Ming Tsai loves Thanksgiving because it’s the only holiday that is purely about food. But he doesn’t just cook for the day itself—he buys at least 10 extra pounds of turkey to use as leftovers. While turkey sandwiches and stuffing frittata are popular ways to use up leftovers around his house, nothing beats his turkey soup.
After carving the turkey, Tsai pops the wings, bones, and drippings in the stockpot with a mirepoix (a chopped mixture of celery, onions and carrots) and turns on the heat. “Literally, before the pumpkin pie is served, my soup is simmering,” he says. Tsai never goes to bed on Thanksgiving night without having a bowl. “I probably look forward to that as much as I do to the turkey itself.”
“You put so much work into the meal that to treat it like everyday leftovers is wrong—give those leftovers some respect.”
For Food Network chef Sunny Anderson, whipping the turkey day leftovers into a new creation is a matter of necessity. “I’m a person that gets food fatigue,” she says, “plus you put so much work into the meal that to treat it like everyday leftovers is wrong—give those leftovers some respect. " Use extra stuffing to make tasty fried bites or turn green bean casserole into turkey pot pie to retain the essence of the meal without subjecting the eater to a repeat of the big feast or to dried-out reheated turkey. Plus, as Anderson points out, “times are tough. You might as well make every singe penny you invest in your Thanksgiving dinner work for you.”
Here are a few tips on how to make great leftovers from our chefs:
- If you have to reheat, do it in chicken broth or the jus from the roast. BONUS TIP: If you blow it and overcook the turkey on the big day, slice it up and put it in chicken stock before serving to make it moist.
- Cook your turkey all the way through. "One way to ensure that your turkey's going to be fine is to let it rest 20 minutes on your cutting board, it will go up a few degrees just by resting," says Tsai.
- Never store leftovers while they’re still warm, especially if they’re covered. The temperature danger zone for food is 40 °F-140 °F, temperatures where bacteria flourish, according to the USDA. Put a hot plate of potatoes in your fridge and you could heat up the whole zone. Covered plates cool slower.
- For an off-the hip dinner, try frittata à la Ming with leftover stuffing. Simply heat the leftovers in a little butter or oil, add a bunch of eggs, whole or whisked, and bake until done. A little cheese or cream in the eggs can be nice, and don’t forget gravy on the side.
- Nothing beats a turkey sandwich. BONUS TIP: Skip the stuffing and go fifty-fifty on mustard and mayo.
- Most of all, Anderson said, “Have fun with it, don't forget, there's always the freezer and in two or three weeks something might taste good.”
Ming Tsai is the host and executive producer of the public television show Simply Ming, and author of Blue Ginger: East Meets West Cooking with Ming Tsai, Simply Ming, and Ming's Master Recipes. Sunny Anderson is the host of Food Network shows Cooking for Real and How’d That Get On My Plate? She owns and runs the catering business Sunny’s Delicious Dishes.
Ming's Turkey-Rice Soup
Turkey carcass, wings if not eating
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 bulb, fennel, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 whole black peppercorns
2 carrots, diced 1/4-inch pieces
2 medium onion, diced 1/4-inch pieces
2 celery ribs, diced 1/4-inch pieces
1 bulb fennel, diced 1/4-inch pieces
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cups leftover cooked shredded turkey meat, dark or white
2 cups leftover cooked rice, white or brown
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley, for garnish
In a large stockpot, combine turkey carcass and wings, carrots, onions, celery, fennel, thyme and peppercorns and add water to cover (about 4 quarts). Bring to a simmer and cook for two hours (you're looking for a 25% reduction). Strain broth into saucepot. Add carrots, onion, celery, fennel and thyme and simmer until softened, about 10 minutes. Check for flavor and season with soy sauce. Add shredded turkey and cooked rice. Check flavor and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle chopped parsley in soup just before serving.
copyright 2008 Ming Tsai
Sunny Anderson’s Fried Stuffing Bites with Cranberry Sauce Pesto
2 teaspoons milk
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup cranberry sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts
Oil, for frying
Directions: Preheat oil to 350 degrees F. Cut leftover stuffing into bite-sized cubes and set aside. In a small bowl whisk eggs and milk. Coat each stuffing bite with this egg wash, then dredge in the bread crumbs until fully coated and set aside. In a food processor blend cranberry sauce, pepper and walnuts and set aside. Once oil is at temperature fry each piece of stuffing until golden brown about 4 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and serve with cranberry pesto.
Sunny Anderson’s Second Day Turkey and String Bean Pot Pies
4 servings or 4 cups Leftover Green Bean Casserole
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup turkey, beef, or chicken stock
1 cup roasted turkey meat, chopped
2 standard puff pastry sheets
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl lightly blend leftover green bean casserole with milk, stock and turkey. Using the puff pastry, cut out 6 (4-inch) disks from each sheet. Lightly press the disks into the bottom and up the sides of 6 (1-cup) muffin tins, leaving about 1/2-inch crust over the edge to secure the top. Press the tines of the fork into the bottom and the sides to dock the pastry. Fill each cup level with the top and cover with another cut circle. Secure the edges by pinching together. Cut a small hole in the top for steam. Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.