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For those of us who get carried away by buying a turkey much too large to feed our friends and family on Thanksgiving day, we are either faced with way too many leftovers, or we try freezing some of that meat.
I have found that freezing leftover turkey, even when it is covered in gravy, really isn’t all that good. Regardless of how hard I try to seal the container as tight as possible, the resulting turkey doesn’t taste just right when it is thawed.
Instead, use that leftover turkey, and many of the vegetable leftovers as well, in a different meal for each of the next few days.
This may sound boring to many, but it doesn’t have to be. Turkey is a food that can be turned into any number of dishes. By adding herbs, the flavor also comes out a little different than the day before.
The traditional turkey sandwich can be far from plain if a little imagination is used. Try various kinds of bread, pita pockets, and wraps, then like “Dagwood” from the comics, search through the refrigerator to find lots of accompaniments.
There the usual lettuce and tomatoes, as well as cranberry sauce; maybe some horseradish rather than mayo, or even a specialty mustard. If grapes or fresh apple slices are available, add a few of those to the sandwich.
Crisp bacon is always a hit, as could be topping the turkey slices with a luncheon meat.
The kind of turkey sandwich that can be built is limited only by the imagination. And of course, many of these sandwiches can be heated, as well as the usual hot turkey sandwich made with leftover gravy. Diced turkey can be part of an omelet, too.
One of my favorite things to do with leftover turkey – and its carcass – is make stock.
Turkey and chicken stock can be interchangeable in many, if not most, soups. I place the whole carcass, minus most of the meat, in a large soup pot with carrots, celery, and onions. None need to be peeled. Add a little salt and maybe a bay leaf, plenty of water and let it simmer for about six hours.
When chilled, fat will rise to the top so it can be skimmed off. Then I remove the bones and vegetables, sieve, and pour by 2-cup portions into freezer bags or plastic containers. A large turkey can yield enough stock for several soups or can be used to liven up plain mashed potatoes.
I also make turkey and rice or turkey and noodle soups, using some of the stock, fresh, peeled and cut up carrots, celery, and onions and about 2 cups diced cooked turkey. This makes a great lunch, particularly when served with fresh biscuits or bread.
Simmer the stock with salt and pepper, bay leaf, cut-up vegetables, and diced turkey for about an hour. Add noodles or rice, cover and simmer for about a half hour, adding fresh parsley during the last few minutes. For a more complete meal, add a can of white beans.
Many of us are shepherd’s pie fans, including me. Using diced turkey, in place of the traditional ground beef, along with leftover Thanksgiving dinner vegetables, and perhaps some of the dressing for a topping, yields a different but delicious twist on the usual shepherd’s pie.
Turkey Shepherd’s Pie (4 servings)
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon flour
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup or the equivalent in leftover gravy
three-quarters teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 cups leftover vegetables
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
sprinkling of paprika
a cup or so of leftover dressing
These can be made in individual buttered ramekins or a small casserole dish.
In a saucepan, mix together the milk and flour. Stir in the soup or gravy and poultry seasoning. Heat on medium until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Stir frequently. Stir in diced turkey and vegetables. Cook for a minute or two, or until everything is heated through. Spoon the turkey mixture into individual ramekins, or in the bottom of a casserole dish.
Top with mashed potato, then with small pieces of leftover dressing. Sprinkle paprika on top. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees, for about 15 minutes, or until everything is heated through. Remove cover during the last five minutes to allow the dressing to crisp a little.
Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, and remembers everything we have to be thankful for.
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