Transforming Thanksgiving Leftovers


Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday – the other being the Fourth the July – in which people rejoice and give thanks for all they have. During this four-day holiday extravaganza,  thoughts of  parades pervade the air, along with food, football, family gatherings, church, dressing up, food, holiday spirits, wood burning aromas, food, yard cleaning, the fragrance of cinnamon, the cool brisk air, visiting and – did we mention food?

Succulent crispy skinned turkeys take front-and-center on most dinner tables this day, along with a host of root vegetables; mashed yams, potatoes and cauliflower; stuffing; the ever-present cranberry sauce, to name a few. All topped at the end with perhaps an endless array of fine desserts or, at least, the pumpkin pie.

But after it’s over, that last crumb and morsel having found their special place in the palate, the kitchen ravaged with food stuffs of every kind -many still not even cooked, what then?  Starting the very next day, it’s time for … leftovers!

“Everyone loves leftovers,” remarked Henrietta … of the White Whale in Seaford. “People can’t seem to get enough of those great-tasting foods” they can only get at one sitting this time of year, so they hope to continue to indulge in them for as long as it will last, she continued.

Steve Rosenbluth, head chef and owner of Anchor Down in Merrick, agreed, saying leftovers act as a continuation of delicious comfort foods, but adds they may actually help the body protect against the cold of the coming season.

But Rosenbluth thinks to take it one step at a time, “for those who might lose the taste of all those fine foods from the day before.”

“You can focus on making a soup the next day, adding the bones, celery, carrots, some garlic, lentils and some herbs,” he said, and letting it simmer to bring out all the tastes. “Dark turkey meat in a soup can actually taste better.”

Or, make turkey sandwiches using cranberry mayonnaise, adding cranberries to a mayonnaise along with salt and pepper, and some cayenne pepper to suit.


A turkey pot pie may be just the thing, but be sure to buy the puff pastry before Thanksgiving, Rosenbluth said.  Sautee carrots, celery and onions, add some heavy cream – this is comfort food! – and a little white wine for taste, which burns off, perhaps add some gravy and some roué (butter and flour mixed),  add the leftover turkey – perhaps crumbled, put the mixture all in a casserole dish, top it with the puff pastry and bake for 20 minutes or so at 375 degrees.

Chef Chris Randell of Merrick’s Left Coast said Thanksgiving leftovers provide a sense of tradition, that “we expect to have leftovers, it’s just part of life.” He noted that throughout history, people have caught or purchased items that they will keep with them for several months, preserving them with salt, for example, to continually indulge in several different ways.

“There is also something ‘homey’ about leftovers” that we all love, he added.

He noted he has brought turkey items onto the restaurant menu the day after Thanksgiving because he believes people expect it, they may still be in the mood.

At home after Thanksgiving, Randell told Your NewsMag he will indulge in an over-the-top sandwich, such as an open-faced sandwich using garlic toast, “spreading the cranberry thin before laying on the turkey and mashed potatoes or stuffing.” He then melts Swiss cheese over the sandwich or, “even better, a fried egg.”

He speaks of a creamy vegetable carbonara, mixing leftover turkey, bacon, vegetables, cream sauce and cheese, and broiling – or baking – it in a skillet or pan.

Taking leftover mashed potatoes, one can add egg and some flour to turn them into potato pancakes to serve with a host of items, such as leftover turkey or vegetables wrapped up in them, he said,.

He is also keen on creating vegetable gratin, by sauteeing leftover vegetables such as peas and carrots, celery and adding cream and bread crumbs, and seasoning accordingly, and broiling it.

He has taken leftover stuffing, formed it into balls – like rice balls, dipped them into eggs, covered them with butter and fried them.

Meanwhile, Chef Paolo of Elisa’s Ristorante and Café in North Bellmore, takes a more personal route with leftovers.  “You’ve had your big dinner event and now, with leftovers, you can finally enjoy them a little more when it’s quiet” to savor and indulge the tastes more.


Among his favorite leftovers is a crispy pasta vegetable dish in which he will chop up unused vegetables,  add pasta and saute in a pan with a little bit of water to get a golden brown crispiness to the pasta.

He also enjoys burnt vegetables, such as broccoli, by sautéing the vegetables in oil until they get a burnt look to them.

Of course, he will also indulge in turkey sandwiches, in which the turkey can be re-roasted . “It’s a comfort food,” he said.

At the top of his list of leftovers, though, may be frittatas. Whatever vegetables are left over can be the main composition of the frittata, he said, such as a broccoli frittata, or a spinach frittata, zucchini or an asparagus frittata.

“You can mix broccoli or any other vegetables with eggs and potatoes, add your seasoning and then cook on a skillet,” flipping the dish to ensure both sides will come out crispy.


From around the town, members of the Merrick Girls Weekday Recipe facebook page offered several ways to transform leftovers.

Syndi Goldman-Reibman said she will take a bag of large corn tortillas, a jar of salsa, a bag of shredded cheese, some corn and black beans, shred up some of the turkey, mix it with everything (except the tortillas), roll up about 2-3 tablespoons of mixture inside a tortilla and lay them like soldiers in a deep pan. She’ll then sprinkle with shredded cheese, cover with more salsa and bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes.

Patricia Bua-Yule said she puts a layer of stuffing on the bottom of a pan, then shreds the leftover turkey meat and layers it over the stuffing before adding a layer of the leftover vegetables. She pours on some gravy, adds a final layer of mashed potatoes and a few pats of butter and then bakes it. She calls it a cross between Shepherd’s pie and pot pie.

Alison Davis Sica said she makes “kind of” a Shepherd pie in a casserole. Shred turkey. In pan sauté onion, add bar cream cheese and melt. Add turkey and mix in a can each of cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken and cream of celery. Adjust amounts based on how much turkey you have. You don’t want it too loose, but should mix creamy. Layer half of the turkey mix on bottom of a Pyrex dish, then layer vegetables.

She will use leftovers but, if none are available because they were consumed, she says she will use corn, then peas, then carrots. Repeat for a second layer. On top she spreads mashed potatoes and covers with shredded cheddar. Bake until hot and bubbly. Because everything has already been cooked, it simply  needs to heat through.


Ree Drummond, on the Food Network, provided a foolproof Panini recipe that requires two tablespoons of Dijon mustard, two slices sourdough sandwich bread, two slices of Swiss cheese, 1/3 cup shredded leftover roasted Thanksgiving turkey, three tablespoons of leftover cranberry sauce, 1/3 cup leftover dressing, two tablespoons of leftover giblet gravy and two tablespoons of butter, at room temperature

Spread the mustard on both slices of bread, and then lay a slice of cheese on each piece. On one slice, arrange the turkey and the cranberry sauce. On the other slice, lay on the dressing and spoon the gravy over the top.

Carefully unite the two halves into one sandwich, and then spread the top side of the bread with one tablespoon of the butter.

Invert the sandwich, butter-side down, onto a hot panini maker (or a grill pan or skillet over medium-low heat). Spread the top with the remaining one tablespoon of butter.

Close the panini maker – or if you use a grill pan or skillet, place a second heavy pan or skillet on top of the sandwich to press it – and grill the sandwich until the bread is crusty and golden, the fillings are hot and the cheese is melted. Flip the sandwich halfway through to grill the other side.

Pull it off the heat and slice it in half.


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