Saturday , 18 September 2021

Top 5 ways to make leftovers new

I cook too much food for Christmas (and Easter and Thanksgiving). I consider it part of my heritage, a thing passed on from my father, who in turn inherited it from the hospitality our relatives in Cape Breton always showed to him growing up.

I went on a road trip in search of my roots during university and visited (met) those relatives along the way. About a minute after knocking on the door, not yet sure if I was at the right house, I found myself sitting at a table with a slice of lasagna as big as my face. I was then fed a full meal at every home we stopped at on route to the feast at my cousin Joe’s, in celebration of his new baby who was not yet 24 hours old.

I also abhor wasting food. This I inherited from my mother, who taught me how to make leftovers new in the week following any holiday or dinner party my father had a hand in growing up.

I’m going to be more reasonable in my cooking for Christmas this year since it’s just my husband and our two kids at our house. I’m limiting myself to just one meat, one starch, two vegetables, and one dessert (and Mum’s fancy dinner rolls because carbs are my favourite, I’ll probably die without them, and what better way to wrap up 2020 than by showing off my newly acquire bread skills.) It will certainly still be a feast, but on a smaller scale than if say we were cooking for the entire extended family two days in a row.

The turkey producers, however, have missed the memo that we all require much smaller birds this year and so I suspect I will need a few more ways to use it than usual.

The nice thing about turkey is that it’s basically a larger, drier, chicken with a lot of tryptophan and very adaptable as a leftover, even once you’ve run out of gravy to put on the sandwiches.

  1. Turkey soup – You can make your own stock by simmering the turkey carcass for an hour or two with a quartered onion and some chopped celery and straining it to remove the solids, or you can start with whatever chicken or vegetable soup stock you have in the pantry. Add shredded turkey to broth, as well as whatever leftover steamed vegetables you can’t bear to throw out but have no desire to reheat. Add some long grain white rice, or wild rice, and some more carrots because you can never have too many carrots in a soup. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer until rice and carrots are cooked through.
  2. Turkey enchiladas – Enchiladas are possibly one of my favourite ways of using leftover poultry and rice. The gist of it is that you take a soft tortilla shell and fill it with rice, meat, bell pepper slices or frozen corn, and a bit of the sauce. Wrap and place in a baking dish, repeat until dish is full or you run out of ingredients. Pour some more of the enchilada sauce on top of the wraps and smother it with as much old cheddar as you can imagine. Bake at 350 until the cheese is melted and the wraps are heated through (roughly 15-ish minutes).
  3. Turkey stir fry – Turkey, oil or hoisin sauce, and a pile of vegetables in the pan. Serve over noodles.
  4. Turkey pot pie – Essentially your favourite chicken pot pie recipe, but with turkey instead of chicken.
  5. Hot turkey sandwiches – Pretty self-explanatory. Bread with turkey and gravy, nuked in the microwave for 30 seconds.

If you still have turkey left at this point, just freeze it and come back to the list in a month or so.

I admit, I don’t have as many good ideas for ham. Really I have three. But in my experience ham doesn’t lose as much of the magic being reheated as turkey does, and tends to be a little less overwhelming as far as sheer volume of leftovers involved.

  1. Omelettes – Ham chunks, cheese, green onion, some peppers. Throw it all together with a few eggs and you have a fantastic omelette.
  2. Quiche – Quiche is another super easy one to make. Whisk 4 eggs and 1 cup of milk together in a bowl, then add roughly 2 cups of ham chunks, shredded cheese, spinach, green onions, peppers … really whatever makes you happy, it’s basically an omelette in a pie. Pour it all in to a pre-baked pie crust and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. (This being a thing involving a pastry, it is actually worth it to preheat the oven.)
  3. Creamed ham – Make a basic white sauce (2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp flour, 1 cup milk) and add ham chunks. Heat on low until ham is heated through. Serve over pasta.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.