The last pass of Thanksgiving football and the balloons of Macy’s parade are but a foggy memory mashed between a food coma and holiday beverage haze. While wandering in and out from a tryptophan nap someone, somehow had the ambition to package the leftovers and get them into the fridge. Hopefully the dishes are done by some magical fairy who has now fluttered away to fairyland. Now maybe your tradition is to head out for the first big sales of the Christmas buying season, braving the crazy to bring home the deals. Or maybe your family gets out the cards/board games and enjoys a little family time. No matter your tradition, there is no greater holiday in my mind than Thanksgiving — cooking all day and breaking bread with those I love. One thing can be certain, there will be food to eat and more often than not there will be leftovers for days.
Pre-library, I was a food service worker of 20 years, working both in the back and frontend of restaurants, going so far as owning an organic from scratch (I know, so hippie of me) food cart with my wonderful husband. In my mind there is nothing more enduring than feeding people good life-sustaining food and sharing such a primal human event as breaking bread with those most cherished in life. Though I hung up my professional apron for a life of books, I am still an avid home cook. I find that cooking is often an extension of the moment and the ingredients that are available, and I prefer cooking through the lens of process rather than a rigid recipe. This view of cooking enables you to use what is available in your own pantry, substitution is Queen, and experimentation is encouraged. It is not a way of cooking with set ingredients or measurements; for all those who need a finite answer, these are not the recipes that you are looking for.
Several things to keep in mind while cooking: don’t be afraid to play with your food; taste, taste, taste as you go; and remember, cooking should be fun. After a full night’s rest and digestion, it’s time to get creative, as long as you’re not swearing off food altogether. I hope that you’ll enter into a culinary journey with me and create some wonderful edible memories.
First and foremost in our tour of leftovers: the classic Turkey stock. Versatile and delicious, stock can be used within a few days or easily freezes for use down the road and can bring flavor town to numerous different meals. You can substitute any other bones in this recipe or just use veggie ends to make a delicious veggie broth for year-long deliciousness!
Tools that you will need: a stock pot or slow cooker, strainer and containers for your bounty
Turkey Carcass (or any other meat bones, or veggie scraps) Onions, celery, carrots, garlic, any veggie ends leftover (starchy veggies will make the broth cloudy, you may want to avoid them)
Seasonings-bay leaves, cracked pepper, sage, salt, oregano, and/or thyme (once again all or none can be used)
Time to get our hands dirty, but first wash them!
-Start by peeling all or most of the meat off the carcass and putting aside.
-Chop up veggies in large somewhat equal sized chunks
-I like to add my seasonings to the pot first. It’s called blooming the seasonings and releases the aromatic oils.
Remember a little sage goes a long way, two bay leaves are always more than enough, and you can always add more salt.
Set your cooking vessel on low and make a little mound of seasoning. Starting with sage then layering in this order; oregano, thyme, cracked pepper, and salt (the bay leaves will be added with water). Don’t fret if the seasonings get added later –no biggie, remember, cooking should be fun.
-Take the carcass and break it into large pieces, or, if you have a large enough pot just shove the whole thing in. The bones just need to be comfortably submerged in liquid.
-Add veggies and 6-8 quarts water (enough to cover the ingredients). Let simmer for 3-4 hours checking stock and occasionally giving the liquid a good mixin’. If the bones are sticking out feel free to add more liquid or any more seasonings.
-At this time you can periodically skim the fat, or stir the fat in. I like to stir the fat in. I believe that it creates a richer product, but I like whole milk too.
-Once it has reached a delicious point, strain out and pour into containers. You can put some aside to use immediately, keep for a couple of days in the fridge, or package and freeze for later use.
-Some packaging ideas: put into ice cube trays for small servings or use zip lock bags (size is a personal preference) and put them on cookie trays to freeze solid. (This is helpful if you have limited freezer space, as once they are frozen you can remove the cookie tray and stack tightly in the freezer.) Or use reusable plastic containers.
Voila, all done. Easy peasy.
Now for breakfast – my personal favorite meal of the day. This dish does not have to be limited to the morning hours and is delicious any time of day.
This is a very versatile recipe and can be used as a template for any number of frittata combinations. It can also range in size from a 4 egg 2-3 person meal to a 12 egg 6-8 person dish.
Tools: an oven-safe pan, either Pyrex or cast iron (size will depend on amount of people
and/or leftovers), a whisk or fork and a large mixing bowl
-Stuffing (this will act as your crust)
-Butter or other high heat oil (i.e. coconut, safflower, or vegetable; do not use olive oil)
-Eggs (depending on size, I lean towards 2 eggs per person with a 4 egg minimum)
-Milk or milk substitute (can also use a little sour cream in addition to milk to make the egg mixture fluffier)
-Green bean casserole
-What else is left over? Did you have a cheese plate (I am a fan of feta in this dish)? How about some root veggies like beets or onions? Chop ‘em up and add ‘em in. Are there some collards or kale and black eyed peas left? They also make great additions. Don’t mind a little sweet/tart? Add in some cranberries.
-Heat oven to 375*
-Oil whatever pan you are using and press leftover stuffing in pan as a crust.
You want the crust to be an even thickness. Sprinkle a little oil on top and bake for about 15-20 minutes (cooking time will be a little shorter if using a cast iron vs Pyrex) until the crust has a little crispness to it but not yet browning.
-While crust is baking crack eggs into a separate bowl. Let’s say you are using a standard rectangle casserole dish, I would use 12 eggs. Pour in about a cup of milk (if you are working with the 12 egg pan). If you have some sour cream I would add about a ¼ cup at this point, too.
