Creative things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers
You may have had to unbuckle your belt and loosen up your pants after that third plate of food from Thanksgiving dinner last night. You also probably promised yourself that you would start your New Year’s resolution to start dieting and get in shape early.
But let’s be honest, that was never going to happen.
Like the rest of us, you woke up with only one plan post-Thanksgiving: eating your Thanksgiving leftovers.
However, instead of dumping everything onto a plate and throwing it in the microwave, there are better ways to use your leftovers to make a delicious meal.
We spoke to a number of chefs from around the US, and this is how they plan to use their leftovers.
Victoria Blamey, Gotham Bar & Grill (NYC)
Turkey is without question the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving dinner tables. Whether you roasted it, deep fried it or went above and beyond and made a turducken, turkey is usually abundantly available the next day.
“I love to take leftover turkey meat and cube it, heat up a cast-iron pan with a ton of pork fat, and add the turkey and cook it until it’s crispy, to make turkey crisps,” Blamey, executive chef at Gotham Bar & Grill in New York, tells CNN. “I spread the turkey crisps on toasted and buttered brioche or ciabatta bread, add a dash of Cholula or Tapatio hot sauce. You can also add some sauerkraut and avocado if you want.”
Of course, if you’re understandably a bit lethargic after eating so much the night before, Blamey offers a simpler version: “Just fry the turkey in the pork fat, and put it on bread with melted cheese. It’s a perfect breakfast.”
Matt Abdoo, Pig Beach (NYC)
Underrated and generally not the focus of many dinners, a great stuffing is the unspoken MVP of many Thanksgiving meals.
“My favorite dish for Thanksgiving is probably the stuffing!” Abdoo tells CNN. “I love it loaded with herbs and sausage for a really flavorful dish.”
“Taking leftover stuffing, you can mix it with some egg and a bit of chicken stock to loosen and bind it. With this batter, you can either fry it into small pancakes, or even better, load it into a waffle iron for a crunchy and satisfying base.”
And if you have any other leftovers, Abdoo likes to include them in brunch the following day as well.
“With that, I like to cook up breakfast sausage and add some of the leftover Turkey gravy for a simple sausage gravy, and load that on the waffles with either a fried egg or a scoop of tart cranberry sauce to balance everything out,” said Abdoo. “I love this dish because it uses up so many of my favorite Thanksgiving leftovers, while still feeling completely new and fresh! It’s crunchy, rich, and with the cranberry sauce has a really beautiful acidic kick.”
Michael Lomonaco, Hudson Yards Grill and Porter House Bar & Grill (NYC)
“I love roasted turkey — this is my once a year fix,” Lomonaco tells CNN. “I can eat it for three days straight, in a salad, in soup or in a turkey hash.”
“I like to take the turkey and anything else from the dinner, including sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberries, and make Saturday brunch turkey hash: shredded or diced turkey, saute in butter, add some roasted sweets or potatoes, and cook until crisp on the bottom. Then add some heavy cream and top with a poached or fried egg for a perfect brunch as you send everyone off for touch football.”
Anya Fernald, Belcampo Meat Co. (Los Angeles, NYC)
Fernald likes to finely chop leftover turkey meat to make a Bolognese, and then go one step further and make a lasagna with it.
“In Italy, cooked meats are used extensively in Bolognese and ragu,” Fernald tells CNN. “We don’t do that much in the US, but it’s really delicious.”
Fernald also likes to take the stuffing and mix it into scrambled eggs to make frittatas.
“I love frittatas, and I love Bolognese,” Fernald said. “Both are rich and filling, which is great as the weather turns cold.”
Melissa Perello, M. Georgina (Los Angeles)
Perello always finds that she has a lot of leftover ingredients such as vegetables, bread from the stuffing and stock.
“So, I’ll make a leftover turkey panade, which is a delicious casserole-like dish,” Perello said. “Best part is you can put whatever leftovers you have in it. I make a really flavorful rich broth with the turkey bones and carcass, and if I have extras, I’ll add mushrooms, celery, onion, etc.”
Perello then soaks any leftover bread torn into pieces with the stock and adds in any additional veggies she has on hand along with shredded turkey. She recommends adding in butter and cheese and then baking it until the liquid evaporates and it gets golden and crusty.
“It’s great for breakfast the next day and works well as a hearty slice to accompany turkey and dumplings, turkey soup, or even just to snack on standing around in the kitchen,” Perello said. “Isn’t that how all leftovers should be eaten?”
Greg Baxtrom, Olmsted and Maison Yaki (NYC)
You need to balance out all that turkey with some vegetables. One of the most commonly found vegetable dishes on most tables are brussels sprouts.
“I love those really roasted and caramelized brussels sprouts, it’s so simple but it just feels like the perfect easy classic Thanksgiving dish to me,” Baxtrom tells CNN. “For leftovers, it’s great to toss them in a pan with a bit of bacon that’s been rendered, and then just before serving top with a shaving of winter truffles.”
Green bean casserole is also a common Thanksgiving side dish, and as a midwesterner, Baxtrom grew up eating a version with creamy mushrooms and frizzled crispy onions on top.
“I’m actually using that dish as inspiration for a fun menu I’m doing at the restaurant all about Thanksgiving leftovers and turning my favorite casserole recipe into Green Bean Casserole Shakshuka, where I bake eggs into the casserole and top it with toasted croutons made from leftover buttery brioche,” Baxtrom said.
“Lastly, we would often have leftover pumpkins that would be used as decorations, or some squash that would be simply roasted on the table. This year I’m making pumpkin and chestnut bread (great if you have roasted chestnuts out for people to snack on, and inevitably some are left over!), which I’m serving with cinnamon butter. It’s also great to thicken some cranberry sauce into preserves, and use that instead of jam. The tanginess of the cranberries cuts through the buttery richness of the bread.”