We gather and we feast, we go back for seconds and thirds, and we marvel at the bounty on our tables.
Yet up to 40% of the food in this country goes uneaten.
As we sit down with family and friends for Thanksgiving, remember the leftovers.
Here are some recipes, from what to do with your mashed potatoes, vegetable side dishes and cranberries to how to make a turkey bone broth or a turkey chili or cheesesteak.
THE CRANBERRY CONTINUUM
Homemade cranberry sauce really likes playing with cheese. To wit:
1. Stir a spoonful or two into cream cheese to schmear onto your next bagel or toasted rye bread.
2. Spread 3/4 cup cranberry sauce atop an 8-ounce round of brie on a parchment paper-lined pan and bake in a 400 F oven until soft and warmed through, about 10 minutes. After all, the holiday snacking season is right around the corner.
3. Make a grilled cheese, please, with cranberry sauce slathered on one slice of bread, maybe some strong mustard on the other. Cheese and condiments are, of course, cook’s choice.
P.S. Unused whole cranberries freeze really well.
MOUNTAIN OF MASHED
4. Make potato pancakes, aka croquettes. I like adding some fresh herbs such as chopped parsley or dill or the texture and piquancy of chopped scallions. Adding canned salmon transforms the croquettes into supper. Grated Parmigiano adds salty nuttiness. Whatever you decide, you’ll need a binder to hold the croquettes together. I suggest a beaten egg, and either some breadcrumbs and/or a few tablespoons of flour.
In a large bowl, stir everything together until well mixed, and form into patties using a 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup measure.
Heat a 10-inch skillet and add 3 tablespoons of oil, tilting until the surface is coated. Gently add the croquettes, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook on the first side until golden, about 5 minutes, then carefully turn on the second side, for an additional 4 minutes. Finish in a 300 F oven for 5 minutes, until warmed through.
5. Consider your mash as a topper for shepherd’s pie, with or without the turkey underneath, along with cooked brown lentils seasoned with finely chopped carrot and celery (perhaps there are some in the crisper from stuffing prep?), salt and a few squeezes of a lemon half. Pour the lentils and/or turkey into a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate. Reheat the mash so that it’s easier to spread. Spoon the mash on top until the lentils and/or turkey is completely covered. Feel free to sprinkle breadcrumbs for crunch or grated cheese. Bake in a 350 F oven until warmed through, about 20 minutes.
SWEET POTATO SURPLUS
6. As long as your sweet potato leftovers are free of marshmallows, consider tucking them into tacos. Reheat and mash until smooth and season with lime, cumin, your favorite hot sauce, maybe some fajita-style onions and peppers. For a complete protein, add a can of black beans, and some sliced avocado for garnish. Orange mash never tasted so good.
7. Make stuffing muffins, or rather, reheat stuffing in a greased muffin tin. Feel free to doctor up your stuffing with dried fruit or nuts or chopped kale. Add a beaten egg as a binder. Spoon into muffin tin and bake in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes. Serve with leftover warmed up gravy or eat out of hand as a savory snack.
BREAKING UP THE BREAD
8. Transform those stale bread cubes from your stuffing project or half-eaten loaves into breadcrumbs for later.
Bread cubes benefit from some time on a sheet pan in a 200 F oven, until quite crisp. Let cool, then pulverize in a high-powered blender or food processor.
Leftover baguettes and other small loaves are typically hard enough to rub against a box grater. To grate, place grater in a large bowl and make the breadcrumb magic.
Store all crumbs in the freezer and use whenever the need strikes, from topping macaroni and cheese to dredging eggplant.
SO MUCH TURKEY! MAKE A SALAD
9. Here’s a goodie from “Feast,” one of my favorite cookbooks from Nigella Lawson. She repurposes holiday turkey into a composed Vietnamese-style glass noodle salad. Cellophane noodles, also called glass noodles and bean thread noodles, are typically made from the starch of mung beans or sweet potatoes. As such, they are reconstituted in boiling water and never are cooked like wheat-based noodles.
