I considered doing a post on Thanksgiving recipes, but then I had a different idea. What about Thanksgiving, afterwards? All those leftovers don’t really need doctoring, considering piling them high on a plate and giving them 2 minutes of microwave radiation usually does the trick. But what if we could give them a more dignified second life?
Photo from a recent roast chicken Friendsgiving spread…so many possibilities!
Leftover mission 1: The remains of the turkey. Do not throw this away! (Yet.) That pile of bones is actually the best base for a stock, and will barely take up any of your time to make. Pick off any remaining meat and save that for sandwiches and such. Use the largest stock pot you have and put the whole darn thing right in there, breaking things up as you need to. If you have it: add one chopped onion, 2 large carrots, 4 chopped celery stalks, and a bay leaf. The next step is simmer & salt it until it tastes amazing. I am not kidding. Some people like a mild broth, some like a very concentrated flavor. My stock usually goes for about 2 hours. When it is finished, take it off the heat and let it cool to 135F before straining it and putting it in containers. I usually freeze half, and refrigerate the rest.
Now I have all this turkey stock…what the hell do I do with all this?
2. The easy answer is soup…the more exciting answer is THANKSGIVING RISOTTO. In case you feel that you didn’t quite consume enough calories on Thanksgiving, you’re in luck. This is your chance to go for the gold. The beauty of this dish is that it’s crazy easy because most of the work is already done. Also, cheese. It’s thanksgiving with cheese. This is also a great chance to cover the risotto basics. Here is a basic recipe, with lots of room for creativity.
Left over mission 2: Thanksgiving Risotto
- Heat your stock to a low simmer (6 cups per cup of rice), and keep it on the stove on low heat. Choose your ingredients, and have them ready to go at room temperature. (Adding cold ingredients to risotto will make it very tricky to reheat without overcooking it.)
- The rice should be Arborio or Carnaroli rice, and one cup will feed about 3-4 people. Never wash rice being used for risotto- those starches are what makes it creamy and decadent.
- In a dutch oven pot (or heavy bottomed pot) melt 1/2 stick of unsalted butter over medium heat. Add one minced shallot and saute for about 2 minutes. Add your rice and stir until rice looks translucent on it’s edges. At this point, I add 1/2 cup of semi- or off-dry white wine. (I like using wine with a bit of sweetness over dry white wine.)
- Once the wine has been cooked out and absorbed, you can start cooking with the stock- ONE cup at a time. Allow each cup to be absorbed before adding the next. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon, and be sure to give the bottom of the pot a little scrape every now and then to prevent sticking. After every cup, try a grain or two for doneness.
- When the rice is al dente, or just before being ready to eat, stir in your thanksgiving ingredients and 2 Tb of grated parmesan (per cup of rice). You can use any other firm cheese or even skip it if the ingredients you are adding are rich enough.
I usually like to stir in chopped dark meat turkey, brussels sprouts, pearl onions, stuffing (yup, I added bread to rice because I am ridiculous.), cooked cranberries, and left over pecans. The possibilities are endless!
Leftover mission 3: Get Creative!
Some parts of our leftovers wind up in the way back of the fridge. And eventually in the garbage, which is so very triste. Some of these items are the ones that are a bit unpopular, or maybe just got shuffled behind. A good way to make them last a little longer is to physically change their purpose. Here are some ideas:
Cranberry sauce, the jelly kind: Cook the sauce in a pot with some fresh cranberries and a little sugar. You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water to break up the jelly. Once the whole cranberries are soft, cool the mixture off the heat until room temperature. Reserve half for use as a chutney in sandwiches, and the other half can be stirred into mayonnaise. Cranberry mayo on a BLT will make you rethink your whole world.
Sweet Potatoes or Squash, the mushy leftover kind: Any sweet vegetables can be mashed and incorporated into batters & baked goods. My favorite use of these sweet sides is in PANCAKES. Add 1 1/2 cup (thoroughly mashed) to your favorite pancake mix or homemade pancake recipe. I would also see what leftover nuts may be lying around…maybe throw in some cranberries. You see where I’m going here?
Mashed Potatos: Lactose and gluten-free folks – this is your chance to make “creamy” & thick soups with neither cream or flour. Give those potatoes a good run in the blender to make it extra smooth and whisk into any soup recipe to make it more decadent. If you are in the Northeast US like myself, this is a good time to make New England style clam chowder, since scallops & shellfish are in season.
Leftover mission 4: Save the feeling.
This one is really important. This week, everyone seems to be a little more content and relaxed because they are surrounded by reminders to be thankful and selfless. (Black friday propaganda obviously does not count, and that’s a whole other thing I’d rather not get into. Part of the whole, staying content, thing.) But what happens after Thanksgiving? My personal goal is to keep that feeling intact, long after the last bite of leftovers is eaten. It is easy to get sucked into the season of shopping & twinkly lights and lose sight of what we just spent so much time reflecting on. I do not practice thankfulness enough, and I think it’s time to make it my business to do so.