There's nothing wrong with slapping together some bread, mayo and turkey in the days following Thanksgiving. But eating what seems like an endless stream of cold sandwiches after the holiday can get a bit dull.
So avoid getting stuck in the boring leftovers rut; these recipes from local chefs and food experts will make creative use of your post-Thanksgiving fixings.
John Shields is a fixture at his restaurant, Gertrude's. But not on Thanksgiving — that's his time to relax and enjoy reconnecting with family.
"I'm not a chef that day," Shields said. "I'm just a cook at home making the family meal."
Shields said he has many Thanksgiving memories of his mother and grandmother fighting for dominance in the kitchen.
"My grandmother and mother were like oil and water," he said. "It could get wild, with them wrestling with the turkey in the morning."
Shields' family traditionally used all parts of the turkey to make leftover dishes, including turkey noodle soup, turkey salad, and grilled turkey sandwiches.
"You can get all kinds of cool things," he said.
Here is Shields' turkey pot pie with a sweet potato crust.
Turkey pot pie
Makes 6 to 8 servings
For the filling:
15 pearl onions (or one cup diced onion)
1 cup medium diced carrots
1 cup medium diced celery
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
4 - 5 cups turkey or vegetable stock
4 cups (approximately) diced leftover turkey, both white and dark meats
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, combine the pearl onions, carrots, celery, corn and peas. Pour in only enough of the stock to cover. Simmer until tender. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid. Arrange turkey meat and vegetables in a 4-quart baking dish.
To make the sauce, melt butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in reserved cooking liquid and enough turkey stock to equal 3 cups, and the cream. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. Season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour over the turkey and the vegetables.
For the sweet potato pastry (makes one 12-inch crust):
1 - 2 sweet potatoes (enough to yield 1 1/2 cups mashed)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes until soft, 40 to 60 minutes, depending on size. Prick with a fork when half-cooked to prevent potatoes from bursting. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and mash. Chill.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the chilled sweet potatoes, shortening and eggs and with a pastry blender, or two knives, or your fingertips, work in the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it to a size that will fit your baking dish.
Roll out the pastry and fit it over the top of the baking dish, crimping the edges. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and the filling is piping hot. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Connie Crabtree-Burritt has been cooking professionally for about 40 years, now with Baltimore Outreach Services.
Thanksgiving, Crabtree-Burritt said, is a very important holiday for her family.
"For the past 30 years I have made Thanksgiving dinner," she said. "I don't get tired of it. What could be better than to have five carbs on the table at one time?"
Crabtree-Burritt said leftovers don't need to take a back seat to the main meal.
"To reproduce the meal the next day is even better than the first day," she said. "All my friends want to show up and eat our leftovers."
Crabtree-Burritt recommended turkey a la king with crispy waffles. She said this meal is great for brunch or supper, and pairs well with a crisp sparkling wine.
Turkey a la king
Makes 6 to 8 servings
For the crispy waffles:
1 envelope dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups milk, warmed to room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
At least 8 hours before cooking, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the milk, oil, salt, sugar and flour, and whisk to blend. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
Add the eggs and baking soda and mix well. The batter will be thin. Pour 1/2- to 3/4-cup portions of the batter onto a hot waffle iron. Cook until brown and crisp.
For the turkey a la king:
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups roasted turkey, skin removed and meat chopped or shredded
1/2 cup frozen peas
Saute the onions and mushrooms in the butter in a sauce pan until tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and cook until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring constantly. Add the cream, white pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat and add the turkey and peas.
Cook until heated through. Serve over waffles.
Donna Crivello, chef and owner of Donna's, said to create the best holiday meals, a balance must be struck.
"When you get around to the holidays, people have very fixed ideas about what they want to eat and make," Crivello said. "[But] you can be so creative with it. You have to find something that's going to make you feel like you're making something you like and at the same time satisfy the traditionalist."
Crivello said that when it comes to leftovers, certain parts of the turkey are better than others.
"The best pieces of turkey to save would be thigh and leg meat so that it would be tender," she said. Crivello recommended using leftover turkey to make risotto. She advised adding any cooked meat or vegetables at the 20 minute mark, shortly before it's ready. She said some other leftovers that can add flavor or texture to the risotto include roasted diced carrots, parsnips, apples, pears, butternut squash and dried cranberries.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon saffron or 12 threads (optional)
8-9 cups turkey stock (see recipe)
2 cups diced turkey (preferably thigh or leg meat)
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley)
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese (or any soft cheese you wish)
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, cranberries (optional)
Coat the bottom of large wide skillet (with rather high sides) with olive oil. Bring temperature to medium high.
