Post Feast Favorites: Turning Leftovers into Delectable Meals

Jane Wilt Whitworth

    Holiday dinners. For many of us, significant time is spent planning a delectable feast for our family and friends, searching out recipes and finding just the right ingredients. Then come days of cooking, making sure everything will be perfect. Finally, THE FEAST DAY!
    And then leftovers…lots of leftovers…turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and on and on. What to do with all those leftovers?
    Often, turkey sandwiches and vegetable soup are on the menu for the days following Thanksgiving or Christmas. They are good, but enough is soon enough! Here I am with ideas for other possibilities for post-holiday meals that don’t feel quite so “leftover.”
    I have to suggest one thing to do post-feast that technically creates another leftover, but is well worth it: Once you’ve cut most of the meat from your turkey carcass, toss that carcass into a large pot with an onion, carrot, and celery stalk or two, along with salt, pepper, and water to partially cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a slow simmer, then cover and let cook an hour or two. This gets all the goodness and flavor from the turkey remnants into the broth you’ve created. Let cool, and then strain the broth into a container. There is still quite a bit of meat that you can pick off the bones. Don’t be squeamish – it’s worth getting your hands greasy! Now you have flavorful broth and scrappy meat that can be utilized immediately or frozen for a day when the mention of “turkey” doesn’t elicit an eye-roll.
    Cranberry sauce is something that almost everyone includes on his or her holiday menu, but many are skeptical about eating it any other time. It can be a great flavor punch in many recipes. Combine it with on-hand ingredients to create a delicious vinaigrette that would be perfect with many green salads. I recommend searing split heads of romaine lettuce and dressing them with the cranberry vinaigrette.
    Even without a pasta machine or much effort, ravioli is an easy dish to put together. Pre-made wonton wrappers make perfect ravioli skins that can be filled with a variety of fillings. The included recipe uses leftover turkey and dressing, but mashed or sweet potatoes could also be combined with the turkey for another twist. Once filled, they can be refrigerated or frozen for later, or cooked for just a few minutes in boiling water. They would also air-fry and be wonderful crispy bites. Serve with sage-infused butter or leftover gravy and a side of cranberry sauce.
    Did you know that leftover dressing makes a great waffle? Very simple to do, just by enhancing the flavor and adding an egg to make sure the dressing sticks together to “waffle.” Top the waffle with turkey, potatoes, gravy, or whatever you like.
    Italian Peasant Soup is a turkey and sausage soup that my family has enjoyed for years. It’s a great way to use leftover turkey and broth. It is quick and easy and a different type of vegetable soup. In addition to the listed ingredients, toss in leftover vegetables like corn, beans, etc., to make a sort-of-Minestrone soup.
    Happy holidays to all and I hope these ideas help you to enjoy your post-holiday meals!