News & Politics

After the Feast: Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

The turkey has been carved, the dishes have been cleaned, and the relatives are out the door. Now, what to do with the leftovers? We asked a few Washington food bloggers what they create from their surplus.

Twists on Turkey Sandwiches

• Clay Dunn and Zach Patton,

Kentucky Hot Browns

“As proud Southerners, we both anticipate the day after Thanksgiving as much as the big feast itself,” says Clay. “Why? Kentucky Hot Browns. I grew up in Kentucky, and hot browns were a post-Thanksgiving staple in Zach’s Tennessee family as well. This open-faced sandwich takes the Thanksgiving turkey, tops it with bacon and tomatoes, and drenches the whole thing in a warm, gooey, cheesy Mornay sauce. It’s not only a great way to transform leftover turkey, it might actually be better than the whole Thanksgiving dinner!”

Serves 2

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart heavy cream
½ cup shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
2 slices Texas toast, crusts removed
1 pound turkey, sliced or shredded into pieces
1 Roma tomato, cut into ¼-inch slices
4 slices crisp bacon
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika and parsley for garnish

For the cheese sauce:

Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan and whisking in the flour until a thick paste forms. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking continuously, for 2 minutes. Add the cream, whisking to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Once the sauce reaches a simmer, remove from heat and whisk in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

For the Hot Browns:

Build each Hot Brown by placing a slice of Texas toast per sandwich in an oven-safe dish. On top of the bread, layer the turkey then the sliced tomatoes. Pour the cheese sauce over each open-faced sandwich. Place under broiler until the cheese sauce is browned and bubbly. Remove from the oven. Top each Hot Brown with bacon and garnish with paprika and parsley.
• Claudia Holwill,

Lone Eagle Sandwich

“My mom is from New Orleans, so our Thanksgiving spread was very Southern-influenced, as were our leftover dishes. Along with turkey gumbo, we always made Lone Eagle sandwiches. The sandwich, which was created in honor of Charles Lindbergh and his visit to New Orleans in 1936, was served at the Ye Olde College Inn until the restaurant was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. It’s made with bacon, turkey, cheese, and traditionally—although we were too lazy to do this in my house—served in the shape of a bird.”

Spread two slices of bread with mayonnaise. Lay sliced turkey on one slice of bread and cover with a few strips of bacon. Lay the second slice of bread on top, mayonnaise side down. Cut off the crusts. Place cheddar or American cheese on top and place in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Place the sandwich on a serving plate with one corner down. It will be in a diamond shape. Cut off the right and left corners to form two triangles which will be the wings. The center section is the body. Set the triangles at an angle so they look like wings, and used slices of black olives for eyes.
Making the Most of Sides

• Hillary Thrasher,

Sweet-Potato Soufflé

“Our family loves sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. I call this sweet-potato soufflé Tryptophantasmagoria. Tryptophan is a nod to Thanksgiving as we slumped into our food coma. Phantasmagoria foreshadows the change, going from dense to airy—and if I screw it up, the specter of dread.”

Serves 6

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the soufflé dish
Grated Parmesan as needed
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
2 cups leftover sweet potato, mashed
4 large eggs, separated, plus an extra egg white
1⁄8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Onion and garlic to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Butter a 7½-inch-by-3¼-inch soufflé dish and dust thoroughly with Parmesan (Don’t skip this step—the Parmesan gives the soufflé something to hold on to). Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. To punch up the flavor, add sautéed onion and a clove of garlic. With a wooden spoon, add in the flour and stir for about 2 minutes. Make sure the roux keeps its blond color.

Scald the milk. Take the saucepan with the roux off the heat and whisk in the scalded milk and any additional spices. Return the saucepan to low heat and simmer until the mixture is smooth and has thickened, whisking occasionally, for 2 to 4 minutes.

Microwave the leftover sweet potato for about 2 minutes on high. In a mixing bowl, temper the 4 egg yolks by adding a half cup of the hot potato purée and mixing vigorously. Add the egg/sweet-potato mixture back into the remaining sweet-potato purée. Whisk the sweet potatoes in the pot with the roux/milk base. Put the egg whites in a medium bowl and add the cream of tartar. With a hand mixer, beat on low speed for 1 minute, medium speed for 1 minute, and high speed until the egg whites are firm. Take ¼ of the beaten egg whites and whisk them into the sweet-potato mixture to lighten it, then carefully fold in the remaining whites. Don’t worry about any streaking. Pour into the soufflé dish, smooth the top, and draw a large circle around the edge with your impeccably clean finger to ensure an even rising. Place the soufflé in the middle of the oven and drop the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for about 35 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve immediately with any extra gravy.

