How to handle Thanksgiving leftovers: North Fork Chef

Leftover Thanksgiving turkey and gravy are perfect for these turkey pot pies. (Credit: John Ross)

Leftovers from the annual Thanksgiving feast are not like other leftovers. They are something special that we look forward to — sometimes as much as the original meal. We put so much work into Thanksgiving dinner that, somehow, we must make it last a little longer. Here are some of my favorite ways to use that turkey left over the weekend:

General Instructions
After the Thanksgiving meal is over, be sure to refrigerate the turkey carcass and other leftovers as soon as possible. Make a large amount of gravy so that you have enough for the leftover meal. Refrigerate the gravy in a shallow container so that it cools quickly.

The day after, remove all the meat that you can from the turkey carcass. For the larger sections, cut them into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Chop the small scraps with a chef’s knife and put them in a separate bowl. Peel the skin off of the larger pieces and dice it up finely to use in croquettes.

Turkey Croquettes
You will need about 4 cups finely chopped, cooked turkey meat plus any of the skin that is left over. You will also need about 1 1/2 cups cold leftover turkey gravy.

Begin by finely dicing 1 cup onion and 1/2 cup celery.

Heat a sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons butter. Cook the onion and celery at low heat until soft, about 5 minutes.

Stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, 12 chopped sage leaves, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Place the chopped turkey and the chopped skin in a large bowl and add the onion mixture. Add the cold turkey gravy and toss to combine with a rubber spatula.

Beat 1 egg and fold it into the mixture along with 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs).

Cut the crusts off half a loaf of French bread and dice it into cubes. Add the bread to your food processor and process until fine. Place the fresh bread crumbs in a shallow pan.

Break 1 egg into a bowl and beat in 1 tablespoon water with a dinner fork. Using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop out the turkey mixture and form it into balls. Roll the balls in the fresh crumbs and place on a foil-lined sheet pan. Form each ball into a croquette with your fingers, squeezing each croquette into a pyramid shape. Chill the croquettes for at least 30 minutes.

Close to service time, put the croquettes into a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes and serve with hot gravy and cranberry sauce on the side.

Makes 8-10 croquettes.

Turkey Pot Pie
You will need about 4 cups diced turkey and about 2 cups turkey gravy.

Thaw in the refrigerator 1 sheet of frozen commercial puff pastry.

Peel and dice 3 carrots, 2 parsnips, 1 cup diced winter turnip (rutabaga) and 2 medium-size potatoes. Place all of the vegetables in a steamer pan and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add to the steamer 1 package frozen pearl onions and 1 package frozen peas. Cook briefly and set aside.

Heat a large, shallow saucepan and add 2 tablespoons butter. Add 1 package of sliced mushrooms and cook until moisture is released, then remove.

Add another tablespoon butter to the pan along with 1 diced leek (white part), 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves. Cook at low heat until leeks soften.

Add the turkey gravy and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Bring to a boil and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.

Add the diced turkey and all of the steamed vegetables and mushrooms. Simmer for 10 minutes and add 1/4 cup chopped parsley.

Place the thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a 12-inch square.

Place a ceramic ramekin on the pastry and cut out a circle to fit. Repeat 4 times and set the pastry circles aside.

Fill each ramekin with the turkey mixture and lay the puff pastry on top. Using the scraps of puff pastry make decorations (such as a star) and place them on the pastry. Beat 1 egg with a teaspoon of water and brush onto the puff pastry.

Place the ramekins in a 400-degree oven and cook for 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

Serves 4 plus a little left over.

Cranberries
Fresh cranberries are a huge part of the Thanksgiving meal and the leftovers that follow. Over the many years that we cooked Thanksgiving dinner at my restaurant, the two favorite cranberry sauces were cranberry chutney and the simple cranberry relish. We served both of them at every table. Here are the recipes:

Cranberry Chutney
Rinse 1 package (3 cups) of fresh cranberries and place in a saucepan. Add 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 cup water.

Bring to a boil and simmer until cranberries burst, about 10 minutes.

Peel, core and cut 1 cooking apple into 1/4-inch dice; mince 1/4 cup shallots; chop 1/2 cup walnuts; and dice 1/2 cup celery. Add these ingredients to the cranberries and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve either warm or cold.

Cranberry Relish
Rinse 1 package of fresh cranberries and place in a bowl.

Trim the ends off of 2 oranges and cut them into quarters, leaving the skin on. Cut the quarters in half and place in a bowl. Run the cranberries and oranges through a meat grinder with the coarse blade. (If you don’t have a meat grinder, use a food processor and pulse to chop).

Combine the cranberries and oranges in a large bowl and stir in 1/2 cup sugar. Taste for sweetness and chill.

John Ross