Thanksgiving is an enjoyable meal, but, in many ways, it’s more about the company than the food. I love what can be created from Thanksgiving leftovers. A 28-pound turkey for 9 people was no mistake. I was planning for leftovers.
On Friday, we had repeat Thanksgiving for lunch and dinner, that is, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, and, for me, pink jello mold. Now, it’s time to move on to creative use of leftovers.
The day before Thanksgiving, I always make a pot of turkey stock from any turkey parts in the freezer. Usually, I use the stock for the gravy and the stuffing, to maximize the turkeyness. Any leftover stock can be used to make turkey soup. As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post, we ended up with a tremendous amount of liquid in the roasting pan. It was enough for the gravy and the stuffing, with more left over. That leaves 6 quarts of day-before turkey stock in the refrigerator!
First order of business is a LARGE pot of turkey barley soup. This soup couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is cut things up and cook them in the pot. It’s quite flexible. Depending on what’s on hand, I’ve made it with different vegetables than these. I’ve also done this with orzo or other tiny pasta instead of barley. Here’s today’s version. (Normally, I make 2/3 of this recipe, but I was trying to make a dent in the stock.)
Turkey Barley Soup
3 cups sliced leeks (about 2 leeks)
2 cups sliced celery (about 4 stalks)
2 cups sliced carrots (about 4 carrots)
3 quarts (12 cups) turkey stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1½ cups pearl barley
2 cups diced cooked turkey
Combine vegetables, stock, and barley in a soup pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Barley should be tender. Add turkey, stir, and heat until turkey is warmed up. Serve.
- Parsnips, sliced like the carrots, or quartered mushrooms are nice additions.
- Substitute 1 cup dried orzo for the barley. Don’t add at the beginning, but after about 45 minutes. Cook until tender. Then add the turkey.
Another thing I like to make with Thanksgiving leftovers is turkey pot pie. My recipe has evolved over many, many years of leftovers. This is where any leftover vegetables usually end up. The gravy too, though I often need to make more gravy to have enough. My pot pies have a lot more vegetables than meat because that’s my preference. You could adjust according to your own tastes.
We had a nice assortment left from the veggies that Laury brought to Thanksgiving dinner: red and yellow beets, turnips, pearl onions, and carrots. I also had some leftover roasted squash in the fridge. I steamed some carrots and parsnips to round it out. This works with any combination of seasonal vegetables that you like. Here’s today’s version of turkey pot pie:
Turkey Pot Pie
1 Tbsp butter (I have to admit I used rendered turkey fat from the roasted bird)
1 or 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
6-7 cups of cooked vegetables (all the vegetables should be cut into bite-sized pieces, about ½ inch)
2 cups diced cooked turkey
2 cups turkey gravy (see below)
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, or whatever you have)
Pot Pie Topping (see below)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a large pot, melt the butter, and sauté the leeks until tender (about 5 minutes). Add remaining ingredients, and stir gently to combine well.
Pour filling into a 3-quart baking pan, and smooth the top.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pot pie topping to the size of your baking pan. Place the topping over the filling. It doesn’t have to cover exactly.
Bake for 30 minutes, until filling is bubbling and the topping is lightly brown.
¼ cup turkey drippings or fat (if you don’t have that, use vegetable oil)
¼ cup Wondra flour
2 cups turkey stock
In a medium saucepan, whisk the flour into the hot fat. Whisk until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually whisk in turkey stock. Continue to whisk until the gravy thickens, about 5 more minutes.
Pot Pie Topping
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 Tbsp (½ stick) butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup milk
In the food processor, combine the dry ingredients. Add butter, and process until the butter is cut in. The mixture will resemble corn meal or coarse sand. Add the milk, and pulse until the dough comes together.
On a floured surface, gently knead the dough a few times before rolling it out.
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone. It’s my favorite holiday, so there is always a great deal of anticipation as the day approaches. Plus, we were particularly excited to try our farm-fresh turkey.
This year, we couldn’t get the logistics to work out for travel to parts south. That means we were not going to be celebrating the holiday with family. However, the next best thing to your own family is your “chosen” family of friends. We were fortunate to share our table with some of our favorite friends.
As might be expected, my friends also enjoy cooking, so Laury, April, and I got together to plan the menu and divide up cooking responsibilities. Howard and I were hosts and cooked the core of the meal: turkey, gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. I also snuck in the relish tray that always appears on his family’s Thanksgiving table plus the pink jello mold that always appears on mine. April provided the pre-dinner nibbles: Asti, cheese, hummus, and black olive tapenade. Laury made all the vegetables: roasted beets, baby Brussels sprouts, a roasted vegetable medley with turnips, carrots, and pearl onions, and a fresh salad with her sister Judy’s always-perfect salad dressing. John made cranberry sauce, even though he wasn’t able to join us for dinner. Laury’s mother Edith also treated us to caviar appetizers.
After dinner, we travelled a few blocks away to April’s house for dessert. It was great to have a change of venue as the party continued. There were also a few new faces for company. Again, everyone contributed something. April made lemon squares and an apple caramel upside down cake. I made a pecan tart. Laury’s daughter Isabel made her very first pumpkin pie (and ate two whole pieces!).
The turkey was all we had hoped for. Farmers Kim and Rich of Chestnut Farms raised a very tasty bird. There was some anxiety when the turkey gave off an unexpected amount of liquid during its early hours of roasting. We drained off all the liquid (which I was able to use for the stock in the gravy) and just kept going. The end result was just fine. The meat was moist and full of flavor. It garnered kudos from all the eaters.
Going against the trend (based on the typical preference), our guests favored dark meat over white meat, so there was a lot of dark meat on the platter to see. Most surprising was just how dark the dark meat was. I don’t know whether it has to do with the leg muscles being well exercised as the turkey grazed in the pasture.
A few of the things I am thankful for this year:
- Having good friends living close by
- Seeing family (mine and Howard’s) regularly even though they are far away
- Finding and supporting a growing number of farmers and other local sources for the food we eat, not just on Thanksgiving, but everyday.