In Praise of Leftovers
I am, for the most part, entirely happy to eat Thanksgiving leftovers in the same form that I ate them on Thanksgiving. A former roommate of mine told me that there is a verb, presumably Yiddish, pronounced grizhen which means to pick the meat from a carcass, and I am perfectly happy to grizen (I'm just going to decide that's how it's spelled. If you know better, please tell me. Every once in a while, though not often, I think that "grizen" is a word that Rob made up to play "Fool the Goyim," as a way of getting back at me for threatening to ask "Where are the glasses we use for the pork liver milkshakes?" when his orthodox friends were coming over. I never actually did that, of course. I don't believe that anything is sacred, but some things are, you know, sacred.) the turkey when I happen to be hungry and walking by the refrigerator at the same time.
But it can also be amusing (and delicious) to transform the leftovers into something else. Something that my ex-wife apparently learned from her mother was turkey patties. To make turkey patties, you get out a meat grinder (or the grinder attachment to your Kitchenaid) and you feed it more or less equal parts of turkey, stuffing/dressing/savory bread pudding, and mashed potatoes. Then you bind this all together with an egg, form it into patties, and fry it in a pan. Serve them topped with cranberry sauce. Yummy.
One of my favorite one-pan meals is something that I call leftover pie. It has no crust, and it's made in a skillet instead of a pie plate, but I still call it leftover pie, and you can't stop me.
Leftover turkey, chopped
Leftover stuffing, broken into pieces
Put about a half cup of leftover gravy in the bottom of a nonstick skillet. Add the stuffing and then put the turkey on top. Mix another half cup of gravy with a few tablespoons of red wine, and pour over the top. Set on a medium flame, cover, and heat until it's bubbling. Serve.
This dish doesn't look like much before it's cooked, and it continues to not look like much after it's cooked. You could sprinkle some chopped parsley over the top, but I wouldn't bother. Don't even think about adding peas. This is not haute cuisine (I do not mean to imply that the addition of some frozen peas is haute cuisine; this sentence begins an entirely new line of thought); it is an infinitely superior version of the inexplicably yet undeniably delicious open-faced turkey sandwich that your school cafeteria served when you were a child. Or at least when I was a child, back in the days when I could handle the idea (and even the reality) of white bread. Having used a multi-grain loaf in the savory bread pudding makes a world of difference, and, of course, the wild mushrooms don't hurt, either. The gravy looks like canned cream of mushroom soup, but that can't be helped, and the tastes are not at all similar.
You should accompany this dish with leftover cranberry sauce and leftover green salad. The cranberry sauce (V. tells me that there is new research showing that cranberries remove plaque and are therefore good for your gums. Hooray.) and green salad sitting next to each other on the plate will remind you that there is less than a month left to Christmas. End the meal with some leftover pie, if there is any. (I know, I know, I still haven't written about the pies that I made on Thanksgiving. I will try to do a pie post later in the week. If it's any consolation, I also haven't written about the Black Cakes that I made over the weekend, and the only reason I haven't written about them is that I enjoy making lindy wonder whether I'm really going to get around to baking them, so at least I'm ignoring everyone more or less equally.)
I too often hear people complain about their Thanksgiving leftovers. This seems like a lack of gratitude to me and a violation of the spirit of Thanksgiving, but then I think that perhaps the turkey that these people are sick of wasn't all that good in the first place and why would you want to eat again something that you didn't enjoy the first time? The turkey I roasted is completely delicious, so I'll be very sorry when it's gone.
One of the simplest, and best, ways to use your leftover turkey is in a turkey sandwich. You may not need me to tell you how to make a turkey sandwich, unless you're using mayonnaise, and then you need to be reeducated. You can spread your bread with dijon mustard or butter (or mustard on one slice and butter on the other), but mayonnaise is not the right thing to eat with sliced turkey. (You may, however, use it when you make turkey salad.) I am generally pro-mayonnaise, but making a turkey sandwich with butter (softened butter at room temperature, please) will change your life. Forever after, you will think of every event in your life as having occurred either before or after you discovered the turkey sandwich made with butter.
I was turned on to using butter on my turkey sandwiches by redfox, raising the question (but not begging the question; don't get me started) of why someone who claims to be a vegetarian knows so much about turkey sandwiches. I can't answer that question, (She would say that, at the time, she was talking about sandwiches generally and about tomato sandwiches in particular, but I don't buy it. You just know that when no one's looking, she runs out to some hole in the wall and orders steak tartare and washes it down with a high-fructose-corn-syrup-and-soda, hold the soda.) but I will note that the best way to deal with truly undesirable leftovers (I'm thinking of the half cup of butternut squash puree that was left over when I baked and pureed a whole squash to make a pie) is to offer them to your partner who likes such things. My method of doing that is to shriek "I'm mellllltinnnnnng" when he takes the container out of the frig and shows it to me, but you might just want to offer it to your significant other and hold the drama for a more appropriate moment.