Re-purpose Your Holiday Leftovers, The Lazy Way

Holiday leftovers are the best leftovers of all time.
Publish date:
November 28, 2013
xoFood, comfort food, Thanksgiving, holiday cooking, holiday dishes, casseroles, leftovers

No matter what, I will always be a fan of The Holidays. Even if I suddenly start hating presents, and consumerism, and seasonal Starbucks drinks, and Christmas music, I would still love the entire stretch between Halloween and the New Year.

Because even if these things that I love became suddenly unbearable, the food would remain.

From October 15th to January 2nd, there is a never ending onslaught of things I want in my mouth. It begins with Halloween candy, then accelerates with the turkey/casserole/pie festival that is Thanksgiving, Christmas takes it up a notch with peppermint chocolate everything and let's not forget latkes for Hanukkah.

Speaking of Hanukkah, last year I cooked this entire beast.

And then there are the leftovers. Usually I don’t care for them, but during the holidays I LIVE FOR THEM. Leftover casseroles, leftover ham, leftover pie. All of it. I love it. But recreating the same meal over and over again can get a little boring, so let’s talk leftover re-purposing.

I usually celebrate Thanksgiving with my family (the entirety of which is from Mississippi) and everything is in casserole form. You know things are sketchy when I am the voice of reason that offers to bring a green salad. I’m also bringing a cheddar cheese crust apple pie, but still. I AM THE ONE BRINGING THE SALAD. Wrap your mind grapes around that.

SO there are a lot of players in this leftover game, and most of them are casseroles. This is a beautiful thing.

One could go the route of eating bowls and bowls of casserole (this is a road that is noble and true), but allow me to offer some alternatives. I lean toward the lazy, so I usually don't incorporate anything other than leftovers. I don't want to chop anything. I don't want to buy anything. I just want to make frakenfeasts out of the meal that was.

1. Crazy Leftover Monster Sandwich (Note: this could very easily be a burrito, just sub bread for tortilla)

I know I didn’t invent this but I would like to think that I’m like the Picasso of sandwich artists or something. I push boundaries. I put things where they shouldn’t go. I break rules.

The picture doesn’t do it justice, so let me break it down for you. This sandwich contained:

  • Dark Meat Turkey (I don’t mess with breast)
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Some Garlic Cheese Spread from the cheese plate
  • Corn Casserole
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • All on toasted bread

I did a lot of sleeping that day.

This year I plan to take it even further. Since we will be observing Thanksgivukkah, latkes are going to get in on the action. I think they will replace the bread just fine. CAN YOU IMAGINE? Of course then sour cream and applesauce with have to join in, but I think everyone will play nice.

I also had the genius idea of frying latkes in bacon grease, but that was met with a simple “You’re sick” from my Jewish husband.

If it’s wrong, why does it feel soooooo right?

2. Turkey Gumbo

This feels very grown up and responsible to me, and though a small amount of chopping is required, it’s actually quite simple to pull off. Don’t be intimidated by a roux guys, it’s just fat and flour. Good stuff.

But first you need some turkey stock. Pull any leftover meat off of your turkey and throw the bones in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add some onions, carrots, thyme, salt & pepper, etc. and cover with some cold water (fill to about an inch over the carcass). Simmer for about four hours, skimming off any foamy stuff.

Once your stock is done, you are ready to make your gumbo. I like this recipe from Emeril because I like to continuously take it up a notch.

It’s recommended that you serve gumbo with rice, but I like to keep the holiday theme going by serving it over STUFFING.

What? Yes. I am insane.

3. Holiday Omelet

Omelets are a great vehicle for leftovers. I’m always threatening to put leftover steak in omelets but I rarely have any leftover steak. Your holiday omelet will vary mainly in the meat department. Ham and turkey are the favorites in my family, but I heard that there will be lamb and possibly a pork shoulder at this year’s Thanksgivings (I’m attending two). Any of these meats would be great in an omelet because everything is great in an omelet.

Based on my family’s thanksgiving menu, I’m going to be placing the following in my omelet:

  • Turkey and whatever other meat is there
  • Spinach gratin
  • Broccoli
  • Corn bread dressing
  • Any raw veggies leftover from the salad or veggie tray
  • Corn soufflé

That should be plenty.

I plan to fry some mashed potatoes (formed into patties) as a side.

You may be right; I may be crazy.

3. Leftover casserole casserole (a casserole containing the remnants of other casseroles)

Just pile everything on top of everything. I would layer my leftovers thusly (from bottom to top):

  • Rice
  • Turkey
  • Corn casserole
  • Green bean casserole
  • Whatever other casserole or veggies you have
  • Stuffing
  • Cheese if you have it (of course you do)
  • Pour gravy on top of that mess
  • Mashed potatoes (roughed up, Shepard’s pie style, so they brown nicely)

Place in an oven that is preheated to 400F for half an hour or until browned. You made need to broil briefly.

4. Turkey Pot Pie (an opportunity brought to my attention by Amanda)

This requires a small amount of planning ahead, which I am usually against, but pot pie is involved so I'll allow it.

When you are making (or buying) your pie crust, set an extra one aside in the freezer. After Thanksgiving, put a layer of mashed potatoes into a small oven safe dish (pie dish or ramekin, whatevs), layer in turkey (or any other holiday meat), gravy and veggies, cover with pie crust. Cut a few steam vents, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. If you want to be really fancy, you can brush a beaten egg on top of the crust.

5. Bowl of slop (best consumed while drunk)

My personal favorite. It’s similar to the casserole, but much less refined and heated in a microwave. Spoon all of your favorite casseroles into the base of the bowl. Top with meat and cheese. Pour on an obscene amount of gravy. Heat everything in the microwave and mix into an indistinguishable food mass.

Spoon into your mouth while watching Football and yelling at the TV.

This is just a smattering of the miracles you could assemble out of leftovers. The possibilities are endless. A quick internet search reveals gems such as fried stuffing bites and samosas, and though these violate my "no new ingredients" rule, they look good enough to make an exception.

What do you plan to do with your leftovers? I totally support eating cold casserole straight from the Tupperware.

Claire will most likely be live tweeting everything she eats this holiday season: @clairelizzie