Today finds most of us preparing for tomorrow’s feast, but we all know that one of the most fun parts of Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Reheating a plate of turkey and stuffing is a joy reserved for post-holiday relaxing, but there are many more creative ways to repurpose your holiday fare. Also, if you have family in town and the leftovers are starting to dwindle, you may be looking for ways to extend the food supply with little effort. And don’t forget quick meals are essential if Black Friday shopping is on your to-do list! This is why I’ve compiled some ideas and links for easy, budget-friendly, and yummy uses for your Thanksgiving leftovers. Enjoy!
This Italian omelette is perfect year round for refrigerator-dump style breakfasts. You can make a Thanksgiving version for a late breakfast or brunch. One of my favorites is seasoned green beans and sweet potatoes with a little roasted red pepper and feta, but almost any combination works well. Just dice leftovers and add in whatever you have in your pantry or fridge that will amp up the flavor. Try tossing in some turkey with a swirl of pesto, a few potatoes, and some leftover parmesan from your cheese platter. If you don’t have a favorite frittata recipe on hand, try a play on Alton Brown’s here or Martha Stewart’s here.
Overnight Breakfast Strata
If you have unused rolls or croissants from your bread basket, this dish is sure to be a hit. Just assemble it as you put away your Thanksgiving leftovers and leave it to set overnight in the fridge. Simply bake in the oven for a pre-shopping breakfast that will feed a crowd. Or serve it with a spinach salad for an effortless breakfast-for-dinner meal. As the recipe says, any combination will work. Ham, asparagus, and swiss sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Read the recipe from blogger Ezra Poundcake here.
Turkey, cranberry sauce, whole grain mustard, with cheese and greens is always a delicious combination, but there is no need to stop there. Spread cranberry sauce on a simple grilled cheese to dip in hot soup or layer leftover veggies with some roasted peppers in a panini. One of my favorites is this grilled ham and Gruyère sandwich with pears. And again, if you have leftover dinner rolls, you can easily update the recipe by baking mini sandwiches in a warm oven.
So, you have some green beans, some mashed sweet potatoes, and some turkey, but not enough to make a whole meal for the family. Simply reheat them together with some chicken stock, add in some celery and cannellini beans, and you are on your way to a delicious dinner. Broil some parmesan or Gruyère on top to add even more flavor. You can always dice leftover breads for croutons as well. If you are looking for a way to transform mashed potatoes into soup, start with this recipe from Rachael Ray and then add other leftovers in any combination you like.
Hopefully, these ideas helped spark your creativity to get imaginative with those leftovers! Really, there is no limit to what you can do. Pasta bakes, pizzas, and inventive stir fries may be in your future. How do you use your Thanksgiving leftovers?
For those of us who are in a state of Thanksgiving panic, the last installment of A Denver Guide to Thanksgiving offers a simple and elegant solution to appetizers–and desserts–that requires very little time. Forget baking, frying, or hours of chopping and slicing for your holiday appetizers. Cheese Platters show off one of the world’s most delightful foods in pure form, and Janet Schaus of The Truffle Cheese Shop in Denver is here to save the day with her expert advice on pairings, presentation, and selection. Her tips will take you from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Eve parties, since cheese platters make excellent additions to any of these festivities.
And if you have not yet been to The Truffle Cheese Shop, do all of your senses a favor and stop by. You will find cheeses from around the world in this European-style shop. Because they specialize in small-batch, artisan, and farmstead cheeses, The Truffle Cheese Shop offers a rare treat for foodies. They also have every element, from cured meats to baguettes (from French bakery Trompeau) to jams and imported biscuits, that you will need for your platter.
Composing The Perfect Platter
Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the key to an impressive cheese platter, according to Schaus. “What we like to do is vary milk types. Cow, sheep, goat, and water buffalo are the main milk types, and we like to include at least three of those. Vary the texture, so you have something hard and crumbly, something kind of medium textured, and then something soft. Then we like to vary the flavor profiles so you have something that appeals to all palettes. So something soft and creamy that’s a little on the mild side, something that may be a washed rind that’s flavor forward, and then maybe a blue or an aged gouda–something that’s going to have a lot of flavor to it.” Schaus says to avoid hard cheeses that need to be sliced by guests, since that is difficult to manage with a plate or wineglass in hand.
What Else Should Go On A Platter?
Schaus explains, “As far as accompaniments to the cheese, meats are always a nice idea, any kind of charcuterie, salami, or speck or prosciutto. If you just want to keep it to cheese, we always like to use different kinds of fruit, and in the wintertime there is not a lot of fresh fruit that is really great. So to keep it more seasonal you can use chutney or jam, or apple or pear butter is amazing. These cheeses go so beautifully with fruits. The sweetness compliments the creaminess or the sharpness of the cheese. Nuts are wonderful. Honey is another really wonderful thing to pair with even the stronger cheeses. Of course olives or any kind of pickled products are also great for cheese plates.”
Cheese and wine are a natural pairing, but Schaus claims this relationship is not as important during large holiday meals. “You don’t worry too much about pairing it with wines when you do it for an hors d’oeuvre or as an addition to a dinner because people will be drinking so many different things and there are so many flavors going on in the whole dinner that you just want the cheese to be a part of that.”
