Liven Up Your Leftovers

Open the fridge the day after Thanksgiving, and there’s Big Bird, or its remains, staring at you. Excellent options go way beyond turkey sandwiches.

Turkey Porchetta from Anthony David's
Turkey porchetta from Anthony David's
Photo: Courtesy Anthony David's

Everyone’s heard of turkey Tetrazzini, a creamy mix of spaghetti, meat, vegetables and cheese. But few know that it was named for the great Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, who came to San Francisco in 1910 to give a free concert in the streets to rouse the spirits of the city still reeling from the devastating earthquake of 1906. It is said that chef Ernest Arbogast of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, one of the few buildings left standing, created the dish to honor the big-hearted (and not exactly wasp-waisted) soprano.

I make turkey Tetrazzini for my family every year after the Thanksgiving feast. Its big flavors and range of textures gives us operatic amounts of pleasure. The dish also spurs lively debate about the type of cheese to use, ingredient proportions, whether to use fresh mushrooms, whether it is beyond the pale to use canned cream of mushroom soup, and so on.

But one thing we all agree on is that a generous shot of sherry is mandatory. You’ll find my tried-and-true receipe below.

Once the turkey carcass has yielded up most of its meat, the temptation is to toss it in the garbage pail. Halt! I say. Don’t throw them bones away! Turn them into a hearty stock.

Creating a rich stock from the remains of the day may seem like hocus-pocus, but it is really quite simple.

At home and in my cooking classes, I’ve made gallons of turkey stock by simmering bones in water with seasonings and a classic French mirepoix of chopped celery, carrots and onions. It helps to leave some meat on the bones for a more flavorful broth. Breaking or chopping up the bones before placing them in the pot lets you fit in more bones, and when it comes to stock, the more bones the better. As the long simmer releases the bones’ wealth of collagen protein and gelatin, you end up with a richer stock.

The main stock seasonings are peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme and parsley stems. These can be added whole at the outset. The only no-no is adding salt. As the stock simmers it reduces in volume, but salt does not evaporate, so a moderate dose of salt at the start becomes a possibly ruinous saltiness at the end.

Cover the bones, vegetables and seasonings with cold water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about three hours without stirring. To ensure a clear rather than cloudy or gummy stock, skim the surface often, removing grease and other matter that rises. Add water if necessary to prevent the volume of liquid sinking below the level of the solids.

By the time the stock is done, a wonderful, hearty aroma will fill the kitchen and maybe even the house. At the end, strain and quickly cool the liquid. A short stint in the refrigerator will solidify any remaining fat and bring it to the surface, where it can be easily removed. From stock you can make many satisfying winter soups.

A few years ago, while planning a Holiday Leftovers cooking class, I posted a bulletin on an international cooking forum, saying I was looking for new ideas. In a matter of hours, turkey leftover suggestions winged their way to my computer from many time zones.

People sent me recipes for turkey hash, turkey chow mein, turkey risotto, turkey enchiladas, turkey a la king over waffles, turkey sloppy Joes, curried turkey salad, turkey divan, turkey pot pie and more. One Texas cook, coining the phrase "planned-overs," said she roasts extra turkeys to make sure she has enough meat to prepare half a dozen different dishes to store in her freezer. Another went so far as to buy old-fashioned foil TV-dinner trays, filling the compartments with sweet potatoes, beans, stuffing and gravy to feed the family during the hibernating days of winter.

I recently reached out to some New Jersey chefs, seeking ideas for livening up leftover turkey. Their responses showed me that the topic inspires the creativity of even the professionals.

Anthony David’s
in Hoboken uses the breast to make a variation on classic Italian porchetta, or pork roast Slices of white meat are pounded thin and wrapped around a mix of prosciutto, sautéed spinach, sweet sausage, cheese, bread and hard-boiled egg. The rolls are then baked.

At Princeton’s Salt Creek Grille, chef Fabian Quiros adds the flair of his Costa Rican heritage. He makes pulled turkey puposas (meat pies), turkey manchego croquettes and poblano turkey quiche.

Gregory Torrech
of Union Republic in Jersey City makes a complex dish of turkey meatballs in dashi-style turkey broth over ramen noodles, garnished with slivers of sweet potato and scallion.

Whether you make a simple turkey sandwich or something more ambitious, no part of that delicious Thanksgiving bird should go to waste.

From Suzanne Zimmer Lowery


4 tablespoons butter
½ green pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 cup chopped onion
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
4 tablespoons flour
1½ cups milk, warmed
½ cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups cooked, shredded turkey
1½ cups cooked spaghetti

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and cook the pepper, onion and mushrooms over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the flour and cook, stirring for an additional minute. Slowly stir in the warm milk. Heat until thickened, stirring with a rubber spatula, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sherry, salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Remove from the heat and stir in ½ the cheese until melted.

3. Mix together the sauce, spaghetti and turkey and transfer to a greased 9/12-inch casserole. Top with remaining cheese, cover and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes or until hot and bubbling.

From Fabian Quiros, Salt Creek Grille



1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and stir briefly until the mixture is aerated. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, add the butter into the dry ingredients in small chunks until the mixture is in pea-size pieces that are slightly yellow in color. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Drizzle in 4 tablespoons of the ice water and mix just until the dough comes together (add the last tablespoon of ice water if necessary, but don’t overwork the dough or it’ll become tough). Shape the dough into a flat disk, cover it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. After refrigerating, spray a deep dish pie plate or quiche pan with nonstick cooking spray and spread out the dough in the plate/pan evenly.



1 tablespoon butter
1 small red bell pepper or poblano, seeds removed, diced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup diced roasted turkey
1 cup shredded Jack or Pepper Jack cheese, divided
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Pie disk

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Sauté the bell pepper, or poblano, and the green onions for about 3 minutes until tender. Stir in the cilantro.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk; add flour, baking powder, and a dash of salt and continue whisking until smooth. Stir in the cooked vegetables, the turkey, and about 2/3 cup of the cheese. Pour into the prepared pie plate. Top with tomato slices, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, then top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until top is golden brown.

From Union Republic

Makes 12

1 Pound Cooked Turkey (shredded Breast and thighs)
1 teaspoon Ginger Minced
1 Tablespoon Shallots Minced
1 teaspoon Garlic Minced
2 teaspoon Scallions Minced
1 teaspoon Salt
1 large egg
¼ Cup Bread Crumbs
1oz Olive oil


1. Mix all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Using the Olive oil to keep mixture from sticking to your hands make twelve meatballs. Cook in oven at 300°F on a sheet pan with enough water to cover the surface of the pan for 20 minutes or until heated through. Once meatballs are cooked set aside. Heat up with turkey broth and serve over noodles.

Adapted From Anthony David’s


2 ½-3 pounds turkey breast, boneless, skin-on, pounded
8 slices prosciutto
4 cups spinach sautéed with garlic
4 ounces sweet Italian sausage, raw pieces, no casing
2 cups crunchy bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 ounces grated Pecorino Romano
3 hard-boiled, shelled eggs
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces butter

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare the turkey by first slicing the breast meat in a horizontal fashion. Skin side down cover the exposed breast meat with plastic wrap. Pound the meat until approximately ½-inch thick. Remove the plastic wrap and season with salt and pepper.

2. Layer the prosciutto, spinach, sausage, bread, garlic and cheese over the meat. Lastly align the egg lengthwise.

3. Begin to roll the breast carefully to ensure the items stay in place. Roll until the breast is firm. Season with salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Tie the beast with butcher twine to secure the ingredients.

4. Place the turkey in a roasting pan and cook for 40 minutes.


SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at

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