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Thanksgiving turkey leftovers again? Plan on it

By Donna Ellis

10:29 AM EST, November 20, 2012

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Dad could carve slices from a turkey so thin you could almost see through them. The idea, of course, was to feed a crowd, and to have leftovers for those all-important turkey sandwiches (hot and cold) and turkey soup. Such surgical skills are clearly not genetic, but we still carve the bird with an eye toward leftovers. Indeed, each Turkey Day it's tempting to roast two birds — one to share at the table and as doggie bags, and one to hide from guests so I can gorge on leftovers for days, and nights, to come. Last year, we actually did. And the anticipation of yummy stuff to come was yet another reason to offer extra hearty thanks at the holiday table.

With the understanding that not everyone in the family is quite as enthusiastic about leftovers (or any kind), our exercise du jour is to share some approaches to your post-Thanksgiving bounty that may stimulate your creativity, and, of course, your family's collective appetite.

But first, a little hint: Carving a turkey into thin slices is one approach to assuring happy diners and even happier family cooks after the party's over. One way to accomplish this is to plan your turkey cooking time to include about one-and-one-half hours after it comes out of the oven before you carve it.

Not to worry, it won't get all dry and crumbly, IF when you remove it from the oven, you cover it with damp kitchen towels, then cover the towels loosely with aluminum foil. This allows the turkey to cool slowly, and as the steam rises through the towels toward the foil, it is re-moisturized. Another plus to this approach is that if the turkey isn't quite as done as you though, the steam helps cook the bird further while still keeping it tender and moist.

Another hint is gather the family for pix starring them and the turkey, then taking it into the kitchen to be carved, while the gang sets out all the side dishes. Slice thinly, white and dark meat, and arrange in pretty platters with lots of parsley. They'll love it, and you'll be in charge of the leftovers.

Now, next day…

Turkey turnovers

We take advantage of several favorite Turkey Day leftovers with this easy main dish that's something of a take-off on hot turkey sandwiches. We use the turkey, of course, but also mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy. Serve the leftover green beans and root vegetables on the side.

The only "special" items you'll need are frozen puff pastry, and parchment paper.

Note: These go together quickly, but you need to chill the pastries for 20 minutes before baking.

3 cups diced cooked turkey

3/4 cup chilled gravy

2 (17.3-ounce) packages frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes, divided

1 1/2 cups stuffing, divided

2 egg whites, beaten to blend with 2 teaspoons cold water (for glaze)

Cranberry sauce and/or sauerkraut, for serving

Additional gravy, heated, for serving, optional

In a small bowl, mix together turkey and gravy. On a floured surface, roll out all 4 pastry sheets into 12-inch long rectangles. Cut out 2 (6-inch) rounds from each pastry sheet. Place each round on one 8- to 9-inch parchment square.

Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons mashed potatoes onto one half of each pastry round. Press lightly to flatten, leaving a half-inch border all around. Top potatoes with 2 to 3 tablespoons stuffing, then about one-third cup of the turkey. Brush egg white glaze around edges of round. Fold plain half of the pastry round over the filled half to cover. Crimp with a fork all the way around edges. Continue with remaining pastry rounds and filling. Arrange turnovers, including parchment paper, on 2 baking sheets.

Use a fork to crimp edges of each turnover one more time. Chill turnovers 20 minutes.

While chilling, heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush turnovers with leftover egg white glaze, then cut small slits in tops to allow for venting. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until puffed and golden, 25 to 35 minutes longer. Serve with cranberry sauce and/or sauerkraut. Makes 8.

Turkey BBQ

For some of us, a turkey sandwich means turkey and stuffing. After the stuffing's gone, a "plain" turkey sandwich can lose its appeal. Unless you combine the poultry with a few other ingredients and magically turn it into a whole different approach to a sandwich supper.

In true Southern style, we even provide the slaw to go with. You could also heat up some barbecue beans to go with.

Slaw

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3/4 teaspoon celery seeds

3 cups thinly sliced cabbage (a red and green combo is fun)

1 cup finely shredded carrots

BBQ sauce

4 slices applewood smoked bacon, chopped

1 1/2 cups tomato puree (not paste)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3 or more cups shredded (or finely chopped) cooked turkey

6 soft rolls, e.g. onion, egg, sesame, lightly toasted

For the slaw:] In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar and celery seeds. Taste for pepper, and salt if using. Add cabbage and carrots and toss to blend. Cover and chill.

For the BBQ:] in a medium saucepan, over medium heat, sauté bacon until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomato puree, vinegar, water, brown sugar, chili powder and cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Taste for seasonings. Add turkey, bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and stir just until turkey is heated through. Divide turkey and slaw among rolls. Serve warm. Makes 6 sandwiches.

Wild turkey "chowdah"

OK, so now you're down to the bones and the meat that's still on them. No waste is allowed, especially in this economy. So, the night before or the morning of the evening in which you want to serve the soup, get that carcass out of the fridge, place it in a large soup pot, cover it with water, add a couple of bay leaves and a few sprigs of any other fresh herbs you have around, bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover and simmer for a couple of hours. Let cool enough to handle, then remove any meat from the bones.

And while you're at it, cook the wild rice.

Now you can discard the carcass, but not before you've removed the wishbone, which you'll dry, then have a couple of family members wish upon it.

See? You've made turkey stock. Or, go ahead, just buy enough reduced fat/sodium chicken broth to make 10 cups, and use whatever turkey meat you have left.

2 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup wild rice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

6 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), diced

12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup diced carrots

2 celery stalks, diced

1/2 cup chopped sweet (Vidalia) onions

1/3 cup flour

10 cups turkey stock (or chicken broth)

1/2 teaspoon each, dried crushed rosemary and dried thyme

3 to 4 cups chopped cooked turkey

1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels

1 cup half and half

Chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley, garnish

For the rice: In a medium saucepan, bring the 2 1/2 cups water and rice to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender but still firm, 45 to 60 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, over medium, heat vegetable oil. Add pancetta and cook until browned and soft, stirring often about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels.

Add mushrooms to pot and cook until just beginning to brown, 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add butter to same pot. Add carrots and celery, cover and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add onions and stir until soft, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir 1 minute, until flour is smooth. Return mushrooms to pot. Add turkey stock (or chicken broth), rosemary and thyme, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Add wild rice, pancetta, turkey meat and corn. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in half and half and simmer, uncovered, 5 more minutes. Taste for seasonings. Serve garnished with parsley. Makes 8 to 10 servings.