You can't pick your family, but you can pick your Thanksgiving turkey. And if you keep Thanksgiving leftovers, you can pick at it again and again.
Early Bird Special
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all the good things, but you may want to guard those leftovers from your nearest and dearest, no matter how selfish it sounds. Right after the Thanksgiving feast -- when everyone says they can't imagine eating another bite -- is the perfect moment to salvage the remaining meat.
First, extract the meat from the carcass. Then store it in sealed containers or plastic bags. Do save the skin, scraps, and brown bits from the bottom of the roasting pan in a separate container, as the oils and juice can be used later as well. If you do this the day of the meal, you'll also save room in the fridge. Prepping turkey leftovers is a good excuse to snag some alone time or catch up one-on-one with a relative while you pick away.
Once you have all that turkey meat, you'll need to take stock of your -- well, stock.
There are several easy ways to make stock, a base that can then be used for soups. Mark Bittman,The New York Times food columnist and esteemed author, says to just throw the leftover meat and veggies into a pot with water. You can simmer it, according to Bittman, until "the meat falls off the bones -- a technique that produces decent if somewhat crude results." For a rich turkey stock, Bittman recommends using the very pan in which you initially roasted the turkey. Cooking the stock in that pan, Bittman writes, will generate "a strong, sweet, and meaty turkey stock -- good enough to eat unadulterated as plain broth, and a perfect base for almost any other soup."
Of course, making soups from leftovers doesn't have to be bland. Wendy Weiden, a Sustainable Food Specialist, recommends Turkey Tortilla Soup. Weiden, who studies food systems at Presidio Graduate School, says it's possible to cut costs, and make healthy, environmentally sound meals, that are, most importantly, delicious.
For the Turkey Tortilla Soup, Weiden says to start by simply shredding the turkey. Then add the sliced and diced meat to what Weiden calls "a basic (and usually pretty cheap) tortilla soup recipe." Freezing the stock extends its expiration date, so that, as Weiden jokes, "you can enjoy it later, when you're less sick of turkey."
In addition to a host of yummy soup options, Joan Nathan, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, recommends substituting shredded turkey for ground beef in dishes. Weiden agrees and says that "turkey pot pie is a good way to use leftover vegetables that didn't make it into Thanksgiving dinner." Post-Thanksgiving, Nathan makes Pasta del Papa, a potato meat pie that she has the recipe for in her cookbook, The Flavor of Jersulem. Pasta Del Papa is a perfect recipe for Turkey leftovers, as well as leftover veggies. As Nathan says, during the holiday season, "Most people will have mashed potatoes on hand."
To start cooking, Nathan preheats the oven to 400 degrees. She then peels and boils the potatoes in a covered pot, if she doesn't already have them cooked on hand. As the potatoes simmer, typically for around twenty minutes, Nathan sautés the tomatoes, green pepper, and turkey in hot oil until the turkey browns. By then the potatoes are ready to be mashed, so Nathan adds warm milk, butter, and salt. She then beats the potatoes until they are creamy.
Once the mashed potatoes are ready, Nathan removes the vegetable and turkey from the heat and stirs in paprika, salt, pepper, eggs, raisins, and olives. She blends them, pours the resulting mixture into an ovenproof casserole, and covers it with mashed potatoes, a sprinkle of paprika and a dot of butter. It takes about 20 minutes to bake and serves eight.
That's a lot of good food to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Of course, the most important ingredient in whatever dish you prepare is fun. Mark Bittman says that when you start to feel overwhelmed, remember: "Nearly everyone -- the in-laws' odd friends aside -- is appreciative of your time and effort. They really don't care if your serving spoon is a spatula." Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some leftovers, I'd like to eat in peace.
Pastel de Papa (Potato Meat Pie) from The Flavor of Jerusalem (Little, Brown) by Joan Nathan
8 medium sized potatoes
1 tomato, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1.5 pounds shredded turkey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup warm milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
salt and pepper to taste
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 1/2 cups pitted green olives, halved