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Turning Those Turkey Leftovers Into Magic

November 25, 2009 By:
Linda Morel, JE Feature
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When I was growing up, we ate leftovers almost every night. On Mondays, my mother roasted a large hunk of meat and then, for days, she reheated the roast, until it grew as dry as cedar chips. This, of course, was done by design, so she wouldn't have to cook from scratch more than once a week.

It's not surprising that I developed an aversion to leftovers. After decades in the kitchen, I've become accurate at estimating how much food to purchase and prepare.

But holidays are an exception, and of all the holiday meals, I've found that Thanksgiving offers endless possibilities for turning leftovers into magic.

The day after Thanksgiving, I go to a bakery and buy an old-fashioned Jewish corn rye bread. By noon, I spread mayonnaise on the bread slices. On top of that, I lay pieces of turkey, mounds of cranberry relish and as much stuffing as I can find (warmed or cold). It's more delicious than you can imagine!

Although my husband likes to pick at a turkey carcass until it's bare, I don't let him do it because that would ruin any chance of making turkey-rice soup.

Turkey-Rice Soup

(Meat)

For people who prefer a generous portion of meat in their bowls, I add a split chicken breast to this comforting winter soup.

2 parsnips
6 carrots
6 celery stalks
1 large onion
2 Tbsps. parsley
2 Tbsps. dill
8 oz. package of mushrooms
12 string beans
1 turkey carcass (and leg bones, if you've saved them)
1 split chicken breast (2 pieces), optional
2 chicken bouillon cubes, plus 1 extra for the rice
kosher salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup uncooked rice or 1/2 container of rice from an Asian restaurant

Scrape the parsnips, carrots and celery with a vegetable peeler and dice them. Chop the onion, parsley and dill. Slice the mushrooms. Cut the string beans into 1-inch lengths. Reserve in a large bowl.

Place the turkey carcass, including leg bones and chicken breast, if using, into a large pot.

Add all remaining ingredients, except the rice and third bouillon cube. (Use salt sparingly because bouillon is salty.)

Pour enough water into the pot to cover the soup ingredients by 1 inch. Cover pot and heat on a high flame until water boils. Reduce flame so water is at a fast simmer.

Gently stir the turkey broth every 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, check broth for seasoning. Add more salt, if needed.

As soup simmers: In a small pot, stir the third bouillon cube into 2 cups of boiling water until dissolved. If using uncooked rice, prepare it according to package directions.

Then place the rice you prepared or the restaurant rice, if using, in a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl. Pour the bouillon water over rice. Leave rice in bouillon water for 10 to 30 minutes, until rice puffs up. (This step prevents the rice from absorbing the broth in your soup.) Drain rice in a colander.

After turkey broth has simmered for an hour or more, turn off flame. With a slotted utensil, remove turkey bones and chicken breasts, if using.

Cool to warm. Scrape any remaining turkey meat from bones and return meat to broth.

Discard the chicken skin. Remove chicken from bones and shred. Return chicken to broth. Discard all bones.

Add the rice and stir. Reheat soup and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6.

Turkey Tortillas

(Meat)

By adding Mexican spices to Thanksgiving turkey, you give it a surprising new identity.

1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsps. olive oil
1 green pepper, finely diced
3 Italian plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 Tbsps. cumin
2 Tbsps. chili powder
kosher salt to taste
4 cups diced roasted turkey, dark or light meat, or a combination of both
8 tortillas (71/2-inch in diameter) tortillas
8 tsps. salsa, hot or mild, bearing in mind, turkey mixture is a bit hot
2 ripe avocados, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 Tbsps. cilantro, minced

On a low-medium flame, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet, until glistening, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add green pepper and sauté until wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, red pepper, cumin, chili powder and salt. Raise heat to medium, and simmer until tomatoes wilt and give off sauce, about 5 minutes.

Add the turkey and stir well to combine. Reduce flame to low and stir occasionally until turkey is heated through, about 5 minutes.

Next, preheat a ridged griddle on a medium-high flame. Place tortillas two at a time on a hot griddle for 20 seconds per side. (Don't over-grill or tortillas will be too stiff.) Transfer tortillas to a plate and cover with foil until remaining tortillas are grilled.

Spread 1 teaspoon of salsa evenly on first tortilla. On top of salsa, spread 1/2 cup of the turkey mixture.

Place 2 to 3 avocado slices on turkey mixture, parallel to one another. Sprinkle a handful of shredded lettuce on top.

You can serve the tortilla flat, the traditional way, or roll the tortilla around the filling, going parallel to avocado.

Place on a platter seam-side down and sprinkle with cilantro. Continue filling the remaining tortillas in the same way. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Sweet Potato Soufflé

(Dairy)

Whipped Thanksgiving sweet potatoes or yams can have a second act -- as an elegant side dish.

1 cup leftover sweet potatoes that were whipped in a blender or food processor (can include melted marshmallows)
1/4 lb. sweet butter, melted; plus butter to coat pan
1 cup 2 percent milk
3 Tbsps. flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (if none was in original dish)
1/4 tsp. cardamom
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a deep 6-cup casserole or soufflé dish with butter.

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor; whip until well-combined.

Pour mixture into casserole.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until soufflé rises and feels firm in the center when gently tapped with a finger. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City.

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