Turn Thanksgiving leftovers into a knockout meal

Let’s admit that Thanksgiving Day leftovers, though familiar and comforting, are boring. But with the roasting, toasting and simmering already done, they make a blank canvas for the adventuresome cook.

Leftover turkey is perfect in a hearty soup or stew, whether or not you simmer up your own stock. Take turkey pho, the gingery Asian noodle soup. It’s quick and light, a slurpable warming meal in a bowl (see recipe).

My grandmother’s traditional stuffing is so fussy, I repurpose every crumb — top it with fried or scrambled eggs for brunch or turn it into a savory bread pudding. It inspired the mushroom croquettes (see recipe).

Mashed potatoes, spiked with chopped jalapeño and topped with Cheddar, make a lush potato gratin. Add them to soups and stews to give them body or use them to top turkey and vegetable shepherd’s pies.

Curried sweet potato bisque dispatches what’s left of the candied side dish. Just whir those sweet potatoes with coconut milk and your favorite spice mix into a velvety soup to garnish with cranberry sauce.

A spoonful or two of that brilliant cranberry sauce transforms a simple vinaigrette for salads or for glazing roast chicken or pork. Stirred into mayonnaise it’s a pretty pink sandwich spread or vegetable dip. Dollop the sauce on brie or cream cheese-topped crostini to spark things up. Blend it with yogurt into a smoothie. Stir in finely chopped crystallized ginger to spoon over vanilla ice cream.

Speaking of dessert, if you’re lucky enough to have leftover pecan pie, toss a slice in the food processor with a big scoop of coffee ice cream or, like my grandmother, simply warm it up and enjoy it for breakfast for a sweet start to the day.

This oversimplified version of the Vietnamese noodle soup comes together in minutes. Serve it with plenty of fresh garnishes — cilantro, chopped peppers, a wedge of lime. It’s the kind of soup you’ll want to slurp from the bowl.


Turkey Pho


1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

1 in. ginger root, shredded, to taste

8 to 10 c. turkey or chicken stock

2 to 3 tbsp. fish sauce, to taste

1 tbsp. honey

1 (8 to 10-oz.) pkg. rice noodles

1/2 c. thinly sliced scallions

1 tbsp. fresh lime juice, to taste

3 c. finely shredded cooked turkey

Diced red bell pepper, for garnish

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Red pepper flakes, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish


In a large Dutch oven or deep pot, combine the onions, ginger, stock, fish sauce and honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Add the scallions, lime juice and turkey to the pot, then stir in the noodles. Serve garnished with the diced red pepper, cilantro, red pepper flakes and lime wedges. Serves about 4 to 6.

– Recipe by Beth Dooley

These make a pretty appetizer or vegetarian main dish. Serve them with a dish of bright cranberry sauce.


Mushroom-Stuffing Cakes


2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

2 tsp. chopped parsley

1 large egg, beaten

1 c. cooked stuffing

Shot of hot sauce, optional

Milk or half-and-half, as needed

1/2 c. panko or dried breadcrumbs, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper

About 1/4 c. vegetable oil or more as needed to fry the mushroom patties

Cranberry sauce, for serving


In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the shallot, mushrooms, a pinch of salt and pepper, thyme and parsley. Toss, cover, reduce the heat and cook until the mushrooms are soft and have released their juices, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer the mushroom mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the egg, stuffing, hot sauce and add enough milk to make a soft dough. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes (it may also be held, covered, overnight). Using your hands, shape the dough into patties about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Spread the panko on a plate and dredge the patties in the panko to lightly coat.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour vegetable oil into a medium skillet (about 1/8-inch of oil) and set over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to ripple, place the patties in the skillet, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until nicely browned underneath, about 3 minutes, flip and continue frying until the second side is browned and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and hold in the warm oven while frying the remaining patties. Serve warm with the cranberry sauce on the side. Makes 8 to 10 croquettes.

– Recipe by Beth Dooley

Beth Dooley is the author of “The Perennial Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com/Tribune News Service

Tweak that leftover stuffing into appetizers with a few new ingredients. (Metro Creative Services)

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