For the dressing, chop some garlic and ginger and squeeze the juice of a lime. Add a smidge of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce or soy sauce, plus 2 tablespoons of water. Add minced fresh chile pepper for heat.
Once the noodles are pliable, drain and place in a bowl. Sprinkle dressing on top of the noodles, along with some finely chopped turkey, a smidge of sesame oil and chopped fresh cilantro and scallions.
MAKING A TURKEY CHILI
10. Cook a pot of beans for chili, and instead of ground beef, use up some of the bird. White beans, black beans and pintos are my favorites for this combination. Because the turkey is cooked, you can wait until the last 15 minutes of cooking time to add.
Start your chili with some chopped onion, cooked in oil until soft. Add some garlic and spices, including ground cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper. Add cooked beans, then broth and/or tomato puree. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes. Add the chopped turkey and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Garnish with cheese, scallions, cilantro, tortilla chops.
HOW ABOUT A STIR FRY?
11. Leftovers are a great excuse to stir-fry. In a wok or a large (12- or 14-inch skillet), heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, followed by finely chopped ginger, onion (or leek or shallot), maybe some garlic. Have some chopped broccoli or peppers or bok choy at the ready, and add, constantly turning and tossing the vegetables. You’ll season everything with 2 tablespoons each of soy sauce and water and bring it all to a boil. The mixture will quickly reduce. Add the turkey, turning until well coated. Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil and some fresh parsley or cilantro. Eat by itself or with rice.
THIS IS PA. -- TRY A TURKEY CHEESESTEAK
12. Throw caution to the wind and make a turkey cheesesteak. In addition to a pile of thinly sliced or pulled turkey, you’ll need the following: long steak or hoagie rolls; cheese that easily melts, such as Cooper sharp or American (or Cheez-Whiz); 2 cups of thinly sliced onions (and a sweet red pepper if you want), cooked in oil and under cover, so that they steam rather than brown; your appetite.
First, cook the onions — on a griddle or in a cast-iron skillet. Set them aside but keep them nearby. Next, sear the turkey, seasoning with salt and pepper, turning until it’s good and brown. Place some onions on top of the meat, then a few slices of cheese on top of that. Let cheese melt (and don’t fuss with it), about 4 minutes. With a metal spatula, shovel some of this goodness into your sliced roll. You know the rest.
HOW TO MAKE A TURKEY BONE BROTH
13. And yes, go ahead and make turkey bone broth from the carcass. Remove all of the skin and fat and as much meat as possible. (If turkey soup isn’t in your near future, make the broth and freeze for later.)
Place the carcass in a large pot, along with a handful of black peppercorns and a quartered onion with skins on (or leek), or maybe some leftover celery from the crisper. Add just enough water to cover everything and bring to a boil. With a slotted spoon, remove any foam that rises to the top. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for at least 2 hours, and up to 4. Strain and cool before refrigerating or freezing.
14. The same principle applies to vegetable broth, using the extra celery, onions, leeks, carrots and herbs. Don’t worry about proportions; the only thing to remember is to leave out brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage, as the flavor is too strong for an all-purpose veg broth. Sprigs of thyme and parsley are a welcome addition, but hold off on the sage, as it, too, is very strong.
15. However, if you find yourself with a surplus of fresh sage, make pesto. You need: 1 cup of sage leaves, thinly sliced and 1/2 cup olive oil, heated in a small saucepan or shallow skillet. You’re looking for tiny bubbles in the oil, about 2 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.
Put 1/2 cup walnuts and 1 clove of garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely pulverized. Add the sage and oil and keep pulsing until the entire mixture is blended. Unlike other kinds of pesto, a little texture is good here. Transfer to a small bowl, and stir in 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano or pecorino and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Wonderful with roasted winter squash, on bruschetta or with short pasta.
ONE MORE THING
As you sit down, set your timer for two hours. That’s how long the turkey and trimmings can safely keep at room temperature, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After that, all leftovers should go into the fridge.