Preparing a Thanksgiving feast for a crowd can be both exhilarating and utterly exhausting. At the end of the day, your kitchen looks like a tornado has whipped through it and you probably feel as if you’ve completed a triathlon. But, your belly is full, your guests have been well fed, and if you’re lucky, your fridge is filled with leftovers. Those are all things to be most thankful for.
Is there anything better than Thanksgiving leftovers?? I think not. Perhaps the most joyous part of a fridge full of Thanksgiving leftovers is being able to put your feet up for a few days, recover from the cooking marathon, and live off of the ready-made meals in your fridge. While it would be perfectly delicious to just reheat a plate of Thanksgiving dinner each night, it’s nice to add a little variety to leftovers; make it feel like a fresh meal every night. With that in mind, I offer you four simple variations on Thanksgiving leftovers.
Thanksgiving Leftover Variation #1 – Turkey Soup
Don’t let that turkey carcass go to waste! There’s so much flavor waiting to be extracted from those bones. Get the broth started right after dinner. Simply throw the whole turkey carcass into a large pot, cover with water, and simmer (partly covered) for 3-4 hours. Don’t worry if there’s still some meat or turkey skin hanging on the turkey! Just throw the whole thing in the pot and let it start working while you sit down to enjoy some pumpkin pie. Once it’s simmered, strain the broth and refrigerate overnight. The next day, you can finish making the soup. Click here for my step-by-step guide to making a basic chicken soup. You can follow the same process for turkey soup.
Thanksgiving Leftover Variation #2 – Open-faced Thanksgiving Sandwich
In my opinion, this is the best way to use leftovers on the day after Thanksgiving, when you’ve still got a bit of everything in the fridge. Simply reheat some leftover turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Spread some cranberry sauce on a lightly toasted slice of thick, doughy bread. Then, top the cranberry sauce with the hot turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. Drizzle hot gravy over the entire thing and enjoy. This is a knife and fork kind of sandwich; simple, hearty, and satisfying.
Click here for more details on making an open-faced turkey sandwich any time of year.
Thanksgiving Leftover Variation #3 – Roast Turkey, Brie, and Homemade Apple Butter Melts
This is my new personal favorite. Such a perfect combination of flavors. I happen to love apple butter; always have and probably always will. You can find it in most grocery stores, usually near the jams and jellies. Look for one which doesn’t contain a lot of unnecessary added sugar or corn syrup. Apple butter really doesn’t need anything other than apples and a bit of apple cider or apple juice. Apple butter is a cinch to make at home. So, if you can’t find any at your store, follow my simple recipe to make your own. And, if apple butter just isn’t your thing, substitute some leftover cranberry sauce on these sandwiches. It will pair beautifully with the brie.
For the sandwiches, thinly slice brie and spread it onto a sturdy piece of bread. I prefer to use ciabatta or pain de campagne, but any doughy, crusty bread should work. Spread apple butter (or cranberry sauce) onto another piece of bread. Place a few slices of roasted turkey breast between the bread slices. Loosely wrap the sandwich in foil and bake for about 20-25 minutes in a 350 degrees oven, until the cheese has melted, the bread feels slightly toasted, and the turkey is warm.
Homemade Apple Butter
- 5-6 Apples, peeled, cores removed, and coarse chopped
- 1 1/2 cups Apple Cider
- Cinnamon Stick (optional)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Simmer the apple pieces in the apple cider for about 20 minutes. If desired, add a cinnamon stick to simmer with the mixture. Then, puree the apples until smooth. Pour the puree into an oven-safe covered pan and place in the oven for about 5 hours. The apple butter will darken to a rich brown as it cooks.
Thanksgiving Leftover Variation #4 – Turkey Salad Sandwiches
Turkey Salad is a simple and delicious way to breathe new life into the remainder of your turkey leftovers. I love it on a lightly toasted bagel with a slice of swiss cheese. To make a basic turkey salad, simply chop or tear your leftover turkey into small pieces. Add some finely diced onion and celery. Combine with just enough mayonnaise and mustard to bind the salad. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Stir in some dried cranberries for an extra tasty touch!