Add 2 tablespoons of butter. As the butter bubbles, add the onion cook until soft, not brown, then add the rice. Stir (with wooden spoon) coating the rice with oil and butter (about 4 minutes).
Add wine, and saffron if using. Stir for 2-3 minutes until rice absorbs the wine. Have hot stock ready. Using a 4-ounce ladle, add two ladles of stock.
As the rice absorbs the stock (do not let the rice stick), add another ladle of stock.
Keep temperature on medium high. Continue this process of adding stock, stirring, and waiting until rice absorbs the liquid. After about 20 minutes the rice should be almost ready.
Add turkey and any of the optional ingredients.
Taste the risotto. Add salt and herbs, and more liquid to keep risotto creamy. Remove from heat. Stir in cheeses and softened butter. Finish with more herbs and grated cheese and serve hot.
For the stock:
1-2 large onions
1-2 celery stalks
1-2 bay leaves
sprigs of herbs
fresh parsley (stems will work)
Place turkey carcass in a large pot. Add the onions, cut into chunks. Add thecarrots and celery stalks, also cut into chunks. Add bay leaves, sprigs of herbs, fresh parsley and peppercorns. Cover with water. Bring to boil, then simmer for 45-50 minutes.
Strain liquid from vegetables and bones and toss them out.
Matthew Kane, chef de cuisine at B&O American Brasserie, said everybody in his family takes turns cooking holiday meals.
"Depending on who's doing the meal, we'll make sure that everybody brings something and that we're all working together," Kane said.
Kane said he once suggested trying roast duck for Thanksgiving dinner to his family. The look on their faces taught him that he would have to sacrifice creativity for tradition.
"[Thanksgiving is] all food that people are comfortable with," he said. "At the end of the day, I've still got to make sure people want to eat it."
But Kane said people should strive for creativity in their use of Thanksgiving leftovers.
"If for no other reason, it gives you a reason to eat leftovers," he said. "We've all been to those Thanksgivings where the hosts are trying to push the [leftovers] off on everyone else. You spent the money on it, so you should use it."
Kane recommended a roasted turkey cassoulet with sage dressing. He said his family often adds other leftovers into the cassoulet, such as sauerkraut, sweet potatoes, sausage and green beans.
Roasted turkey cassoulet
Makes 4-6 servings
2 bay leaves
olive oil, as needed
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup white wine
2 pounds leftover turkey, pulled and shredded
2 cups chicken stock or turkey stock
1 pound white beans, dried
2 sprigs of thyme, cleaned and chopped
2 cups leftover stuffing
Pre-cooking preparation: Soak beans in water overnight and cook beans in salted water with bay leaf at a rolling boil.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onions, and garlic, and cook until they start to color. Deglaze pan with white wine, and reduce by half. Add turkey and stock and bring to a hard simmer. Transfer to slow cooker or casserole dish and add beans and thyme. Mix and let cook until liquid thickens. Final consistency should be similar to a hearty stew.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Before serving, top cassoulet with leftover stuffing. Bake in the oven until the stuffing is crispy and golden brown.
Kerry Dunnington, author of "Planet Kitchen Table: Recipes for a Sustainable Future in Food," said the holidays don't stress her out.
"I feel like Thanksgiving is the port before the storm," she said. "It's the beginning of all the wonderful festivities that are forthcoming. I think it's a great time of year."
Both sides of her family, Dunnington said, have always had different traditional Thanksgiving dinners.
"On my father's side of the family, we traditionally had sauerkraut, and on my mother's side we always had corn pudding," Dunnington said. "On my father's side, we ate earlier in the day, and my mother's side we went later. It was interesting to see both sides of the tradition."
Dunnington said there are a number of different ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers, including heating stuffing to a crispy texture and serving a poached egg on top. She also suggested making a turkey soup.
Turkey and vegetable soup with corn dumplings
Makes 4 to 6 servings
For the soup:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
4 cups turkey, vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups cooked turkey, torn into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
For the corn dumplings:
1/2 cup yellow corn flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grindings of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/8 cup water
In a large pot, heat canola oil over moderate heat and saute onion until translucent. Add carrots, celery, parsley and broth. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add turkey and season with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Simmer until you've added the dumplings.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. When the water has boiled, reduce heat slightly — the water should be rumbling. (Keep the water rumbling while you prepare the dumplings.) In a medium bowl, combine the corn flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the canola oil and water. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture and combine until fully incorporated.
Shape mixture into balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Add dumplings one at a time to the rumbling water. When all the dumplings have been added to the water, cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove dumplings and transfer to the soup. Serve immediately.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published Nov. 25, 2013.