When I was a lad (this would be some time ago), the worst day of the year was the Friday after Thanksgiving.
We were raised Roman Catholic, and my father classified turkey as meat on a can’t-eat-meat fasting day. We argued with him that, like chicken, it came from eggs and we ate eggs on Fridays and so … .
Our mother set the bird — or what remained of it after nine kids, two adults and the occasional visiting priest had had at it — in the downstairs refrigerator, covered with a moistened linen towel. We sibs would take turns just to look at it.
At the crack of midnight between Friday and Saturday, if we were still awake, my father allowed us to attack the leftovers.
The turkey in the sandwiches that we made tasted even better than it had 30 hours back.
Two times a year, just twice, Pepperidge Farm brand white bread is to be found in this St. John’s kitchen: in July and August, to make tomato sandwiches, and in November to fashion those leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.
(Recipe: Two slices Pepperidge Farm white bread; leftover turkey; a sliver of cranberry jelly; and a healthy slathering of Hellman’s mayonnaise.)
Why Pepperidge Farm? The pull of tradition, the bread’s handy firmness after a light toast, plus the good measure of sodium that it sports.
Any seasoned cook has a legion of uses for leftover turkey: hash, omelets, what used to be called casseroles but are now “one-pot” dinners, anything where scraps are more integral than they’d be alone.
But perhaps the best use of leftover turkey is its carcass, as the base for a rich broth or stock, so much of it that a bunch gets frozen for use long after the end of November.
Use turkey broth for onion soup, mushroom risotto, pork green chili, eggplant ratatouille, coq au vin, polenta or breakfast grits. Use it (or some of it) instead of water when mashing potatoes, preparing a rice pilaf, steaming vegetables or pork buns, poaching salmon, deglazing a pan, and for many a sauce.
The Thanksgiving turkey is the closest thing that we modern Americans have to the communal pig of olden days, slaughtered once a year and of which every single part is used.
This recipe for Turkey Monte Cristo sandwiches from Martha Stewart is going to give my Pepperidge Farm Dagwood a run for its money come Black Friday.
Turkey Monte Cristo
From Martha Stewart Living; makes 4 sandwiches
“This sandwich is usually pan-fried, but baking it instead means you can use less butter and make several at the same time,” Stewart writes. “It’s best to start with an excellent-quality whole loaf of Pullman bread, so you can cut it into the thick slices that make this sandwich so good.”
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, for brushing
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1¼ cups whole milk
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
½ cup cranberry sauce, coarsely chopped if chunky
8, ¾-inch-thick slices white bread, such as Pullman
12 ounces thinly sliced roast turkey
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat; brush with butter. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, whisk together eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread cranberry sauce on 4 slices of bread. Top with turkey; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese evenly over turkey. Top with remaining bread slices. Carefully transfer sandwiches to egg mixture and soak, pressing lightly with a spatula, 1 minute a side.
Transfer to baking sheet; bake 15 minutes. Flip and bake 7 minutes more. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
(Bill St John note: After the flip, sprinkle ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the sandwiches, if you wish a “croque monsieur” turn on the Monte Cristo.)
Leftover Mashed and Sweet Potato Crispy Pancakes
This one is my recipe. Years ago, I cooked up a leftover sweet potato pancake recipe from a Sonoma County winery. Adding other Thanksgiving leftovers, and using a technique that I fancy for leftover risotto rice, I came up with this recipe for crispy pancakes. Makes 6-8 servings, depending on size
2 tablespoons canola oil or ghee
2 small shallots, peeled and diced
1½ cups leftover mashed sweet potato
1½ cups leftover mashed potatoes
1½ cups leftover turkey, chopped
1½ cups leftover stuffing
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup canola oil or moderately flavored olive oil
Over medium-high heat, sweat shallots in 2 tablespoons oil or ghee. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and add in potatoes, turkey and stuffing, mixing well.
In a large non-skillet, heat ½ cup oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering and working in batches, drop potato mixture by ½ cupfuls into skillet; press to flatten slightly. Fry on each side until golden brown and heated through, 4-5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Turkey Carcass Soup
From Beverly Burton at allrecipes.com; makes 10 servings
“This easy and delicious turkey soup is made using leftovers from Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner,” Burton writes. “I usually make cornbread muffins to serve with it.”
1 picked-over turkey carcass
1½ cups leftover stuffing
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon ground sage
2½ quarts chicken broth
Garlic salt to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups (uncooked) regular long-grain white rice
1 (16 ounce) package frozen green peas
Place the turkey carcass in a large, deep pot, and add the stuffing, celery, carrots, onion, bay leaves, poultry seasoning, sage, and chicken broth. Pour in additional water if needed to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium, and simmer for about 1 hour, skimming off any foam.
Remove the carcass and any bones. Pick off any meat and return to the pot, discarding bones and skin. Season to taste with garlic salt and pepper. Stir in the rice and return to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in the peas, and continue to simmer until rice is tender, about 10 minutes more. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Bill St. John can be reached at bsjpost @gmail.com.