Turkey and cranberries are the stars on Thanksgiving Day. They'll be the center of attention on the day after, too -- and the day after that, each encore greeted by increasingly less applause.
Truth is, even the best leftovers lose their luster when they reprise their showstopping number for the third and fourth time. Fortunately, we have a slew of experts, chefs and food writers ready to share their tips and tricks for Thanksgiving do-overs, from a sweet potato Napoleon to a potato croquette that uses not only the leftover mashers but -- shhh -- the French's fried onions on that green bean casserole.
The big feast is a lovely thing, says Jason Berthold, executive chef at San Francisco's RN74, but the leftovers are delightful, too -- and they start with the turkey carcass.
"One of my favorite things about roasting a turkey is making soup from the leftovers," he says. "I always make the stock when cleanup starts in the kitchen. The smell of the simmering stock seems to make the cleanup process a little bit more pleasant."
Grab your largest stock pot, he says, and throw in the turkey carcass -- "bones, skin and all" -- along with a couple of onions, carrots, celery stalks, bay leaves, garlic cloves and a few sprigs of thyme. Let it simmer for two hours, then strain the broth through a fine sieve. Shred the turkey meat, add vegetables and wild rice, and you've got a stellar winter soup.
Everyone loves day-after-Thanksgiving sandwiches, but sliced roasted turkey is downright addictive when it's layered 'Wichcraft-style. One of the signature dishes at Tom Colicchio's sandwich cafes in San Francisco, New York and Las Vegas, it combines turkey with a tangy onion relish, creamy avocado and crisp bacon on a ciabatta roll. The onions are slowly cooked into a state of syrupy mellowness in a bath of brown sugar and balsamic and red wine vinegars.
When leftover turkey gets the Epicurious treatment in Tanya Steel's popular recipe site's new "Epicurious Cookbook" (Clarkson Potter, $27.99, 400 pages), it's in the form of a hot pot pie capped with a cheddar biscuit topping that's so good you'll be tempted to bake the topping as stand-alone biscuits.
There's something so depressing about leftover mashed potatoes. All that creamy, fluffy goodness congeals into cold, crumbly whiteness -- until Berthold gets his hands on them. Day-after mashers become the foundation for savory potato croquettes, flavored with roasted garlic, then dredged in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs, mixed with a secret ingredient.
"This is a great way to repurpose those French-fried onions left over from the green bean casserole," he says.
As for sweet potatoes, which Berthold's family bakes with lots of butter, brown sugar and maple syrup, the RN74 chef always hopes for leftovers. They make a perfect filling for a post-Thanksgiving Napoleon, sandwiched between layers of puff pastry and whipped cream, then drizzled with a bourbon-caramel sauce.
It's a great dessert presentation, Berthold says, "simple to make, fun to assemble and a good way to use up those leftover sweet potatoes. I like to whip fresh cream, seasoned with a little vanilla bean and sugar.
"But," he confesses, "I've also used the leftover tub of Cool Whip in a pinch."
Recipe for Turkey Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Crust on Page 3.