Two People and a 17-pound Turkey

November 30, 2020

Two People and a 17-pound Turkey

Delicious ideas for leftover turkey. 
Written by Mary Kay Allen,

A couple of those odd 2020 headlines caught my attention recently:

“Small turkeys in short supply for Thanksgiving”

“Turkey Tetrazzini is most googled food term on Friday following Thanksgiving”

Yep, some of us took home large turkeys for small Thanksgiving dinners this year.  Now, we have marvelous turkey meat. Classic dishes that utilize leftover turkey include the aforementioned tetrazzini, shepherd’s pie, and potpie. While I find these delicious, this year I’m trying to think outside the bird a bit. We had our classic dinner on Thanksgiving Day, followed by a simple reheat of the dinner on Friday, as is our tradition. The meat was then stripped from the bones and refrigerated. The carcass was parked in a big ol’ soup pot with carrots, celery and herbs, then covered with water for an overnight simmer, yielding eleven quarts of rich and golden turkey stock. The cold meat was separated into half-pound packages of dark and white meat.  Breast meat was divided into both thinly sliced meat for my husband’s beloved deli-style sandwiches, and thicker slices for dinner entrees. The small bits were reserved for soup. Now securely frozen, these prized packages will be the stars of upcoming meals.

So…let’s talk turkey! I think of those packages as meat, rather than leftovers. Just a little attitude reset. Turkey is mild flavored and versatile, readily taking on the cook’s preferred flavor profile. I look to poultry dishes I enjoy, then modify them to star the turkey. A recipe for chicken braise turns into turkey ragu by roasting the vegetables and lemon slices sans chicken, then chopping them together with black olives and white meat turkey to be served on polenta. Pulled turkey sandwiches with BBQ sauce and Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches are some of our favorites. Cubed turkey fits nicely into grain bowls or as filling for crepes, enchiladas or burritos. My thicker slices of white meat, gently heated and napped with our CSA mole sauce will be amazing. Fried rice with Asian seasoned turkey? You bet.

Roasted turkey readily substitutes for raw ground meat by grinding or finely chopping it in a food processor. Turkey loaf, chili and sloppy Joes are easy places to use turkey. I use minced dark meat turkey like Italian sausage, sautéing in a bit of rendered bacon fat for a touch of pork flavor, then seasoning with parsley, fennel seeds, cayenne and Italian seasoning. This makes delicious filling for calzones and pasta shells, or topping for pizza.

And don’t forget soup! Family tradition dictates that my first batch of turkey soup is my Mom’s turkey rice variety, but golden rich broth and turkey bits make terrific avgolomono, tortilla soup, turkey noodle and pho.  

And the meat is already cooked, conveniently waiting for me to use it. I just might plan to order a large turkey again next year…

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