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Turkey Turkey


Thanksgiving is a week away and though we’re planning a small family dinner, I still opted to buy the massive frozen turkey on sale at the grocery store. Why? I plan to make a barrage of leftover turkey meals that can be frozen in the deep freezer and enjoyed in the coming weeks.

The key to meal prepping with the intent to freeze is eliminating the air, both in stored cooked meals or meals requiring further cooking. Bacteria reside in air and freezer burn happens when foods are exposed to stagnant frozen air. Using a vacuum seal is ideal, but not every kitchen (including mine) has the right equipment. The best workaround is pressing down the food using plastic wrap, then a freezer bag, being sure to push out as much air as possible that could be trapped around the food.


Turkey broth, which is easily made using the leftover turkey bones, skin, some aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaf, spices, and as much water as can fit in a stockpot can be used in nearly every way that chicken broth is used. I honestly don’t measure when making stock. I throw everything in the pot, including generous amounts of kosher salt, and allow it to simmer for hours. Yes, hours. Then I turn it off and forget about it until it’s cooled to room temperature. Take a strainer and strain out all of the vegetables, meats, bones, and bay leaf, leaving a delicious turkey broth ready for soups and stews. A great storing trick for homemade broth is freezing some with ice cube trays, and then pulling out the number of broth cubes you need for future recipes.

Like chicken, turkey can be used in most dishes. If chicken works, so do turkey. What I like to do with much of the leftover turkey is save some portions divided into one-pound sections. I’ll chop the meat, weigh it, wrap it in plastic wrap, then store it in the freezer bag. One pound typically works well for most recipes. Since the turkey is already cooked, it’s easy to thaw and mix in something new or just eat it straight.

Leftover turkey recipes are plentiful on nearly any food website. Excellent websites to peruse for ideas include The Food Network, Epicurious, Delish, Once Upon a Chef, Simple Recipes, Taste of Home, just to list a few. My personal favorites are the following:

  • Open-Faced Hodgepodge Thanksgiving Sandwich: This delicious leftover treat can contain whatever leftovers you’d like. Using a slice of gluten-free multigrain bread (or your sandwich bread of choice), I layer cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potato, and turkey. Andy prefers his with mashed red potatoes and gluten-filled stuffing;

  • Turkey & Wild Rice Soup: I’ll simmer turkey broth, leftover turkey, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and when serving, spoon in cooked white with wild rice. If you cook the rice with the soup, it gets too mushy for my taste so I prefer adding to bowls when serving;

  • Turkey & Egg Breakfast Casserole: Whisk eggs with some milk or cream. In a baking dish, add leftover turkey with vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, or broccoli. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes for a delicious Thanksgiving-inspired breakfast casserole. Use a toothpick to test for doneness before removing from the oven. Cooking time may vary depending on your add-ins;

  • Homemade Turkey Alfredo with Pasta: Homemade Alfredo sauce is delicious and incredibly easy. Melt about 4 tablespoons of butter, whisk in about 3 tablespoons of (gluten-free) flour, and slowly whisk in about a cup of heavy whipping cream. You can lighten it up with whole milk or a combination. Once the sauce has thickened, add a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Cook pasta according to package directions, then combine with the sauce and chopped leftover turkey and leftover vegetables like green beans;

  • Turkey Nachos/Tacos/Taquitos: Using corn tortillas or tortilla chips, fill or top with leftover turkey, canned black or pinto beans, shredded cheese (like cheddar or a Mexican blend), and preferred vegetables, like diced tomatoes, sliced avocado, shredded cabbage or lettuce. Top with your favorite salsa, sour cream, or guacamole.

  • Make-Your-Own Turkey Casserole: This can be a combination of any leftovers you have or new ingredients. Combine equal amounts of turkey, starch (rice, quinoa, or potato), and miscellaneous vegetables. You can make a cheese sauce (like the Alfredo using cheddar or other easily melted cheese) or use cream of something soup (I prefer cream of mushroom from scratch). Combine and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

I know Thanksgiving this year will not look the same. Because of COVID, most families are foregoing the large family gatherings and plan to enjoy a nice meal within their households. Even though Thanksgiving may be smaller this year, a large turkey is still worth the time and investment. Your leftovers will keep you satisfied until Christmas.


Enjoy!

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