Over the years of this blog’s existence, we’ve put out plenty of recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers, but not too many for Thanksgiving dinner itself. The rationale for this was simple: most of you really don’t want to mess with Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, there’s always the thought that you’ll introduce a new and exciting side dish, or maybe brine the turkey this year, or stop brining the turkey this year, or finally admit that your best friend’s/uncle’s/random invited stranger’s pumpkin pie isn’t that good. But really, part of the comfort of Thanksgiving dinner is the familiar. There are enough variables in cooking a turkey or making a pie crust, so why introduce more uncertainty?
With leftovers, though, the sky’s the limit. And why not? You could be eating the meal’s remains for days. The joys of even great turkey sandwiches wear thin after too many of them.
Here’s a compendium of our Thanksgiving recipes, both for the meal and the leftovers, and also a few suggestions for using those leftovers in some of the other dishes we’ve presented over the years.
For the day itself, if you’re looking to mix it up just a little, try this Cornbread and Chestnut Stuffing. It’s great cooked in or out of the bird. And even if it’s not part of your normal repertoire, the green bean casserole is a crowd-pleaser. The dish’s creator, Dorcas Reilly, died earlier this year, so you’ll see a lot of different versions of the recipe in print and online. We’ve got one devised by Lauren DeSantis, creator of the Capitol Cooking Blog, using no canned products. And finally, if you put out any appetizers before the meal, consider our “Get Your Guests out of the Kitchen” Ricotta Spread, which is simple to make and good enough to get your guests out of your hair while you get the groaning board ready.
I’ll also go off-book here and recommend something that’s not from my blog. If you find you have lots of leftover pie that doesn’t get eaten (rarely a problem for me, but you never know), try making Dorie Greenspan’s Two-Fer Pie instead. It’s a combination of pumpkin and pecan pie in one. That way you can make only one pie and it’s sure to be finished up. And if there’s a piece or two left, cut them up and fold into softened ice cream. Instead of pie a la mode, you’ll have ice cream with pie mix-ins.
Cooked turkey meat is useful for a bunch of recipes. I try to make Tukey Tetrazzini every year – spaghetti with turkey and a mushroom-filled cream sauce – because it’s delicious, but also because it’s named for Luisa Tetrazzini, one of the most amazing voices of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Turkey and Cheese Soufflé Casserole is a riff on a recipe that Jacques Pépin and Julia Child made on their joint TV show back in the 1990s, and it’s worth making even if you have to go buy thick-sliced turkey from your supermarket deli.
You can also use the turkey meat in place of chicken or other meats. And if you make turkey stock with the carcass, swap out any chicken stock you find in those recipes. Like this Barley, Corn, and Kale Soup. Using cubed turkey instead of ham and turkey stock for the chicken stock makes it really luscious. You can also use turkey and stock in my Chicken Chili (skip the part about cooking the chicken and add the cooked turkey at the end), and Spanish-Style Chicken Stew. But my favorite way to use turkey and stock is in Circassian Chicken. It’s a Syrian dish with a spicy sauce made from stock, walnuts, and bread that get ground together in the food processor. It’s served cool or at room temperature, so it’s great for the post turkey day buffets.
Tacos and enchiladas are naturals for using leftover turkey meat. But if you want a Mexican dish that’s out of the ordinary, swap out a pound of shredded turkey for the tuna in Pati Jinich’s Tuna Minilla Casserole. Turkey has less flavor and bite than canned tuna, so up the amounts of olives and pickled jalapeños, plus add a teaspoon or two of lime juice to the filling.
I find stuffing leftovers unappealing, mostly because I’m not a fan of lumps of soggy bread. But I do like stuffing when it gets nice and crispy. Spread the stuffing on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake it. Then let it cool and break it into pieces to use as croutons on salad or with soup (I serve my soup croutons on the side. Yes, I know it’s bizarre, but that’s just the way it goes). You could even gild the lily on a shepherd’s pie (made with turkey and turkey stock or thinned-out gravy, of course) by spreading a thin layer of mashed potatoes (or potatoes mixed with Mashed Parsnips, Onion, and White Beans) over the filling and then dropping pieces of stuffing on top before baking. But my favorite way to use leftover stuffing is Stuffing Croquettes. Bind the stuffing together with some egg white (assuming you don’t have any egg in it already), then form into small balls, dip in egg white and bread crumbs and deep fry. Crunchy, satisfying goodness. Serve them with a dipping sauce made from your leftover cranberry sauce thinned out with a little white wine or rosé.
Speaking of wine, you’re no doubt tired of hearing me go on about rosés with Thanksgiving dinner. So I won’t again this year. The best wine advice was something I heard at a conference a few years ago: drink anything you like. Just make sure that you bring enough of it for others to try, too. And try different wines with foods you wouldn’t normally pair together. If they work, great. If not, have a sip of water and try something else. Maybe you can start a new Thanksgiving tradition!
Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving!
PS – As a wine merchant, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the pre-Thanksgiving wine tasting we’re participating in. Details are here. It’s Monday, November 19, so if you’re in the DC area, be sure to stop by!