A friend recently confided in me that she purposely buys a skimpy turkey, usually under 10 pounds even if she's hosting a crowd so that she doesn't have to deal with leftovers, especially day-old breast meat that could double for Styrofoam, and a bulky carcass that takes over the refrigerator, along with family members squawking at monotonous post-Thanksgiving meals. Tisk, tisk, the rest of us are salivating over creative recycling of roughly 48 million turkeys coast-to-coast, and yummy sides. Here's some ideas for re-inventing the turkey and trimmings to suit palates of all ages and tastes, along with some leftover warnings for our four-legged friends.
Teen Taste Buds: Even picky eaters will love remakes of their faves from turkey mac and cheese, turkey fingers with ranch or zesty chipotle dipping sauce and turkey sliders to sourdough turkey melts or grilled cheese, and turkey-veggie topped pizzas.
Dough-Re-Mi: Elegant sides, appetizers and main dishes can be whipped up in a snap with prepared artisan pastries and doughs. Construct a savory turkey and Portobello strudel, a turkey and cheese Stromboli, or turkey wellington with flaky golden puff pastry. Use paper-thin phyllo dough for a turkey twist on Greek spanakopita with spinach and feta cheese. Or traditional pie-crust dough for a Thanksgiving quiche or autumn-inspired roasted root vegetable and turkey pot pie.
Globe-Trotting Turkey: Look no further than around the world for culinary influences for holiday leftovers. Olé with a fiesta of south-of-the-border turkey quesadillas, tostadas, tacos, burritos or mole turkey over mashed potatoes. Whip up Italian-style dishes, including turkey and butternut squash lasagna, turkey and Tuscan kale risotto, turkey and eggplant Parmesan, or a turkey and farro salad with cherry tomatoes and rosemary. Try a Mediterranean-themed Persian stew of chopped turkey, ground walnuts and pomegranate paste, or Greek salad tossed with chunks of turkey breast, black olives, and baby cucumbers. How about all-American turkey Cobb salad, a hearty turkey chili, shepherd's pie, or Sloppy Tom's. Have a yen for Asian with a turkey stir-fry, or turkey scallion lettuce wraps with soy-ginger dipping sauce.
When Turkey meets Grease: For those who are not cholesterol-conscious, some pan-fried delights include mashed or sweet potato and chopped turkey pancakes, spring rolls stuffed with shredded turkey and bean sprouts, turkey hash a-go-go, or turkey empanadas with aioli dipping sauce.
Souped Up: Simmer a pot of homemade turkey bone broth using the carcass, drumsticks and wings for an immune-boosting oomph especially as flu season looms. Use as a base for gumbo, lentil, tortilla or Vietnamese Pho or add shredded breast meat, assorted roots, egg noodles, or matzo balls for a substantial main meal dish. Serve with a variety of sandwiches from chopped turkey and dried cherry salad on sweet bread (recipe below) to turkey BLT on toasted rye.
A Good Egg: Get crackin' with some creative breakfasts using organic eggs and chopped turkey as the mainstay. Incorporate asparagus, red peppers, wild mushrooms, or broccolini into an impressive frittata; Monterey or Pepper Jack cheeses into a scramble or omelet. Swap out the pig for the turkey in Eggs Benedict, or combine eggs with chopped turkey, jalapenos, tomatoes, and cumin with a side of queso fresco for Huevos Rancheros.
Get Saucy: Create zippy condiments by blending mayonnaise or stone-ground mustard with chunky cranberry sauce to dial up turkey sandwiches. A splash of Grand Marnier in the sauce makes a tipsy topping for ice cream sundaes, waffles or French toast. Or add a few spoons of sauce to breakfast smoothies, muffin or scone batters for a touch of tartness and rich ruby color.
Turkey Time-out for Miss Whiskers and Bailey: Emergency veterinarian visits spike around Thanksgiving time as unsuspecting pet owners feed human kibbles to their cats and dogs that are dangerous to their digestive systems. The turkey meat might be safe, but the skin seasoned with herbs, onion and garlic can severely harm your pet's health, particularly the pancreas. For that same reason avoid stuffing, along with cranberry sauce with its load of sugar, while grapes and raisins are also toxic. Finally, turkey bones can easily splinter and cause serious internal injuries.
Recipe: Turkey Salad with Dried Cherries
• 1-pound roasted turkey breast, pulled from bird in bite-size pieces, skin removed
• 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (I prefer olive oil-based), adjust to desired consistency
• 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
• 1/2 cup celery minced, strings removed
• 1 teaspoon fresh herbs, chopped (tarragon, cilantro, basil, Italian parsley, your choice)
• 1 scallion, thinly sliced
• 1/4 teaspoon each turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper
Method: Add ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Blend well. Serve on challah rolls or bread of choice.