• Stefanie Gans,

Mashers, Kale, and Yolk

“Thanksgiving leftovers are the perfect base for a fried egg. I like to use mashed potatoes and any vegetables available. I warm up a scoop of mashers with extra butter as well as any vegetable, such as a hearty green or chunks of winter squash. Re-season with salt and pepper and throw a sunny-side-up egg over the whole thing. Finish with more salt and pepper.”

• Alison McConnell Pierce,

Cranberry Condiment

“I love cranberry sauce, so I always make an enormous batch with orange peel and a hint of cinnamon. We use a fraction of it at Thanksgiving dinner and have the leftovers with roast chicken, grilled pork chops, or green beans. It’s a really delicious condiment that shouldn’t be pigeonholed into one meal a year.”

• Ashley Messick,

Rice, Bacon, and Eggs

“We always have rice as a side dish at Thanksgiving, but with so many other delicious things on the table, it usually sits mostly untouched. To use up the leftover rice, we make our favorite post-Thanksgiving breakfast—rice, bacon, and eggs. Fry up some bacon in a large pan. Once it’s cooked, pour out the excess fat but don’t wipe out the pan. Tear the bacon into chunks. Put your leftover rice in the same pan and let it heat through. Then toss it with a few beaten eggs seasoned with salt and pepper. Add the bacon and toss the mixture until the eggs are set. If you have leftover green onions, too, add a handful at the last minute.”
Easy Dinners

• Malaka Gharib,

Paksiw Na Pavo (Vinegar-Braised Turkey)

“The Filipino side of my family usually turns the leftover turkey into a dish called paksiw na pavo, a sweet-and-sour, adobo-like stew that’s perfect ladled on top of a mound of steamed jasmine rice. The stew’s intense flavor comes from the marriage of peppercorns, bay leaves, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar—a perfect representation of the Spanish and Chinese influences on Filipino cuisine. It’s incredibly quick and easy to make, and best of all, it has a unique, exotic flavor. It’s also good to freeze and use in bánh mì sandwiches or on top of rice noodles with some cilantro, lime, and thinly sliced red onion.”

Serves 6

2½ pounds leftover turkey
1 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 dried bay leaves
¼ cup brown sugar
½ head garlic, pressed and minced
¾ cup soy sauce

Remove all the bones from the turkey and cut into stewing-size portions (keep as much skin on the meat as possible). Put all the ingredients into a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes. The result should be a garlicky/tangy/sweet stew. Feel free to adjust the flavors to your liking. If you think it should be a little sweeter, sour, or salty, add more sugar, vinegar, or soy sauce. I like mine slightly on the sweet side.
• Julia Watson,

Creamy Turkey Curry

“There are two stages to what I do with my Thanksgiving leftovers. Stage one: Once I know everyone is asleep, I creep down to the fridge and stand at the counter, feet freezing, pulling strips of turkey from the carcass to scoop up cranberry sauce and stuffing. Stage two: I make a mild creamy turkey curry.”

Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 sticks celery, chopped
Small head of broccoli broken into florets
1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 pound cooked turkey, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 rounded teaspoon or tablespoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 pint chicken stock
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds (optional)

Set a lidded casserole dish with vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil has heated, soften the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the celery, broccoli, and red pepper and cook, stirring a couple of times, for a few minutes more. Add the turkey pieces and toss together. Stir in the curry powder, spices, and flour. Pour in the stock little by little, stirring after each pour to create a sauce. Put the lid on the casserole dish, slightly askew, lower the heat on the stove, and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the curry from the heat and stir in the cream. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top, and serve with boiled basmati rice and a chutney.

Two Takes on Turkey Salad

• Stacey Viera,

Turkey Salad

“Holiday leftovers don’t last long in my house, especially my very tasty turkey salad. Chicken works well, too. The trick is starting with a well-seasoned turkey—we make pavochon, a Puerto Rican seasoning that consists of ground fresh garlic, Sazón spices, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. Take the leftover pieces of the bird and rip them apart or chop them. To taste, add a bit at a time of the following: Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, chopped scallions, a sliced hard-cooked egg or two, diced tomatoes, pepper, and salt. There are no rules with this turkey salad, so be creative!”