How To Arrange Your Platter
When we think of the various sweet and savory elements on a cheese platter, such as salami, olives, pears, or grapes, it’s hard to know where to put them. Do we make separate platters for sweet and savory? Schaus advises, “As a personal preference, if I’m doing it for a dinner, I will keep it all on one. And I will keep the pickled products or the olives with the more savory cheeses, and with the more nutty cheeses, that’s where I’ll put the fruit or the honey. We use a lot of dried fruit when we do our platters: dried cranberries and cherries and pears. They just have a really nice kind of concentrated sweetness that goes well with cheese.”
Did you know that cheese is seasonal? Winter is the best time for aged alpine cheeses. The cheesemongers at The Truffle Cheese Shop are happy to give you their expert insight on such matters. As Schaus says, “Every cheese has a story.” Think seasonal for accompaniments too. “This time of year apples are really beautiful, and there are so many flavor profiles with apples, from granny smiths that tend to be a little sour to honeycrips that are super sweet.”
Cheese For Dessert
Schaus says that Americans are beginning to embrace the European tradition of cheese for dessert. If you have never tried it before, now is the time. It might just change the way you think about dessert. “It’s really lovely. You don’t really need a lot of cheese. You are not really looking for quantity as much as quality with dessert because you’ve already had a big meal. It’s just to get a taste of it. And at that point I like to keep the accompaniments on the cheese platter a little on the sweet side. One to three cheeses. Again you can vary the milk types and vary the textures.”
Shaus says not to fret about the actual platter that you use to serve your cheese. A plain glass plate is simple and beautiful, but really the sky is the limit. “Just a piece of marble or wood or put a piece of wax paper on your grandmothers old silver set works well,” she says.
Day After Thanksgiving
One of the reasons a cheese platter works so well for the holiday table is its versatility for later meals. Whether you use your gouda on turkey and cranberry sandwiches or shred some parmesan into a frittata, the results are delicious. Schaus adds, “Cheese for breakfast is wonderful. For anything that is left over, just toss it into pasta or risotto.”
The Most Important Part
Schaus claims that the most essential element of the perfect platter is one that might surprise you. “The biggest thing with cheese is how you store it. Wax paper or foil–not plastic–because cheese is a living, breathing thing. In Colorado it tends to dry out. Wrap it in wax paper or foil then put it in a separate container in your fridge.” Schaus uses a glass container, but says that plastic also works. And if all else fails, you can use the meat or produce drawer in your refrigerator because they are higher in humidity.
We all have Pinterest boards with dozens (if not hundreds) of food styling ideas. Many of us dream of a magazine-style holiday table with Thanksgiving dishes that look like works of art. The harsh reality is that managing guests and cooking alone takes up much of our preparation time on holidays. We’re often lucky if all components of a meal make it to the table without being burnt or cold. How are we supposed to have time to make them beautiful too? Jana Patterson, executive chef at Whole Foods Cherry Creek in Denver, has French culinary training and a background in catering. She offers some helpful, easy-to-follow advice for a gorgeous holiday dinner. The biggest surprise? You need to start setting your table today!
Take Advantage of Prepared Meals
One of the best tips for doing your holiday meal right is to not do it all yourself. Locating quality meals at your grocer can save hours of food preparation time, allowing you to style your meal and–believe it or not–enjoy the holiday. Whole Foods Cherry Creek has a staff of 96 people in their prepared food department. Patterson says, “We have a lot of chefs in our department. We added it up and I think we have 47 years of experience.” Whole Foods offers high-quality and healthy options to cover every part of a holiday meal. Selections include sweet potato biscuits, stuffed brie, maple citrus mashed yams, green beans almondine, herb roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, the list goes on.
It’s important to realize that you don’t have to make an entire holiday meal yourself or buy the entire dinner from your grocer. Patterson explains, “Everybody has their own holiday tradition. Some people want to make their own turkey and so they focus all of their energy on buying a heritage bird and doing the turkey but the run out time to do the sides. So we offer a side package for eight and that eliminates the stress. It comes with reheating instructions so they can just come in and order that. We also offer complete meals where the turkeys are all fully roasted. They come a farm (Diestel) that only raises birds for Whole Foods.”
Don’t Forget Specialty Diets
Before you try to sneak the bacon out of your vegetarian nephew’s green beans, consider a better option. If you are not comfortable preparing vegetarian or vegan meals but you have a family member with a special diet, tapping into your grocer’s prepared foods allows you to offer them more than a dinner roll for Thanksgiving. Whole Foods offers a range of vegan and vegetarian options, so you can pick up some sides or an entire meal to accommodate any dietary needs.
Holiday Dinners for Two
Couples who live far away from family and many empty nesters may long for the full holiday spread, but roasting a turkey for two is a little bit of a hassle. This is another scenario in which opting for grocer prepared meals makes perfect sense. Patterson says, “People can order side ranges or turkeys, even a turkey breast dinner from two.”
