Shepherd's pie
A hearty shepherd's pie makes use of lots of leftovers. Photos by Anthony Saffery

Thanksgiving leftover creations

By JJ Gonson - November 22, 2006

Sometimes I think the only reason my family cooks the Thanksgiving meal is to make turkey sandwiches the day after - thick slices of bread spread with mayonnaise and piled high with stuffing, cranberry sauce and, of course, turkey. The first day they are a little bit of heaven. The second day you begin to take them for granted. The third day you groan, "No! Not another turkey sandwich!" but choke it down anyway, because you can't stand to waste all that food.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to even think of slighting the all-holy turkey sandwich, but this year, maybe after the first one, we might try something a little bit different? So, here's how I propose to go about using up those leftovers this year

Perhaps, we might start by thinking in a breakfasty vein? How about mashed potato pancakes with cranberry sauce topping? And how about serving them with some eggs and turkey hash?

Potato pancakes
Potato pancakes fry up to a golden brown.

Mashed potato pancakes with cranberry sauce topping
3 cups mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1Tbsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. flour
dash each salt and pepper

Mix together to form a batter that is thicker than pancake batter but thinner than mashed potatoes.

Drop in large spoonfuls into hot oil and fry on one side until the blob moves easily in the pan and is brown around the edges. (If it's not done enough, the cake will disintegrate, and can't really be saved). Flip and fry the other side to crispy brown.

Top with cranberry sauce heated in a sauce pan with a little water and lemon juice to thin (if it isn't thin enough already).

Turkey hash

Leftover turkey
Leftover sweet potato or yams
Boiled white potatoes (if you have them)

Pull apart the turkey, or chop it into smallish pieces, and dice the various potatoes. Sauté the onion until it begins to color and then add everything else. Mix together and fry in a hot skillet, stirring infrequently so it browns on the bottom. Serve topped with a fried egg and a side of catsup

For the next few recipes you'll need stock. So, before lunchtime, it's time to boil them bones. It's so easy that it's a shame not to, really. Turkey stock is wonderful stuff. It makes an excellent alternative to chicken stock in risotto, and freezes well, so you can keep it around all year.

Start by picking off whatever meat is left on your turkey carcass, set it aside and then break the bones apart a bit. Place them in a deep stock pot and just cover with water. Then add an onion, skin on but cut almost in half, leeks, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and a couple of carrots and celery sticks, untrimmed.

Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for at least an hour.

Season with salt and black pepper, strain off the bones and veggies and, when cool, pour into pints to freeze for later.

If you are ready to go the soup route, don't use the veggies you made your stock with, as they will be over cooked, mushy, and flavorless! In the Chilmark woods, Alice Early uses the starches from her Thanksgiving table to create a less brothy version of turkey soup. Long a tradition in her family, she has improved on the recipe she learned from her mother.

"My mother used to make turkey soup but it wasn't great." Alice says, "I realized she was putting the turkey in with the bones and cooking all the life out of it, then dicing up what was in the bottom of the pot and putting it back into the soup. Once I realized you have to save the turkey aside and add it later so it doesn't get lifeless, I was on my way to making a delicious soup." After her stock has cooled down, and she's strained and degreased it, she adds in her leftover vegetables and some stuffing and then whisks in mashed potatoes to thicken her soup. Finally she adds in diced leftover turkey meat.

For another light lunch soup, you can use some of that stock, any squash, carrot or sweet potato you have left, as well as some more of the ubiquitous mashers, and gently blend them into a creamy soup. Careful not to over whip, though. Potatoes of all kinds have a lot of starch in them, and if you throw them in a food processor or blender you might very well end up with a fragrant wallpaper paste. Take the potato masher or immersion blender to your concoction, and combine at will. You could even blend in a bit of pumpkin pie - but I think I would leave out the crust.

Now that we have breakfast and lunch pretty well covered, let's bring the old fella back for dinner. Alexis Garcia, British ex-pat, and West Tisbury baker extraordinaire, grew up with a tradition from her island of birth called bubble and squeak. Whether it was named for the sound in the pan, or the sound in your stomach after eating it, bubble and squeak has been a documented Monday night revival of Sunday's roast since at least the mid 1800s. Essentially, one heats fat in a pan and fries leftover mashed potatoes with cold cooked cabbage, or Brussels sprouts. Taking another page from the traditional British book of cookery, how about a turkey shepherd's pie? Do we dare? I think we do!

Turkey Shepherd's pie

If you haven't had time to do all that stock making for this recipe, and you've already finished off the gravy, please feel free to use whatever stock or bouillon you have about. I like Better than Bouillon - it's not too salty and doesn't have any nasty chemical aftertaste.

Mashed potatoes
Leftover turkey
1 large carrot
Leftover peas, green beans, Brussels sprouts, or any other leftover vegetables, cut into small pieces
2 cups leftover gravy
(or turkey stock or bouillon)
2 Tbsp. flour (if there is none in the gravy)
Olive oil

Dice onion and garlic and sauté in olive oil until fragrant. Dice carrot, add and continue to sauté for another few minutes. Dice and add turkey along with the remaining veggies, and stir. Sprinkle flour over the top and mix in. Pour in gravy (or stock) and simmer until the mix begins to thicken.

Pour into glass or ceramic baking pan and spread mashed potatoes over the top.

Make ridges in the potatoes with a fork and dot with butter.

Bake for 30-45 minutes until the inside is bubbly and the top is browning.

(Try not to think too hard about whether turkeys can be herded whilst eating.)

This last dinner idea, given to me by Stacy Jephcote, is my favorite. She suggests making raviolis by mashing leftover sweet potatoes with marscarpone and spices, filling wonton wrappers with the mixture and serving them with caramelized onions, spinach, walnuts (or pecans) and brown butter.

Clearly, the sky's the limit when it comes to leftovers. Desserts? Well, you can hardly improve on the originals, but I will leave you with one last thought from Alice, who says, "The one thing I almost never can use up is the cranberry orange sauce, but this year I think I'm going to experiment with folding some into muffins or scones."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May you enjoy your dinner, and all the meals to follow in the days soon after! u

JJ Gonson is a private chef who contributes occasional photos and stories to the Times. She operates Cuisine En Locale, an in-home dining service, in Cambridge, and comes to the Vineyard to cook and eat.