Five Not-So-Common Things To Do With Leftover Turkey

Every list of turkey leftover suggestions involves one or more of the following: soup, chili, salad, sandwiches (usually on whole wheat bread with mayonnaise) and turkey Tetrazzini. It's not that these things are bad–they're not–it's that they're jaded and overused, and they seem to stifle other ideas.

This year, the Weekly is proud to present five less common ideas for what to do with the leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Astute readers will notice the distinctly Mexican cast of the suggestions: turkey (known as pavo, cócono, chumpe or guajolote in Spanish) is a fairly common meat south of the border.

It doesn't matter if the turkey was brined or unbrined, roasted or deep-fried: these ideas are flexible and they will work for your leftovers. Happy eating!

1. Chilaquiles.

While the best chilaquiles are made from freshly-fried tortillas, they're a great way to get rid of the giant bag of tortilla chips that Uncle John brought from Ralphs (since, you know, you didn't spend all day laboring over a meal). Cook the tortilla chips in salsa (any salsa will do, but smooth salsas work best), then top with shredded leftover turkey, shredded cheese and maybe a little sour cream. Don't add any salt to this dish; the chips will supply all the salt you need.

2. Mole de guajolote

Mole from scratch is a huge undertaking that rivals the entire Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately, for this most Mexican of turkey preparations, you can choose your level of commitment: two days of soaking and frying and combining ingredients, a simplified recipe that can be put together in a couple of hours, or the bottle of pre-prepared mole base from the Mexican market. You could also buy mole sauce from Oaxacan and Pueblan restaurants. For the advanced student of southern Mexican thick sauces, the traditional mole for this dish is mole poblano. Simply heat the pre-cooked turkey in the sauce, then serve with lots of the best tortillas you can find, or simple white rice cooked with a little bit of butter.

3. Picadillo

Picking a turkey carcass results in a ton of tiny, tiny shreds of meat that don't look attractive on a plate even in leftovers. Take these bits (and chop up as much other meat as you want) and cook them with dried fruit (raisins or apricots–we've even used cranberry sauce), chile-tomato sauce (such as the El Pato brand “salsa de tomate”, the one that comes in the yellow can), cumin, onions, garlic and any leftover vegetables you want to hide in there (lima beans, corn, potatoes, carrots…). It should look like taco filling when you're done, and that's exactly what it is–taco filling.

4. Pambazos.

Yes, technically this is a sandwich: it is not the mayo-laden turkey-salad sandwich of Nebraska, though–it's more like the devil's stuffed French toast. Though pambazos are traditionally made with a cousin of the bolillo roll, and are often filled with potato-and-chorizo stuffing, you can use leftover bread or dinner rolls too. Dip the bread in chile sauce (again, the El Pato brand sauce in the yellow can works great for a quick cheat) and cook like French toast; put turkey and shredded Oaxaca (or string) cheese between two layers of the cooked bread and griddle the sandwiches on both sides until they start to harden and brown just a little bit. Top with lettuce (yes, iceberg is authentic), Mexican sour cream and queso rollado (grating cheese–Parmesan is fine).

5. Empanadas.

This is what you do with the trimmings of the pie crust: roll them back out and cut 4-5″ rounds out. Mix shredded leftover turkey (dark meat will taste best here) with enough of your favorite salsa to make a wet filling. Put a couple of tablespoons of filling onto one half of each of your rounds of dough; fold over the dough, squeeze out the air, and crimp shut carefully. Fry the empanadas in hot (360ºF) oil until browned.

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