It was a few days before Thanksgiving, and I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. In between the latest annoying political posts, dog photos, and the carefully curated achievements of my “friends’” kids, something caught my eye — a new way to repurpose Thanksgiving leftovers.
Every year we host Thanksgiving dinner for anywhere from a dozen to 18 people, depending on who can make it. And every year I overestimate how much food, especially turkey, we need to cook. It’s better than the other way around, I suppose, but there’s always a lot of food left over even after we send people away with doggie bags.
There are only so many open-face turkey sandwiches you can eat.
On Sunday, with the last of our leftovers in the fridge and a New England Patriots game on that afternoon, we decided to give “turkey lasagna” a try. There are no noodles. The name comes from the layering of each leftover.
It all starts with a casserole dish. In this case, we used a 9-by-9 pan, but you can use whatever size best fits your leftover situation. After spraying the bottom with cooking spray, we put a one-inch layer of stuffing packed with a rubber spatula. And, just like lasagna, we were were on to the next layer.
We still had about three-quarters of a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce on hand. We spread that out in a ¼-inch layer above the stuffing. You could probably use your homemade cranberry relish, as well, but I’m a big fan of the Ocean Spray stuff from a can. It probably comes from growing up in Plymouth, where the cranberry cooperative once had its world headquarters.
Next, we had just enough turkey left to add a generous layer of white meat above the cranberry sauce.
Once that was in place, we filled the rest of the casserole dish to the brim with mashed potatoes — about 2½ inches thick. In my opinion, there’s never too much mashed potatoes. I always drive my wife a little nuts by insisting we need to cook more potatoes. But I’m a willing peeler, so she humors me. (Also, that one year I cooked 20 pounds of potatoes, the kids loved the latkes she would make in the morning. Mashed potatoes never go to waste, ever.)
Finally, the video recipe called for sprinkling the top with grated cheese. We used a store-bought four-cheese mixture we had purchased for a homemade pizza, but just about any cheese you have on hand would work just fine.
We preheated the oven to 350° and put the casserole in for 20 minutes. When the buzzer went off, the cheese was melted, but we wanted a little color to it, so we put the dish under a low broiler for five more minutes.
When we took the casserole out of the oven, we let it set up for five minutes while we heated up what remained of my wife’s incredible turkey gravy. She’s always made spectacular gravy from the pan drippings, but this year she took the time to make giblet gravy with one of our two birds, and it was scrumptious.
We cut pieces about the size of a lasagna slice and poured heated gravy over the top. It had the texture of a shepherd’s pie, which we also enjoy making in these months that beg for comfort food.
It was a big hit with us and the friends we invited over to watch Sunday’s game.
“The only problem is how can you eat just one piece,” my wife said after her first bite.
I thought it was yummy. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical about the cranberry sauce, mostly because I’ve always had it either cold or at room temperature. But the cranberry sauce added a sweetness that contrasted nicely with the savory meat, potatoes, and stuffing.
I’m pretty sure we have a new staple to add to our post-Thanksgiving leftover repertoire, but I’m not sure I want to wait 12 months to have it again. Maybe I’ll convince the family to have a turkey dinner for Christmas this year. I better start peeling potatoes now.