• Johnna Rowe,

Turkey Salad

“I use the leftover turkey meat for avocado-laden deli sandwiches, and I play with different versions of turkey salad. I pair each of these recipes with my favorite bread of the moment, gourmet crackers or toasted, sliced French baguettes. Here is one of my quick and easy leftover-turkey-salad recipes.”
6 cups chopped turkey meat
1 cup mayonnaise
2½ tablespoons sweet-pickle relish
1 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons shredded carrots
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish
In a large bowl, combine the turkey, mayonnaise, relish, green onions, and shredded carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Garnish with cilantro or parsley. Serve with gourmet crackers or toasted baguettes.
Tired of Pumpkin Pie Yet?

• Jason,

Cranberry Parfait

“I like to use my homemade cranberry sauce as a topping on vanilla or chocolate ice cream. If you want to bring it to the next level, make a parfait out of it with yogurt and granola or crushed cookies. Gingersnaps, lemon cookies, oatmeal cookies, or even cubed pound cake will work. Layer the vanilla yogurt, cranberry sauce, and your granola or crushed cookies. Make two layers of each ingredient. Serve the parfaits in something glass, like a large wine goblet, so you can see the layers.”

• Martha Miller,

Orange/Cranberry Coffee Cake

“In my family, there’s one person who insists on having that dreadful canned cranberry sauce every year. Must be a nostalgia thing. They’re the only one that eats it, so we’re always left with an almost-full can if not a few unopened extras taking up space in the pantry. I have a fab recipe for coffee cake that transforms that gelatinous goop into something wonderfully unrecognizable. It’s great with the canned stuff but can easily be used with just about any homemade cranberry sauce. I love how it incorporates a common holiday leftover but presents it in a new way that will appeal to those cranberry-, turkey-, and stuffing-weary taste buds.”

For the cake:

1½ cups whole-berry cranberry sauce (about 1 can)
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup Grand Marnier
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon orange zest

For the streusel topping:

1 cup light brown sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberry sauce, orange juice, Grand Marnier, and cinnamon stick. Simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the first 4 streusel ingredients. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry mixture until incorporated and a crumb-like texture is achieved. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the sugar, butter, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and pausing to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a medium bowl.  Add the dry ingredients and sour cream alternately to the butter mixture and mix well to combine. Add the orange zest. Pour 2⁄3 of the batter into the bottom of a springform pan. Remove the cinnamon stick from the cranberry sauce and spread the sauce evenly over the batter in the pan. Spoon the remaining batter on top and gently marble by running a knife through the batter. Top with the streusel. Bake for 70 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the streusel begins to over-brown during baking, cover the top with foil. Cool on a wire rack in the pan for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

If You’re Feeling Ambitious

• Luke and Carolyn Berndt,

Pumpkin Gnocchi

“We always end up with leftover baked potatoes or a can of pumpkin purée that never got turned into a pie,” says Luke. “Luckily, both make a good base for gnocchi. Topped off with some browned butter, these gnocchi are a real treat and a snap to make.”

Serves 4

1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
Dash of nutmeg
1⁄3 cup melted butter
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Make the gnocchi:

Drain any excess water from the pumpkin purée. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and pumpkin plus salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to make a soft dough. Add additional flour if the dough is sticky or does not hold together. Divide the dough into 6 parts, and on a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a rope about 1 inch in diameter. Cut the rope into 1-inch pieces and roll each lightly along the floured surface. Continue using up all the dough in this fashion. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet. You can refrigerate the gnocchi until you’re ready to cook them.

For the sauce:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a slow boil. Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat. Add the sage and garlic. Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water until they rise to the surface and float. Remove the gnocchi from the water, mix with the butter/sage sauce, and serve with grated Parmesan.
• Colleen Levine,

Turkey/Chanterelle Pot Pie

“I make turkey/chanterelle pot pie, which uses up leftover turkey—and you could add any leftover vegetables you may have, too—but makes it into a whole new meal. And it incorporates those lovely fresh mushrooms from the farmers market.”

Serves 6

1 or 2 (if you’d like to use a bottom crust) 9-inch pie crusts
2½ cups leftover turkey meat, shredded, or 2 fresh turkey-breast tenders
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup diced chanterelle mushrooms
Salt and pepper, to taste

If using a bottom crust, roll out the crust and place in a pie plate. Roll out the top crust and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

If using fresh turkey breasts, cube the meat, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium high heat in a sauté pan until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the turkey to a plate and cover to keep warm. In a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic until soft (this will take several minutes). Reduce the heat to low, stir in the flour, and cook 1 minute until bubbly. Gradually stir in the milk, whisking constantly over low heat until the sauce thickens. Stir in the herbs, season to taste, and remove from the heat. Mix in turkey meat and mushrooms and pour into the prepared pie pan. Top with crust, poke a few slits to allow steam to escape, and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, until crust is golden.