Some of us are all about the main Thanksgiving feast, while others are already looking forward to the leftovers.
When it comes to turkey reinvention, many home cooks stick to the same old standbys: turkey soup, turkey tetrazzini, turkey sandwiches. Not that those classics aren’t delicious but we sought advice from chefs all over the state on how to up your leftovers game.
For many professional chefs, the transformative ideas come soon after they finish eating that slice of pumpkin pie.
“As soon as the meal is over and we’ve sat on the couch a little while, we all start brainstorming,” said chef Regan Stachler, owner of Little Hen restaurant in Apex. “I don’t want to relive the meal. I want to add to it.”
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Stachler’s go-to is using mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes. The method is simple: combine 1 cup cold mashed potatoes, 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour and whatever else you want (turkey, dressing, Brussels sprouts, corn). Form mixture into patties. Heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add patties, cover and cook for 6 minutes until bottom is crispy; flip and cook 4 more minutes. Serve with fresh dill, chives, parsley or sour cream.
Chef Joseph Fasy, owner of Hook & Cleaver Market on Broad, a butcher shop in Fuquay-Varina, turns leftover roasted sweet potatoes into the base for a hash, which also welcomes lots of leftover additions. Fasy’s hash can include diced turkey, green beans and carrots – topped, of course, with his version of cranberry sauce.
“My wife actually likes that better than Thanksgiving dinner,” Fasy said.
Chef Chris Coleman of Charlotte’s Stoke restaurant cuts his family’s mushroom dressing that turns out like a bread pudding into cubes. After crisping those cubes under the broiler, he adds shredded turkey, gravy and either a fried or poached egg. “You’ve got to take a gargantuan nap afterward, but it’s a good dish,” he said.
His other Thanksgiving leftover staple is his grandmother’s turkey barbecue sandwich. He makes her barbecue sauce by cooking down Coca-Cola, ketchup and sweet pickle brine until it is thick and syrupy. Add that sauce to the shredded dark meat turkey. “It’s the ultimate redneck food,” Coleman said, “but it’s fantastic.”
Chef Terra Ciotta, an instructor at the Art Institute of Charlotte and recent finalist in the statewide Competition Dining Series, has an affinity for the classics: turkey sandwiches, turkey pot pies and shepherd’s pie. But she also recommends combining stuffing and mashed potatoes to make croquettes: Form mixture into balls, roll in bread crumbs and fry. (This would work great for anyone who has leftover oil from deep fried turkey.)
Durham chef Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood Joint makes what he calls turkey scrapple, which is inspired by North Carolina’s liver pudding, a combination of pork parts and cornmeal. (It is known as scrapple in Pennsylvania Dutch country.) Moore takes the turkey carcass, covers it with water and cooks it down to make a gelatinous broth. Meanwhile, he browns diced leftover turkey with diced green peppers and onions. He adds that plus leftover cornbread dressing and chopped cooked collard greens to the broth. When it becomes a thick mixture, he pours it into loaf pans and lets it set overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, he slices, pan fries it and serves it with eggs or a cheese sauce and bacon.
Moore knows he’s succeeded when he hears this compliment from his two children, ages 12 and 7: “Oh wow! We had it yesterday, but it doesn’t taste the same.”
Sweet Potato Turkey Hash
Dark meat is best. Don’t worry if the hash doesn’t form a cohesive cake; it’s a hash and meant to be forgiving. From chef Joseph V. Fasy, owner of Hook and Cleaver Market on Broad in Fuquay-Varina.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed
2 pounds leftover baked sweet potatoes, diced
3 tablespoons sliced scallions, white and tender green parts only
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup any leftover vegetables, such carrots, green beans, corn or Brussels sprouts, diced
2 cups pulled leftover turkey
Port Tangerine Cranberry Conserve (recipe below)
Melt butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet or coated skillet on medium high heat. Saute to brown sweet potatoes, about 7 to 8 minutes
Add scallions, red pepper and heavy cream; cook for 3 to 4 minutes more.
Season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, allspice and cilantro. Stir to combine.
Add leftover vegetables and turkey. Lower heat to medium and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, starting to press on mixture to form a cake. May need to add more butter. Continue cooking until a crust forms on the bottom.
Place plate on top of hash, turn over skillet and transfer hash to plate. Add more butter if needed to skillet. Slide hash back into skillet so already browned side is facing up. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes more.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Cut into wedges and top with Port Tangerine Cranberry Conserve or leftover cranberry sauce.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Port Tangerine Cranberry Conserve
From chef Joseph V. Fasy, owner of Hook and Cleaver Market on Broad in Fuquay-Varina.
24 ounces fresh cranberries, washed and drained
2 to 3 tangerines (zest and 1/3 cup fresh juice)
1 cup 100 percent cranberry juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 cup sugar
12 ounces dried cranberries
2/3 cup good quality port wine
Place fresh cranberries, tangerine zest and juice, cranberry juice, ground cloves, cinnamon stick and minced fresh ginger in a saucepan.
Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 to10 minutes until soft; stirring occasionally.
Add the sugar, dried cranberries and port; cook gently until cranberries burst and sauce becomes pulpy.
Let cool to room temperature, remove cinnamon stick and refrigerate.
Yield: 4 to 5 cups