-WHISK, whisk your little heart out. You want air in there so that the eggs become nice and fluffy when they bake.
-Once the eggs are nicely whisked add in shredded turkey, a couple big spoons of green bean casserole, cheese and whatever other goodies that are left. Stir in ingredients until nicely coated and evenly distributed.
-Pour over stuffing crust and bake for approx. 25-30 minutes; when you poke a fork or knife into eggs they should no longer be runny and the top should be a nice golden brown.
-If you have any leftover nuts you can add them to the top as it cools; either way cut and enjoy!
Last but definitely not least, Thanksgiving Pizza
The crust can go a couple of different ways, store bought (no judgie!) or homemade. Don’t worry, pizza crust is very simple and can be loads of fun. I will give you a couple of variations. I like to let the dough proof at least overnight, and two days creates the most flavorful crust, but the recipe can be used within about an hour. You can also freeze the extra crust for use down the road. If you are using store bought crust please skip down to the step titled It’s Pizza Time (and once again no judgie; well, o.k. a little judgie…)
-Mixer (helpful but can mix by hand)
-Large bowl for proofing
-Plastic wrap and/or kitchen towel
-2 ½-3 cups Unbleached, unbromated white flour (you can use regular old white flour but it will not be as flavorful or nutritious)
-1 ½ cup lukewarm water (no warmer than 120*, anything warmer will kill the yeast)
-1 package instant yeast
-2 tsp Salt
-1 tbl sugar or honey
-¼ cup olive oil
-Optional- ½ cup Beer (a maltier beer works the best, anything too hoppy and the crust will become bitter)
-First you need to wake up the yeast by combining the warm water (this is where you would add in the beer substitute, if using beer subtract ½ cup water), yeast and sugar/honey. Let the ingredients do their magic. You can use whatever mixing vessel that will be used throughout the dough process. You will know that the yeast is alive and doing its magic once the mixture starts bubbling and growing, about 5-15 minutes..
-Once you are sure that the yeast buddies are activated, start adding in the flour (This is where a mixer comes in handy; set to a low speed.) I like to add the flour slowly while mixing. You can always add more but it is difficult to take it out. Add in the salt at this time and let the dough mix for about 2-3 min. If you are hand mixing do not be afraid to get your hands dirty — just dive on in and start turning the dough over. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl yet still be a little sticky, and all flour should be incorporated. You cannot overmix pizza dough.
-Add olive oil and turn the mixer up to a medium setting. Let it whip around for 5 minutes. If you are hand mixing, here is the time to practice your kneading skills! Sometimes I like to finish the mixing by hand just to get a good feel of the dough. I want it to be a little sticky, somewhat springy, and downright velvety. As it proofs, the moisture content will be sucked up into the flour and create beautiful gluten bonds. The dough should be a little wetter than you may realize at first, but the more that you use the recipe the more that texture will become second nature.
Pizza peel or large cutting board
Pizza stone, large cast iron or sheet pan
Pizza cutter or large knife
If you are wanting to use the dough on the same day: roll the dough into a ball and lightly coat with olive oil, place back into mixing bowl and cover with either plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let the dough sit in a warm, dry location for about an hour or until it doubles in size. Times will vary due to temperature and atmospheric conditions. Once the dough has risen, break up into smaller balls. (I like to do three equal-size balls for a 10-12 inch pizza.).
If you are letting proof overnight, a couple days or freezing: Once the dough is thoroughly mixed, break up into desired size ( 2-3 balls per batch) roll into balls and coat with olive oil. If you are allowing to proof, the best way is to coat with oil and place in a large tightly covered container, then into the fridge. Leave each ball enough room to expand without getting too intertwined within the others. If you don’t have a large enough container, loosely wrap individual balls in plastic wrap, (then place on a cookie sheet or large container so that the dough has room to expand. This will slow the fermentation process and produce a fluffy, nutty crisp crust. If you are freezing, roll in olive oil and wrap in plastic wrap, then place the wrapped balls into a large freezer bag.
To thaw dough: Pull dough from freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature. Do not water bath or microwave dough. Once it is fully thawed, you can use as regular dough.
Rollin’: Flour your surface and pat the dough ball into a disc. Keep stretching by hand or with a rolling pin, adding flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Now if you are adventurous, you can try your hand at tossing: once you have a nice flat disc, flour and spin. Centrifugal force is what spreads the dough evenly. Overnight or two-day proofed dough works the best for this method. Don’t be disheartened if it takes some practice — it is an art form!
It’s Pizza Time:
Heat oven to 425* If you have a pizza stone or a large cast iron pan, preheat them with the oven. If you do not have either of those tools, you can use a sheet pan but do not preheat with the oven.
Lightly dust either a pizza peel or large cutting board with cornmeal, place dough on cornmeal surface. Now this is where homemade dough or store bought dough meet in the Thanksgiving Pizza process. With a large spoon spread gravy evenly over crust. The rest of the ingredients will depend on what you have left over and taste buds. The fun thing with several crusts is that you can make different pizzas for different taste buds.
I like to do a light mozzarella cheese or discs of fresh mozzarella, then some shredded turkey, sweet potato, or mashed potato blobs, then when the pizza comes out I throw some cranberry sauce on the top. Cook until the top is a nice golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. Pull from the oven and enjoy!
Happy start to the holiday season! Please take a moment out of the busy season to appreciate what we have instead of thinking of what we want. Hug and love those you appreciate in life and grace each other with quality time. The world will be a better place for a little reflection in life. Whatever you create with your leftovers, I hope that your Thanksgiving is filled with kindness, laughter and good food.