Americans’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs it seems — at least when it comes to turkey.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not track how much unused turkey ends up in landfills, the department does track the overall losses for turkey at a retail and consumer level, according to the USDA.
“The total loss number for the retail and consumer levels is 38 percent, including loss in weight due to cooking,” a representative from the USDA wrote in an email.
Here are some ways you can enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers. Click here for some food safety tips from the USDA.
The classic for a reason, turkey soup starts the evening of Thanksgiving. Remove large pieces of meat from the turkey bones, place the bones in your largest pot and add water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 90 minutes – until the meat falls off the bones.
Strain the turkey stock into a new pot (or Tupperware, if you want to continue the soup the next day). Remove the bones, save the meat.
Add vegetables – carrots, onions, and celery – diced to approximately the same sized.
Simmer until vegetables are tender, then add left-over turkey.
Add egg noodles and simmer until al dente (cooked but firm). Salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.
Bonus: got leftover beans? Toss them in there. Extra gravy? It will help thicken the soup, as will pureeing some mashed potatoes and stock and adding that back into the soup.
Turkey Pot Pie / Shepherd’s Pie
Pot pie takes a little work but you’ll be able to live on it for a few days, so it might be worth it.
If you can make turkey soup, you’ve pretty much got a pie on your hands. Make the turkey soup, minus the egg noodles. You can thicken the soup with cornstarch, but a roux works better.
For a roux: In a small sauce pan, mix equal parts liquid fat – melted butter, oil, lard, etc. – and flour, adding the flour slowly and mixing consistently to keep the mix smooth. As the mixture starts to darken (don’t go past a light tan, unless you want a nutty, Cajun-style flavor), add warm liquid stock slowly. You’ll end up with a thick mixture, which you can then add back to your soup. Again, add slowly and stir consistently.
To make a pie, you can use pastry shells or this classic crust recipe. You can also use puff pastry to top a baking pan full of the thickened soup, it’s less work and you still get the pot pie experience.
For shepherd’s pie, top the thickened soup with mashed potatoes. If they’ve turned to concrete, you can loosen them with some warm milk or cream. Spread an even layer on top and top with cheese, bake at around 350 degrees until warmed through and the top of the potatoes are crisped up slightly.
Easy, yes, but endlessly adaptable. If you’re getting bored with the traditional day-after sandwich, you can always spice it up. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use white meat turkey to make turkey salad. While dark meat is probably a bit to fatty for this preparation, white meat – especially if its dried out slightly after cooking – can bounce right back to life. Go the extra mile with dried cranberries and toasted almonds, or go Waldorf style with grapes and walnuts.
- For dark meat, try making a hash. This works best in a cast iron. Sauté up some julienne onions (cut into strips) and, as they brown, add in shredded dark meat. Form into a patty shape and flip as it gets crispy on one side. This goes nicely with spicy arugula and some cranberry sauce to cut the richness. Try it on a soft dinner roll.
- Pulled turkey? Pulled turkey. Simmer left-over turkey in a little stock (see above), or chicken until it starts to fall apart. Strain excess liquid, then toss with your favorite barbecue sauce. We’re not getting involved with any East vs. West conflicts, this recipe will work nicely with tomato or vinegar based sauces. Bonus: technically, coleslaw is a vegetable.
Mashed potato croquettes
Fair warning: if Thanksgiving was already your “cheat day,” leftover croquettes may not be for you. But they are a good way to reuse mashed potatoes, a dish that has a tendency to disappointed when reheated.
As your mashed potatoes are cooling, loosen them up a splash of milk and – if you’re feeling fancy – add some chopped parsley or scallions. The mashed potatoes can keep overnight.
Once potatoes are cool, scoop them out with a spoon or ice cream scoop and form them into a tiny hockey puck shape (maybe not an appetizing frame of reference, but stay with it). Dip into an egg wash – beaten eggs with salt and pepper – and then roll in bread crumbs.
Fry in shallow oil, about a half-inch, at medium heat. If you have a deep fryer, set it to about 325 degrees.
Not decadent enough? Shred cheese – a good sharp cheddar works well – into the mashed potato mix.
Cranberry sauce sorbet
What can you do with leftover cranberry sauce, besides slapping an obligatory dollop on a thanksgiving sandwich? How about a refreshing desert?
To make this sorbet, mix the following ingredients:
- 3 cups of leftover cranberry sauce
- 1 cup orange juice
- ½ cup of lemon or lime juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
Zest from an orange, lemon and/or lime (the more zest, the more bright citrus flavor the sorbet will have
Mix together all the ingredients in a good medium-sized pot. Heat, while stirring, until the liquid is heated and the sugar is dissolved. Pour the liquid into a baking pan so that it spreads out and cools evenly; plan the pan in the freezer (or transfer it to another container if your fridge is packed).
The mixture should be removed from the freezer and stirred every 45-minutes to an hour. After about three hours, the sorbet should be set and ready to be scooped for dessert.
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