In another life, I worked in restaurant kitchens. For more than a decade, I cooked everything from Texas barbeque and upscale Indian cuisine to American fine dining. Though I’ve left the tumultuous world of restaurants behind me, cooking is still one of my favorite things to share with friends and family. Raised by my Catholic-Jewish mother, feeding people is a matter of fact as well as creative expression.
With that being said, I’d like to share a little culinary love from my kitchen to yours.
A wise woman once told me that the days after Thanksgiving are for indulging in odd food choices. Having too many leftovers from the holiday feast leads to being unscrupulous in the face of hunger.
Taking inventory, we should work in reverse order. Pumpkin is a vegetable and pecans have protein, so leftover pie makes for a quick, simple breakfast. This writer certainly would never make one whole pumpkin pie just to eat for breakfast the next day. That would be absurd.
So that’s the pie. What do we do with the rest?
The “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner — roast turkey, root vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffing and/or dressing, that green bean casserole nobody wants to admit they like — does well enough on its own the next day, if a little dry after the microwave.
Keeping to the basics, a little bit of water will help steam the tenderness back into stuffing and turkey. Mashed potatoes do well with a pool of gravy, but can also be reheated in a saucepan with just a splash of milk mixed in. Keep the heat around medium and stir to prevent any scorching, adjust seasoning accordingly.
Repurposing leftovers can liven things up as well and are likely Thanksgiving traditions of their own. Cold turkey sandwiches go well with cranberry relish and salad greens. The roasted turkey bones and vegetable scraps can be used for making a hearty soup broth that has the added bonus of making the house smell delightful for another few days.
If you’re not afraid to mix things up a little — and you don’t have picky eaters in your house — consider a festive take on a shepherd’s pie.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, with the rack in the center. Start with a glass baking dish, greased with either a non-stick cooking spray or a little bit of butter. Layer the leftover stuffing along the bottom of the dish so that it makes a savory crust.
Chop or shred your leftover turkey or ham and add that in over the stuffing, along with whatever leftover vegetables you may have. Layer in a ladle or two of gravy and mix things up a bit, leveling the casserole out with a spatula or spoon. The final touch will be adding mashed potatoes, which will seal in the flavors.
Layering cold mashed potatoes can be tough, especially if they are dry and starchy the next day. Consider putting them in a gallon freezer bag and cutting one of the bottom corners to create a piping bag. Seal the top of the bag and squeeze gently to make rows. Once that final layer is complete, brush the potatoes lightly with butter and bake for 25-35 minutes, until the very top is golden brown and the internal temperature of the pie is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Garnish this new festive turkey pie with crispy onions or more gravy and enjoy. This savory holiday pie can also be enjoyed for breakfast guilt free.
Do you have a favorite use for holiday leftovers? Share your creative ideas in the comments.