Thursday’s cherished celebration combines two of my favorite things: dear ones and food. I’m hosting a large gathering again this year and with the abundance of love and deliciousness also comes an abundance of leftovers.
There are all sorts of creative ideas for using that extra turkey and ham. Here are several ideas that won’t feel at all like leftovers, but instead something completely new.
Make stock, make soup
Vietnamese Food: Spicy Soup Pho Ga With Chicken, Rice Noodles An
Vietnamese food: spicy soup Pho Ga with chicken rice noodles and fresh herbs in a bowl close-up. Horizontal view from above
Don’t discard those bones! That turkey carcass is still filled with flavor so boil it to make stock. The easiest way I’ve found to make a large batch of stock is to use a pasta pot with a strainer insert. Into that strainer throw in the bones, giblets, and chopped vegetables. I constantly save vegetables trimmings in the freezer to make stock, but if you don’t have any on hand, a mix of roughly chopped onion, celery, carrot and garlic will do the trick.
Fill the pot with cold water, add a good punch of salt, some whole peppercorns, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.
Remove the strainer and discard bones and vegetables. Or strain these pieces out by hand, if you didn’t have a built-in pasta strainer. Depending on your preference for clarity, you can strain the stock again through a finer strainer or cheese cloth.
To make soups with the leftover meat itself, basically, think of ham and turkey as replacing chicken or pork. The trick is to add the leftover meat at the very end because it’s already cooked.
For a completely different take, turn your broth and leftover turkey into an Asian noodle bowl! That culinary twist is achieved with the right herbs and seasonings.
Place into a bowl: cooked, strained noodles (regular linguine works) and pieces of leftover turkey. Add coarsely chopped fresh cilantro and green onion, plus a few drops of sesame oil and/or Asian chili paste. Ladle piping hot stock over it all, and enjoy. Shredded carrot and cabbage, plus some ginger powder and fresh lime will give your bowl an extra zing.
Crock pot chili
This super-easy buffalo chili is made in the slow cooker, and can be either red or white.
2 cups onion diced
1 cup carrot diced
1 cup celery diced
4 cloves garlic diced small
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce*
4 cups turkey or chicken stock
½ cup wing sauce (more or less to taste)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cans kidney beans*
Leftover turkey, shredded
Salt and pepper
Place all ingredients except turkey into a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high 4-6 hours. In the last half hour, add turkey and adjust seasoning. Serve with desired garnishes: Fresh cilantro, sour cream, crumbled blue cheese, tortilla chips
Use the above recipe with the following adjustments:
• Omit the can of tomato sauce
• Substitute great northern beans (white) for the kidney beans.
• Add 3/4 cup cream cheese
Place all ingredients into the slow cooker except turkey and cream cheese. Cook on low 8-10 hours or on high 4-6 hours. In the last half hour, add turkey and cream cheese and adjust seasonings.
Savory scones are easy to make and easy to eat—like your homemade healthy hot pocket. This recipe adapted from a King Arthur Flour’s recipe, is a wonderful way to use leftover meat, and perhaps a little cranberry sauce as well, if you tuck some in the middle for a sweet and tart surprise.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. cold butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup snipped fresh chives
⅓ cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup (approx.) shredded leftover turkey or ham (cooked)
¾ cup + 2 Tbsp. heavy cream or whipping cream, or enough to make the dough cohesive
⅓ cup cranberry sauce (if desired)
Preheat oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Combine the dry ingredients. Work the butter into the flour just until the mixture is crumbly, with some larger pieces of butter remaining. This helps make the scones flaky.
Mix in the cheese, chives, spinach and ham or turkey until evenly distributed.
Add ¾ cup of the cream, stirring gently to combine. Add cream, slowly, until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface.
Pat the dough into a smooth 7″ disk about 3/4″ thick. Transfer the disk to the prepared baking sheet. Use a knife to cut the disk into 8 wedges, spreading the wedges apart on the pan.
For a cranberry “filling,” make an indent or small shallow cut in each wedge and add a small amount of the sauce, then squeeze the opening back together with your fingers. Brush the scones with a bit of cream to help the crust brown.
Bake 22 to 24 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool right on the pan. Serve warm, or at room temperature.
Make shepherd’s pie
Traditional Shepherd’s pie is made in a casserole dish and uses mashed potatoes as a crust. It’s the perfect place to put almost all your Thanksgiving leftovers! Because everyone will have different leftovers, a specific recipe might not do well here. But Epicurious.com has a great three step process: 1) Prep the filling, 2) sauce it, and 3) cover and bake.
Chop or shred leftover meat and cooked vegetables and combine. Add frozen vegetable such as peas, corn, or onion if needed. Place mixture in a casserole dish.
Then add sauce so that it isn’t too dry. This is a great place for leftover gravy but if that’s not available (or you have too little) add a little cream or stock.
Finally, puree mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, or root vegetables until smooth. If the mixture seems too dry, add a little cream or milk. Spread the mixture on top of the meat and vegetables. Add a sprinkle of cheese if desired. Bake in a 375° oven for 30 minutes or so, until top is golden.
This is a great recipe to play with. Perhaps you love stuffing? Maybe that becomes your crust. Or maybe add a layer of stuffing then a layer of potatoes. Pure Thanksgiving shepherd’s pie bliss.
Fresh local greens and vegetables, plus meats, dairy and baked good, are available aplenty at the Wausau Winter Market at 212 River Dr., open Saturday 8 am–noon. For the holidays, the market will be open Nov. 26 and Dec. 31, but closed Dec. 24 for Christmas Eve.