used two pie crusts (from the box) with only turkey and gravy in the middle. With turkey pot pie, you need all those extra veggies to make it robust. You pile in the turkey pieces, drizzle or lightly pour the gravy over it, and mix in your leftover carrots and peas or green beans. If you’ve run out of any of the vegetables, it’s OK to go out and buy some. Just remember to cut some slits at the top of the pie to help with the cooking. Any extra leftovers such as rolls, potato or veggies you don’t use or decide to leave out can go on the side.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s November 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.