Have fun with Thanksgiving leftovers

Published 8:51 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We have been stirring and simmering and roasting our way at justapinch.com to what we hope is a most memorable Thanksgiving meal.

In fact, we love this time of year so much that we tend to throw every ounce of TLC we have into our favorite holiday recipes. Not the least of which is our beloved star player, the turkey! We build our menu around it and anxiously hope for “oohs” and “ahhs” when the platter hits the table.

After-Thanksgiving Turkey Casserole

But secretly, way down deep, we’re also looking forward to days and days of leftovers.

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I grew up enjoying even the plain turkey sandwiches my mom packed into my lunch pail. But as I’ve grown, I’ve come to realize that there’s so much more to be done with your leftover bird.

Home cook Brandi Kirkpatrick, for example, turns the notion of dry turkey sandwiches on end with her recipe for a juicy and delicious hot turkey version.

“This was one of my first-ever recipes,” recalls Brandi. “My college roommates loved it, and it’s a great way to use up leftover turkey.”

In our view, the magic of Brandi’s recipe really lies in her use of gravy as a sandwich topper. Cooked turkey and seasonal veggies laced with fresh thyme and topped with steaming gravy — it’s like placing the essence of Thanksgiving piled onto a hot buttered roll.

New Yorker Thea Pappalardo has a favorite use for using leftover turkey as well, as she explained in a recent submission to the Just A Pinch discussion group, “What’s Cookin’ Today.”

“Tonight is one of our favorite leftover turkey meals. I’m making pasta with turkey sauce,” says Thea. “My mother-in-law used to make this. It’s just a matter of mixing tomato paste and water with the leftover turkey gravy along with all the little bits of meat in the bottom of the pan. Add some salt and basil and put it in the oven to cook and thicken. When it’s good and thick, I mix it with cooked penne, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chow down.”

We love this idea. Those tasty bits in the bottom of your roasting pan are virtual flavor explosions, just bursting with richness. Incorporating them into a non-traditional tomato sauce takes ho-hum leftovers and gives them a come-and-get-me makeover.

And speaking of makeovers, how about turning your humble turkey into a super-comforting take on shepherd’s pie? Marsha Gardner reaches casserole nirvana with her favorite turkey and tater mash-up.

Start your own After-Thanksgiving Turkey Casserole by filling a baking dish with cubed turkey and veggies sauteed in butter and olive oil. Top with your leftover mashed potatoes — sweet potatoes work too — and sprinkle with a dusting of bright red paprika. Once baked you have a picture-perfect one-pot meal — a terrific way to spread the joy of the holiday throughout the entire week.

Thanksgiving is a time for coming together and celebrating the bounty of our lives. What better reason for a special meal shared with our loved ones?

We hope that you carry that sense of fulfillment and gratitude with you throughout the year. For every day is really worthy of thanks when we have food on our table and someone special to share it with.