Thanksgiving Leftovers 101

Thanksgiving dinner is delicious, but to be honest, I am more about the leftovers than the main event. Even though I don’t historically host Thanksgiving, I always make a full Thanksgiving meal the next day, with all the trimmings, for my family. Just for the leftovers.

If you have ever stared at a refrigerator full of tupperware containers and shut the door because you didn’t know what to do with them, you’re not alone. I’ve got some suggestions for dishes that repurpose all the best foods that Thanksgiving has to offer into something maybe even better than the original.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about Thanksgiving leftovers but were afraid to ask:

Leftover Storage: Refrigerate all leftovers within two hours of cooking in airtight containers. Contrary to popular belief, hot foods can be transferred immediately to the refrigerator – no need to wait until they come to room temp. Enjoy leftovers within three to four days. When all else fails, resort to the “smell test” – if it smells bad, you don’t want to eat it.  And the old adage applies here: when in doubt, throw it out. Check out for additional tips about your favorite Thanksgiving foods.

Quick and Easy Leftover Dishes: Some of the tastiest ways to repurpose leftovers don’t even require a formal recipe. Here are some of my favorites:

Via Flickr / eraphernalia_vintage

– Easy Turkey Soup: Sautee chopped carrots, onion and celery, add turkey or chicken stock and simmer. Just before serving, add al dente cooked pasta, chopped turkey, some chopped greens like fresh spinach or kale, and season to taste. Sometimes, basic is best!

– Turkey Salad: Take your favorite chicken salad recipe and swap-in chopped turkey. I like to mix Greek yogurt with a little lemon juice and curry powder and combine with chopped celery and red onion, chopped turkey, and dried cherries or cranberries. Serve in a wrap, sandwich, or on a bed of lettuce. Healthy and delicious!

– Creative Turkey Sandwiches: Go beyond the traditional Thanksgiving-Dinner-in-a-Sandwich (ie: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry, and gravy packed between two slices of bread – which is delicious of course) for a more refined lunch using turkey and cranberry. Try a turkey, Monterey Jack or Brie, and cranberry sauce quesadilla or grilled sandwich for a new combination.

– Turkey Eggs Benedict: Treat your family to eggs benedict with turkey standing in for ham or Canadian bacon. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can swap out hollandaise with gravy and put a smear of cranberry on the English muffin prior to assembling.

– Potato Croquettes: “Croquette” is a fancy name for a savory cake, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried. Take your cold mashed potatoes, form them into uniform patties, roll in bread crumbs, and shallow-fry until they’re golden brown (Note: Technically, a croquette is a ball, but I like patties better as they are easier to fry with less oil). Serve with leftover gravy for dipping to really take it up a notch.

– No-Brainer Shepherd’s Pie: With Thanksgiving leftovers, all the work is already done to make a delicious shepherd’s pie. I like to combine chopped turkey with leftover stuffing and gravy, transfer to a baking dish, top with an even layer mashed potatoes, and bake at 425 F until hot and bubbling. It’s Thanksgiving in a casserole!

Want some more great recipes to use up your leftovers? Check these out:

Pilgrim Sandwiches

Five-Layer Turkey Dip

Mashed Potato Soup

Thanksgiving Stromboli

Turkey Corn Crisp

Leftover Lover’s Turkey Tetrazzini

[Lead image via Flickr / kthread]

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