I think my love of restaurants dates back to my childhood. We were lucky; we always had food on the table and never went hungry, although some of those dishes were not exactly tasty. They were basic low-cost meals of the time: Tuna casserole made with canned ingredients, salmon patties (made with canned salmon) and my personal non-favorite, the baked beans rolled up inside of bologna slices.
Still, healthier than the fast food diet so many American kids live on today.
But we rarely went out to eat. Oh, once in a blue moon we maybe had something from the drive through, but for most of my early years the only time we ate at a real sit down restaurant would be on Thanksgiving Day when we went to the NCO club on an Air Force base. There were servers and white tablecloths and real silverware and always these long tables laden with cornucopias filled with oranges and nuts and sweets. The only problem: no leftovers.
Years later, Mom would take to cooking huge holiday feasts at home and as a college student or young professional I got to take home tons of Tupperware and foil wrapped packages of goodies. Enough food to last for a week.
For the past many years I’ve basically gone back to dining out on Thanksgiving, but last year I just bought everything from Central Market (oh, that jalapeno cornbread stuffing!) which suits me just fine as I love to spend the day lounging in front of the TV watching the Macy’s Day Parade and Hallmark movies while eating and drinking. Which means plenty of leftovers.
Now, if you want to dine out on T-Day, there are plenty of options. Which leads me to wonder what those chefs who are working will be eating. For John Turner of the new Blackfinn American Grille, after his shift he’ll head home where his grandma and mother will handle the all the food.
“If I even go in the kitchen,” he says, “I’d get slapped.”
But The French Cowboy, Philippe Schmit, is less traditional. After his work is done at Philippe Restaurant + Lounge he says he’ll just grab a pizza.
But that’s because he’ll have plenty of leftovers from the restaurant and he’s sharing a few tips on just what you can do with those.
Thanksgiving leftover suggestions From the French Cowboy
1. Turkey Club Sandwich with leftover bread, turkey shard, toast layered with turkey, coleslaw and Cajun mayonnaise, lettuce and a touch of cranberry spread.
2. Pot pie with diced white and dark meat mix with root vegetable gravy, a touch of cream (optional), topped with Swiss cheese and mozzarella and sealed with puff pastry from your neighborhood gourmet store.
3. Crostini of leftover turkey — Leftover bread toasted (bite size) spread on lightly a horse radish mayonnaise then lay out a small spoon of turkey meat, folded with gravy, topped with cranberry compote transformed as a chutney adding caramelized honey, vinegar and five spices.
4. Thin crepes (French style made from scratch but involving a mix of flour, eggs, milk and butter) or corn enchilada filled with turkey meat, stuffing, gravy and root vegetables or (spice and fresh herbs optional), mushrooms.
5. Turkey Thai chicken salad with Boston lettuce, snow peas, soy beans, red pepper julienne, shitake and a dressing made of mustard, ketchup, honey, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil.
6. Turkey Parmentier or Sheppard’s Pie — In a gratin dish: mix of turkey meat, gravy, mushroom, topped with shredded braised kale then covered with leftover mashed potatoes. Sprinkle cheese on top (cheddar, mozzarella), then bake 15 minutes until gratinée.
7. Savory Turkey bread pudding — Fold bread stuffing with shredded or diced turkey plus additional gravy and leftover cornbread plus diced vegetables or mushroom, then brush with spicy honey and bake 15 minutes at 350⁰F.
8. Tamales with turkey —Thinly dice leftover meat, mix with spicy gravy and fill tamales you will wrap in a cornhusk then steam 45 minutes.
9. Turkey soup — Instead of throwing the bones in the bin, make a stock/soup (healthy on chilly fall nights) then add diced meat, diced vegetable leftover, mushroom and parsley. Drizzle a broccoli rabe (leftover) pesto on top of soup, minestrone style.
10. Vol-au-vent — Fill precooked vol-au-vent with leftover sweet potato puree, topped with shredded meat and, sauce gravy topped with chives.
11. Mac and cheese —Special kids' mac and cheese: Fold béchamel or reduce cream with elbow pasta, plus cheese, diced turkey, and sneak some greens in the middle.
12. Turkey breaded scaloppini — Season leftover turkey slices with barbecue spices (from the French Cowboy) then lay a slice of cheese on it. Dip the sandwich in a mix of eggs, olive oil and mustard then in a breadcrumb mix to cover both sides. Slowly pan sear the turkey scaloppini for 3 minutes on both sides. Top with some braising greens or kale leftover. Mustard or mustard sauce would be nice on top
13. Chestnut mushroom soup — If you have roasted fresh chestnuts or chestnut puree left over, mix and blend with mushroom, leftover gravy, vegetable stock and a touch of cream or butter. A drop of green chartreuse at the end is a nice touch.
14. Cranberry pie Leftover cranberry marmalade sweetened then baked as a pie (optional: mix apple pre-sautéed with sugar then mix with cranberry).
I definitely want to pick up some little Vol-au-vent pastry cups and try number 10, but I’m also going to add a number 15 to the list: Thanksgiving hash.
While my Friday breakfast will consist of cold pumpkin pie and coffee, come the weekend I’ll be whipping up some post holiday hash. It’s delicious and the most basic dish you can make, hangover or no. Just sauté some cubed potatoes (or sweet potatoes) with some butter and toss in some shredded turkey and whatever else you’ve got left. I throw in stuffing (jalapeno cornbread!) and add gravy, a pinch of salt and pepper and maybe some more jalapenos.
What will you do with your leftovers?