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What to do with the leftovers

by Brian Clarey

My Thanksgiving dinner went wonderfully, thanks for asking. The turkey was moist on the inside and with crispy skin on the outside. The mashed potatoes were like something out of an Irish fairy tale. The gravy had the viscosity of liquid silk. And the stuffing… well, the stuffing was a bit dry. No biggie.

And afterwards, of course, I had a fridge full of leftovers that I needed to get rid of before filling it up again with school lunch makings.

There are many schools of thought on what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers. A pot pie makes a lot of sense, but frankly, I’m sick of heavy-duty cooking assignments for the time being. The New York Times suggests this year a turkey and barley risotto, but I’m not going near a grocery store for a while. I’ve read recipes for turkey frittatas, turkey chili, turkey salad and turkey a la king, which I may try next year.

But this year, like in years past, I’m gonna throw the bird carcass in my crock pot and make a big tureen of soup. And before I do, I’m gonna make at least one awesome turkey sandwich.

Here’s how I do it:

I start with three slices of bread, something with whole grains and some texture to it. I pop two of those slices in the toaster, because the sandwich I have in mind will destroy soft bread.

I’ll get to the third slice in a minute.

Upon each of the two slices of toast I smear a generous portion of cranberry sauce. Sometimes I use homemade, but the canned stuff does just fine. On one of those cranberried slices I lay a foundation of turkey meat – not too much, just a few slices.

Because our numbers were small this year I made a turkey breast, so I’m committed to white meat. Which is fine. Dark meat has a bit more fat and flavor, but it’s all good.

I’ve been known, also, to shred the turkey and cook it with a bit of gravy before putting it on soft bread or a bun, kind of like a barbecue sandwich. Not this time, though.

Today the turkey stands alone on one slice of bread, while on the other I lay a portion of that dry stuffing I talked about earlier and then some mashed potatoes on top. I’ve heated them both a bit in the oven, but that is not entirely necessary.

And a quick word about mashed potatoes: In my mind, there’s almost no point in serving freeze-dried mashed potatoes. The real thing is cheap, easy and far superior to the mix, especially if you leave the skins on them like I do – that’s where all the vitamins are. Boil ’em while everything else is cooking, mash ’em up in a mixer with some butter, cream, salt and pepper (and, if you’ve got it, a splash of broth) and you’re done.

So I’ve got the turkey on one side, the mashed potatoes and stuffing on the other. Then I take that third slice of untoasted bread and soak it in hot gravy for about a minute before placing it in the middle of the sandwich. It’s a trick I learned, believe it or not, on an episode of “Friends,” and it adds flavor, moisture, color and a ton of fat.

I make the stack and cut it in two triangles with a sharp knife, eat it in front of the football game with one of those dark beers I’ve got left over.

If it’s done right, I get more satisfaction out of the sandwich than I do the Thanksgiving feast itself. This year I’m at the top of my game.

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