Last year, at the end of the Thanksgiving dinner, my brother in law, Chris, made a comment that stayed with me for days. He said, “I love Thanksgiving, but so much work goes into the meal and then in an hour, its over.”
He is right. All the tremendous amount of planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking- sprinkled with a bit of stress- culminates in a relatively short meal. Sitting around a table and then cleaning it all up and trying to make space in the fridge for containers of leftovers, sounds like a tedious premise for a holiday. But that is why food and cooking and holidays are great—on paper they seem nonsensical but the reality is different. Seeing your family members, frustrating habits and all. Cooking hip to hip with some of them. Cleaning side by side with others. Sometimes sharing an eye roll over the few who only ever sit on the couch while the real work is getting done, and loving them just the same. It’s all part of the holiday package.
But ultimately there are still the leftovers. Chris’ love of another Thanksgiving tradition, Turkey Hash—a mixed-up bowl of turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes microwaved the next day—exemplifies that the Turkey Day meal can go on for a week. And I too love a good bowl of turkey hash, turkey sandwiches and creamed turkey on toast and so on. But the truth is, after a couple solid days of this fine fare I never want to see a turkey ever again. And so its time for a new round of ideas for that left-over bird.
My husband, Erik and I have created a Black Friday tradition of taking the excess turkey and making pot pies to freeze for quick meals in the dead of winter. This can be a daylong event depending on how many you want to make, and each time I bemoan the process only to be more-than-thankful that the Thanksgiving meal is still feeding me on a mid-February night when I sorely don’t want to cook.
Similarly, it was another brother in law, Brian, who instituted a tradition in the Berens household of making stock the day after Thanksgiving. Before he married my sister, Nell, I’m not sure what we did with our turkey carcasses. Now they are converted into quarts of golden broth to be turned into soup when the feeling strikes. And I think of him every time I pull one of those plastic containers out of the freezer.
It didn’t occur to me until writing this piece that my family members who don’t actually share my blood have contributed so much to the hallmarks of this holiday. I guess that sums up the beauty of family and holidays and the mess and the leftovers.
And just so he gets his fair to-do, my other brother in law, Ryan, makes the best mashed potatoes you’ve ever eaten and nothing happens with those leftovers because there aren’t any.
Brian's Turkey Stock
Because the bones are already roasted there will be significantly less scum and fat to skim from the top of the broth, but keep a ladle handy and pull out anything you wouldn’t want to eat. It will also take less time to achieve golden stock with a cooked bird than with raw meat.
1 turkey carcass, meat picked
3 ribs of celery
1 T black peppercorns
- In a large stockpot, place the turkey carcass, breaking it apart at its joints as needed
- Cover by 1 inch with cold water
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, skimming any nastiness along the way
- Add the vegetables and peppercorns (roast in the oven until dark and caramelly for a deeper flavor)
- Simmer for 3-4 hours or until flavorful
- Strain the stock and use in soups right away or freezer for later
Unconventional Turkey Salad
Yotam Ottolenghi inspired this recipe. In his cookbook, Jerusalem, there is a recipe for saffron scented chicken salad. I thought instead of using just orange to make the dressing, leftover cranberry sauce would work and use up even more of the big day’s leftovers.
3 C leftover turkey, pulled into pieces
½ C cranberry relish
1 orange zested
¼ C olive oil
1 fennel bulb, shaved thinly
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1 rib celery, sliced thinly
½ bu parsley, roughly chopped
4 sprigs of mint, leaves picked and torn
- In a large bowl whisk the cranberry relish, orange zest and olive oil
- Pour over leftover turkey to stain it pink
- Combine all ingredients together with a good pinch of salt and pepper and an additional glug of olive oil
- Taste and adjust the seasoning
Turkey Turnover Pot Pies
I like making these as turnovers instead of potpies because it cuts down on the amount of dough rolling there is to do. The fastest way alternative is to fill little crocks with the turkey mixture and place a round of puff pastry over the top. The only problem with that is that then all of your little crocks are in the freezer, but then again nothing’s perfect.
2 balls pie dough
3 C turkey meat, roughly chopped
½ C Yukon gold potato, diced
½ C carrot, diced
½ C broccoli, cut small
4 T butter
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
¼ C white wine
2 T flour
2 C stock
1 C milk
¼ C heavy cream
¼ C parsley, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Working in batches, (because potatoes take longer to cook than broccoli) toss the vegetables (except the onions and garlic) with a bit of oil, salt and pepper and roast until cooked through
- In a large pan, heat a the butter and sweat the onions and garlic and thyme until tender—adding a hefty pinch of salt and pepper
- Add the wine and cook until reduced
- Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and let absorb and cook until lightly browned and nutty flavored
- Add the stock, milk and heavy cream and let bubble until thickened
- Add the turkey, roasted vegetables and parsley to the sauce and toss to combine
- Be sure to taste the filling when its warm. If it tastes flat add more salt or a squeeze of lemon
- Allow to cool
- Roll out the piecrust and cut into 8 inch squares (the shape isn’t that important)
- Place ¾ C of filling onto the dough, moisten the edge of the dough with water and fold over
- Firmly press the edges of the dough to seal the sides
- Transfer to a parchment or tinfoil lined sheet tray and freeze
- When fully frozen, transfer to zipper bags and freeze
- To Bake
- Heat oven to 350F
- Brush the top of the turnover with milk or ½ & ½ and sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Bake until the crust is golden brown
- Serve with a big green salad