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Monday, December 1, 2008

Seven Tasty Ways to Transform Thanksgiving Leftovers: From Potato Soup to Mexican Pot Pie

This year my husband and I slow roasted a 27 pound turkey for 18 hours (take that government regulations for food safety!) and then served it up to 25 of our wonderful friends amid a spread of other succulent food choices. Which all means that the aftermath of this great feast left tons of leftovers in our fridge. While we enjoy a reheated Thanksgiving meal as much as the next guy, it doesn't take long before we were eyeing those copious leftovers and wishing they could be transformed into something totally different...something that didn't taste so "Thanksgiving."

In the six years that we've been hosting our big Thanksgiving feast, we've gotten pretty adept at the magical transformation from leftovers to totally new and delicious meal. So this year I thought I would share with you seven of my favorite ways of giving those leftovers new life. You'll find great options for lunches or dinners, including revised versions of several of my all-time favorite recipes.

Happy browsing!

Two variations on Turkey Pot Pie to use up a variety of leftovers

  • Shepherd's Twist: This is a very classic tasting pot pie filling that borrows from Shepherd's Pie and is topped with leftover mashed potatoes. It is also a great way to use up a variety of leftovers. Combine approximately 2/3 a cup each (or more to your taste) of any variety of the following vegetables: carrots, onions (roasted or in cream sauce work great), corn, green beans (plain or from green bean casserole). Add 2 cups of leftover roasted turkey. Add 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. If you have leftover gravy that is nice and thick, add approximately 3/4 to 1.5 cups of gravy until the mixture combines well but does not have a soupy consistency. If your gravy is very thin, heat it on the stove and thicken it with flour before adding. Just before baking add 1/2 cup of frozen peas (or leftover peas but beware they will wind up mushy). Spoon the mixture into a 9 inch pie pan and top liberally with leftover mashed potatoes. Bake at 400 F until the top is slightly browned, about 30-45 minutes.

  • Mexican Makeover: if you are tired of traditional Thanksgiving flavors, this variation on pot pie completely transforms the taste of your leftovers. Combine 1 medium yellow onion, 3 cloves of garlic (chopped), and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes in 3 Tbsp of butter over medium heat until soft. Add 3 Tbsp of flour and cook roux for 4 minutes over medium heat. Add 1.5-2 cups of warm liquid (I prefer a combination of beer and chicken broth), stirring to combine. Add 2 cups of turkey, 1 cup of cooked carrots, 2/3 cup of corn, 2/3 cup of cooked black beans, 1/2 cup of steamed or sauteed red peppers. Season with 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Top with cheddar jalapeno cornbread crust. In a large bowl, stir to combine: 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 3/4 cup milk, 1 large egg, 2 Tbsp melted butter, 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and finely chopped), 1/2 cup of coarsely shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese. Pour filling into a pie pan, spoon batter evenly across the filling. Bake at 400 F until the cornbread crust is slightly browned, about 20-35 minutes.

Leftover turkey and vegetables become Turkey Tortilla Soup
  • This is one of my favorite recipes from this year. It makes a very healthy and full flavored soup that is incredibly satisfying. Simply substitute the turkey in for the chicken, and substitute any leftover vegetables you may have (corn, green beans, peppers, onions, and carrots all work great) for some of the vegetables in the recipe. You'll have a delicious soup in no time!

Leftover mashed potatoes become Baked Potato Soup
  • This soup was a serious contender for my favorite recipe of 2007. It is indulgent, delicious soul-warming homeyness embodied in soup. Simply follow my original recipe, but substitute a scant 1 lb of leftover mashed potatoes (approx 3 cups) for the baking potatoes in the recipe.

Leftover turkey becomes Curry and Thyme Turkey Salad
  • Sure, everyone likes a little BBQ turkey sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving, but after a while even that gets a little old. The good news is that turkey adapts perfectly into my favorite chicken salad recipe, where the bold flavors of curry and thyme give this Thanksgiving favorite a tasty makeover. Follow the original recipe as written, subbing turkey in for chicken. I feel that turkey salad works better with all white meat, but you can be the judge. You can optionally add dried cranberries or currants to add a little sweet to balance the savory undertones of the turkey flavor.

Leftover sweet potatoes, squash, or pumpkin pie filling becomes Homemade Raviolis with Parmesan Butter Sauce
  • These little raviolis can be assembled without a ton of time or fuss when you use leftovers as the filling. Puree roasted squash (such as butternut or acorn), or use leftover pumpkin pie filling (heck, even spoon it out of the pie crust), then follow the recipe directions as written. And if you don't have the time or the equipment to make homemade pasta dough, you can easily use the standardard wonton wrapper modification.

Leftover turkey and cranberry sauce become Turkey Quesadillas with cranberry pico de gallo
  • The cranberry pico de gallo works best if you have the kind of leftover cranberry sauce that is made according to the directions on most bags of cranberries: cook on the stovetop in sugar until the berries burst. If you use the jar of congealed cranberries (like my husband) or make more elaborate cranberry relish with nuts etc (like me) then these don't lend themselves to pico as well. You can also start from scratch if you have some leftover fresh cranberries. Combine 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet yellow onion, 1-2 jalapeno peppers (seeded and finely chopped), 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro (chopped), and 1 cup of cranberry sauce. If using fresh cranberries, process them in the food processor with 3 Tbsp of sugar until well minced. To make the quesadillas, combine turkey and cheese (I like a mix of cheddar and colby jack) on a tortilla. Fold tortilla in half and cook in a skillet over medium low heat with a small amount of oil until the tortilla is crisp and lightly browned. If the tortilla browns too quickly, reduce heat. Serve with cranberry pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream.


Anonymous said...

You have a wonderful blog and i'm about to try the Mexican Pot Pie. I don't think i have that recipe posted on my blog, i would love to have your permission to do so!

Sarah Lenz said...

I love how leftovers make creativity in the kitchen peak. All of your ideas are great!

I used leftover stuffing--added just a bit of vegetable broth so it wasn't dry--and stuffed portabella mushroom caps with it. I topped with shredded cheese and baked until mushrooms were cooked.

Jescel said...

thank God we don't have as much leftovers as you did. wish i had these ideas last year though, as i ended up throwing a lot of leftovers that were in the freezer for months! LOL.. good ideas, though. i'm going to try your mexican pot pie too.

Anonymous said...

i am thrilled you like my humor photos, they are my hobby as i am crippled with parkinson's disease and i love to laugh, altho i know i get weird and my wife rides me bout it, lol!!!
i just added you to my blog list and fix'n to add your recipet to my blog. Thanks & Happy Holidays!!!

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