It’s said every year that Thanksgiving leftovers are the best part of the feast. But to be honest, I’m not keen on hefty sandwiches dripping with gravy. I am, however, determined to repurpose the traditional dishes that took me days to create — my grandmother’s chestnut stuffing and my dad’s bourbon-maple sweet potatoes. But no way will I jumble them all together in a hot dish.
After Thanksgiving, a day of exhilaration and exhaustion, I crave light, bright easy meals fashioned from the feast’s fixings. Here are a few recipes and ideas for turning those leftovers into dishes that lift spirits, stimulate weary appetites and clear tryptophanned-out brains.
Mashed Potato and Onion Cake: Cook chopped onion and plenty of garlic in melted butter until soft. Stir into mashed potatoes with a grating of nutmeg and turn into a generously buttered gratin dish. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and croutons made from the stuffing (or toasted breadcrumbs) and bake at 350 degrees until browned and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Stuffing Stuffed Peppers: Cut the tops off several bell peppers, remove the seeds and ribs, and pack with leftover stuffing. Top with shredded Cheddar cheese and drizzle with melted butter. Set on a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until the peppers are tender and the stuffing is heated through, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Cranberry Maple Smoothie: In a blender, whir together a cup of almond or regular milk, ¼ cup leftover cranberry sauce, 1 small banana, ¼ cup ice cubes until frothy and thick.
Turkey Noodle Soup With Asian Spices
Note: This light soup is sparked with ginger and chili. Mint and cilantro, added at the end, give it a bright, bold finish. From Beth Dooley.
• 3 1/2 oz. rice noodles, broken into 6-in. lengths
• 6 to 7 c. turkey or chicken stock
• 1/3 c. sliced green onions
• 1-in. fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin
• Generous pinch red pepper flakes
• 2 tbsp. soy sauce, and more to taste
• 2 c. diced cooked turkey meat (about 10 oz.)
• 1 to 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar, or to taste
• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
Put the rice noodles in a large bowl and pour enough boiling water over them to cover; set aside until the noodles are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain.
In a large pot, combine the stock, green onions, ginger, red pepper flakes and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the ginger slices. Stir in the drained noodles and turkey, and continue cooking until heated through. Season to taste with the vinegar and more soy sauce. Serve the soup garnished with the chopped cilantro and mint.
Sweet Potato (or Roast Squash) Waffles
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Here’s how to use up those sweet potatoes. Serve these drizzled with warm maple syrup and a dollop of cranberry sauce. From Beth Dooley.
• 2 1/2 c. flour
• 2 tbsp. sugar
• 1 tbsp. baking powder
• 2 tsp. ground ginger
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 1/2 c. milk
• 1 c. mashed and cooked sweet potatoes or squash
• 4 eggs
• 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
• Vegetable oil for greasing waffle iron
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, sweet potatoes, eggs and melted butter. Stir the sweet potato mixture into the dry mixture until just blended; some lumps will remain.
Set a wire rack over a baking pan. Heat a waffle iron to medium-high and lightly brush the waffle iron grids with vegetable oil. Ladle about ½ cup batter into the center of the iron, close and cook until the waffles are golden, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the waffles to the wire rack and hold in the warm oven until ready to serve. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Turkey Apple Salad with Cranberry-Maple Vinaigrette
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: Here’s a turkey salad with plenty of spark. You can make the vinaigrette a day ahead and assemble the whole thing last-minute. Store leftover vinaigrette in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It’s great drizzled over roasted chicken or pork. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. chopped shallot
• 1/3 c. cider vinegar
• 1/4 c. cranberry sauce
• 2 tbsp. maple syrup
• 1 tsp. coarse Dijon mustard
• 2/3 c. vegetable oil
• 1/2 to 3/4 lb. cubed cooked turkey
• 2 tart apples, cored and cubed
• 2 green onions, white parts sliced
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 5 to 6 oz. mixed salad greens
• Stuffing Croutons (see recipe) or toasted walnuts, optional
To make the dressing: In a blender, pulse together the shallot, vinegar, cranberry sauce, maple syrup and mustard. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream.
For the salad: In a medium bowl, toss the turkey, apples and green onions with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on top of the mixed greens and garnish with the Stuffing Croutons or toasted walnuts.
Makes 2 cups.
Note: These snack-worthy croutons are delicious tossed in a salad, on top of soup, or stew. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 2 c. stuffing
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a baking sheet with the vegetable oil. Turn the leftover stuffing onto a baking sheet tray and pat it out to a 1/2 -inch-thick rectangle. Bake the stuffing until it’s firm and dark as toast, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Once cooled, these may be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
Turkey Bánh Mì
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Bánh mì the Vietnamese hoagie, layers two cultures in a crisp baguette. Sharp, hot and sweet flavors are the perfect antidote to turkey fatigue. From Beth Dooley.
• 2 tbsp. sesame or vegetable oil
• 1/4 c. chopped onion
• 8 to 10 oz. shredded turkey meat with skin on
• 1 to 2 tbsp. Asian chili sauce, to taste, plus more as needed
• Several splashes soy sauce
• Several splashes rice wine vinegar, plus more as needed
• Ground black pepper, to taste
• 2 (10 to 12-in.) baguettes, sliced in half horizontally and quartered vertically
• 4 to 6 tbsp. good quality prepared mayonnaise, or more as needed
• 1/2 c. shredded carrot
• 1/2 c. shredded daikon or radish
• 1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced
• Salt, to taste
Heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion and turkey until the turkey is hot and begins to brown and crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with the chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar and pinch of black pepper. Remove and set aside.
Preheat the broiler to high. Generously slather the cut side of the baguettes with the mayonnaise and arrange on a baking sheet and broil until hot and crusty, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and immediately pile on equal amounts of the turkey, carrot, daikon or radish, cilantro and cucumber slices. Season with more chili sauce and vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Put the top halves of the baguettes on the filling and serve immediately.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.