There are leftovers, and then there are leftovers. For me, leftovers are like money in the bank. They are a day off from cooking — a mine of new combinations and homemade fast food.
Thanksgiving unleashes a welcome flood of leftovers, though I have friends who moan about holiday leftovers as I might, too, if it meant dealing with leftover green bean casserole, which is hard to do anything with. Other friends moan when the turkey carcass ends up in someone else’s soup pot. I adore Thanksgiving leftovers and have plans for what to do with them all, even the relish tray.
Turkey, stuffing, gravy: Eat at 1:00 p.m. or so, and you’ll be hungry enough at 8:00 for a turkey sandwich. Some people put stuffing and even leftover cranberry sauce in a sandwich. I like mine plain with mayo and a leaf or two of lettuce. Alternatively, a hot turkey sandwich on toast with gravy poured over makes a good hot lunch.
Try taking turkey meat off the bird, mix it with gravy, and put leftover stuffing on top in a casserole dish, and heat it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it bubbles and the stuffing crisps up. Yum.
Alternatively, use mashed potatoes for a kind of turkey-herders pot pie. Or even use pastry. Freeze enough turkey for one of these dishes and you’ll have a quick supper to eat in December when you are too busy with holiday preparations to cook from scratch.
More turkey meat makes a welcome turkey salad. Chop up leftover celery from the relish tray to add with the dressing, or even a little pickled onion. Add curry to the dressing, and stir in a little cranberry chutney.
Lovely turkey broth from slowly simmered bones; you can even add leftover gravy if you still have some. Use fresh celery and carrots or the rest of them from the relish tray, plus onion, rice or orzo, and bits of turkey lurking on the bones, plucked off and added. Eat some, freeze some. Mmmm.
Patties of mashed potatoes, enhanced with garlic or horseradish, are a lovely side for any meal. Cook some fish and mash into the potatoes to make fish cakes. Chop a little kale, chard or cabbage and soften them by steaming or sautéing, or use your leftover Brussels sprouts, then mash them into leftover potatoes for a side dish. Plus, mashed potatoes lend themselves to various creamy soups made with corn, leeks or fish.
Cooked squash has its possibilities, too. Saute chopped peppers and onion, stir them with canned or frozen corn, season with chili or cumin, add an egg or two, top with cheese and bake for a great all-vegetable casserole. Try enchiladas with cooked squash plus canned black beans.
Then there are lots of soup possibilities. It’s not a bad idea to cook more squash than you plan to eat on Thanksgiving so you have enough for soup later. Freeze some.
How about a simple bisque-like soup with cream, salt and pepper, with or without curry. Thin squash out with chicken or vegetable broth, add kidney or cannellini or black beans, and corn, perhaps some chili powder or, if you like a bit of burn, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, or powdered chipotle pepper.
For something a little different, a Thai-style squash soup might work for you. Coconut milk will give it the right flavor. Use one can of coconut milk for every four cups of cooked squash, or add a half a can, taste it, then add more if you think you’ll enjoy it. You can acquire Thai seasoning at the grocery store in packets or in jars of paste, both red and green. The soup can be fragrant with spice or fierier with red pepper or cayenne.
Chances are very good that you have on hand in your spice cabinet all the ingredients for homemade Thai-spice mix. Black pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, mustard powder and garlic powder seem to be the basic combination, with some variations calling for cloves and paprika, and for the hotter versions cayenne. You could probably leave out one of them and no harm done, except maybe to authenticity.
I put together a blend and was delighted with the flavors. I’d rather concoct a mix like that as needed than have a jar of seldom used blends sitting around in between attempts at Thai cooking. A recipe follows for a homemade Thai seasoning.
Apple pie and/or pumpkin pie: As leftovers? There’s no such thing as a leftover pie problem! Pie for dessert at the main meal and pie after your turkey sandwich. Then if you are lucky, pie for breakfast next morning.
Best Thanksgiving wishes to you all! May you be blessed with leftovers.
Thai Spice Seasoning
Yields a scant quarter cup
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 to ½ teaspoon cayenne powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon paprika, optional
1 teaspoon cloves optional
Add ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk or stir until blended. Store in an airtight container.