Some things are unavoidable: death, taxes, and Thanksgiving leftovers. With the absence of spectacular parades, exciting football games and relatives paying a visit from far away due to COVID, I’ll be preparing our Thanksgiving meal a little differently this year. Although I won’t be serving the masses as in times past, I’m still cooking up a storm.
Of all the holidays we celebrate, none is as important as Thanksgiving when it comes to the food. And for the cook, the traditional gathering of family is made even more enjoyable knowing that the fruits of our culinary labors will satisfy for weeks to come. While planning and preparing the mother of all feasts, I am secretly pleased to know that a week’s worth of meals is at hand. All of those extras are not only inevitable, they’re a welcome addition to tomorrow’s menu.
I love the leftovers so much, I have been known to roast two turkeys on Thanksgiving. Not only do I have four legs of dark meat, four crispy wings, and two wishbones for my family to fight over, I’ve plenty of meat to create delicious dishes in the days to come. Simple adaptations create something new. Mashed potatoes become potato cakes with the addition of milk and butter, nutty wild rice is a delicious salad served cold, and day-old bread makes crunchy croutons for soup. A teaspoon of prepared horseradish mixed into the cranberry relish makes a particularly tasty spread for the classic turkey sandwich. My family’s favorite? My version of the homemade TV dinner. Layer shredded turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and gravy in a pie tin; seal and freeze, and enjoy the taste of Thanksgiving long after the holiday memories have faded.
When it comes to holiday feasts, the leftovers from Thanksgiving are as much an institution as the tradition itself. So put your prior days’ efforts to work, take advantage of the inevitable, and transform your plenty into delicious dishes sure to comfort and please.
Serve with a simple tossed green salad and if there’s any gravy leftover, serve a little along side.
Savory Bread Pudding
8 leftover dinner rolls, torn into 2-inch pieces or 4 cups bread stuffing
12 ounces roast turkey, shredded
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1. In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces, turkey, cheese, onion, sage, and parsley. Spread the mixture in a gratin or shallow baking dish.
2. In the same bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and mustard and whisk together well. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the bread and sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until golden brown and the custard is set, approximately 40 minutes. Serve hot.