Figuring out what to do with your Thanksgiving dinner leftovers isn’t usually a big problem unless you’ve really overestimated your crowd.
From tomorrow’s sandwiches to soups and just plain old second helpings days later, it’s likely you’ll find a home for just about every morsel of food remaining after the last family member reluctantly pushes away from the dinner table.
Being both a chef I find myself in a rather unusual situation. I love a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but obviously, I can’t eat a whole turkey by myself, let alone even a modest-sized batch of stuffing. But I found a perfect solution, and it’s one you can use this year with your leftovers. Best of all, it doesn’t require buying even more ingredients (like a batch of soup does).
In truth, I kinda do this backwards. With my schedule, the week of Thanksgiving at Nino’s is pretty hectic, so I actually make my Thanksgiving dinners a week before. This offers another benefit: I can relax and enjoy the day.
I begin by roasting my turkey (usually about 12 lbs). Then I chill it and slice off all the meat.
I deglaze the roasting juices from the pan, add them to a large pot with all the turkey bones, and prepare a hearty broth that I reduce and make into wonderful gravy–a few quarts’ worth.
While the gravy is simmering, I make a big batch of stuffing, and I’m ready to assemble my Thanksgiving dinners.
Now, I’ve gone to the trouble of buying a length of 4″-diameter plastic PVC tubing, which I’ve then cut into 3″-high ring forms. However, you can use any similar diameter small bowl, ramekin or even a large coffee cup. It will work just as well.
What I then do is lightly spray my mold with vegetable spray and place a large piece of plastic wrap on top, which I press down into the cavity, leaving enough extra around the top to fold over. The vegetable spray trick helps to release your final package from its mold.
First, I add ¼ cup gravy and then a half cup stuffing and a nice portion of sliced turkey meat (both light and dark). I press everything down and then finish with more gravy and fold over the plastic wrap.
I place each finished package on a cookie sheet, freeze the lot, and then remove them into a larger plastic container (about the size of a shoe box).
Now, you can also do this (in the same size or smaller mold) with your mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, candied yams and similar dishes.
I can typically get about 10 to 12 really nice dinners from a 10- to 12-pound bird (which is a rather small turkey), and that same-sized bird can provide enough broth to add some natural turkey flavor to my stuffing and make all the gravy I need.
Reheating my little “feasts” can be done quite easily in either the microwave oven (covered with some plastic film) or, in a 350 F oven (covered with foil) for about 20 minutes. If reheating in a traditional oven, I’d recommend you thaw your meal overnight in the refrigerator to lessen the time you’ll have it in your oven. Both reheating methods work well and you’ll be happy with the results.
It’s great to enjoy the tradition of a Thanksgiving dinner anytime, without having to go to all the trouble of roasting a turkey for hours. It works out great for me!
You might want to try this convenient tip on just some of your leftovers. If you find it works well for you, plan ahead for your leftovers next year and make these turkey dinners “TO GO” for your freezer.