Set Your Table Early
Patterson claims that setting a beautiful table is all about preparation: “My tip is that you want to get organized ahead of time. Before your holiday table is set, I would pull out your dishes and use sticky notes to assign what dish you will use for each item. That way, you are not making more mashed potatoes than you can fit in your serving dish. And you know you have enough dishes, so you are not putting out your gravy pot instead of your gravy boat. Give yourself a couple of days, so you know you have enough plates and serving utensils.”
You can get some easy yet striking garnishes for your Thanksgiving dinner while you are out grabbing ingredients. Patterson explains, “Say your recipe has parsley, pick up an extra bunch so you can garnish with that. If your recipes have herbs, pick up an extra package so you can soak them in water while your dish is cooking. That way they are a nice bright green. Then when your dish is finished, you can put them around the dish and really set it off like restaurant and magazine style.”
Get Creative with Your Table
We sometimes run out of serving platters and bowls for large family gatherings. Patterson suggests a creative twist if you find yourself in this position, “You can use a pumpkin to serve your stuffing. Say you don’t have enough vessels and you are going to the grocery store, but you don’t want to wait in line at another store to buy the dish. Just pick up a pumpkin and carve it out. You don’t have to roast it at all. What I do is carve it out, salt the inside, let it sit for an hour, and then wipe it out. That way you don’t get any of the bitter pumpkin.” Patterson also suggests using carved-out pumpkins for potted mums as a seasonal centerpiece for your meal.
Fancy Drinks for All Ages
As you can see in the photos, Patterson dressed up sparkling apple cider for a festive beverage for all ages. She simply used thyme leaves and fresh cranberries for a holiday look. She adds, “Sometimes I will buy some raspberry sparkling water and then put some gently bruised mint in it. Just to open up everybody’s palette before dinner. That way if you are running behind everybody has a drink in their hand and they are relaxed.”
Best Tip for Leftovers
Patterson uses leftover sweet potatoes for day-after-Thanksgiving doughnuts. You can do the same thing at home with your favorite fritter recipe. Or just pick them up at Whole Foods–they are divine.
Timing is Everything
If you are planning to take advantage of prepared meals at Whole Foods, preordering is your best route. Prepaying for your food means that you can pick it up on Thanksgiving day and avoid waiting in all those lines. And if you happen to burn your turkey or your mashed potatoes are gluey, Whole Foods is open on Thanksgiving. Hours vary by individual store, so call ahead.
We continue A Denver Guide to Thanksgiving with pastry favorite, The Humble Pie Store. Proprietor and Pie Slinger Tamara Brink shares one of her favorite holiday pies. It’s hands-down the best apple pie you will ever eat, and it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for Thanksgiving. The gooey salted caramel adds a savory touch to tart granny smith apples, creating a toffee-like experience as it hardens on a buttery crust. The result is a marriage of the candy goodness of caramel apples with a complex, grownup flavor profile. It’s heaven. When asked for her favorite pairing for this pie, Brink claims that Colorado-made Sweet Action Vanilla Bean ice cream is the very best. If you don’t have time to make a pie for the holiday or you are not much of a baker, you can order pies from The Humble Pie Store here. The chocolate chess and apple-pear cranberry are also to die for. Check back tomorrow for pie tips from Brink!
Pie Crust Ingredients:
2 and 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces (Humble Pie Store uses butter-flavored shortening for more flavor)
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water
Pie Crust Directions:
Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk.
Today we introduce A Denver Guide to Thanksgiving, featuring recipes and advice from local experts. We start off with a two-part series from Gabe Godell, chef de cuisine of The Kitchen Denver. Check back on Thursday for a delicious seasonal side in Part Two. Chef Godell offers a new take on traditional Thanksgiving turkey. This one-pot dish is a play on coq au vin. Slowly braising the turkey in red wine and stock brings out the flavor of the dark meat. The addition of pearl onions, roasted mushrooms, and bacon creates a savory star for your holiday table. Chef Godell claims the dish is perfect for a Thanksgiving bird: “With turkey, the dark meat is super tasty if it’s braised.”
Braised Turkey Leg
2 turkey thighs
2 turkey drumsticks
1/2 cup AP flour
8 oz slab bacon
8 oz oyster mushrooms
8 oz shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium yellow onions
2 carrots, cut into large dice
2 celery stalks, cut into large dice
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
10 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 quarts turkey stock
1/4 cup canola oil
Heavily season turkey with black pepper and kosher salt. Coat turkey with flour and set aside. Cut bacon into lardons and brown with butter in a large braising pot or Dutch oven. Once some of the fat has rendered out, add in the mushrooms and pearl onions, season with salt and sauté for 2 minutes. Remove the bacon, onion, and mushroom mixture, and set aside to add to the finished sauce. Add ¼ cup canola oil to pot and start browning the turkey on both sides, working in batches if needed. Once turkey is browned, remove from pot and set aside. In the same pot, brown carrots, onions, and celery for 3 minutes. Add in tomato paste and smashed garlic, continue to sauté for another minute. Deglaze pot with red wine and allow to reduce to almost dry. Add browned turkey back to pot along with the turkey stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, and bake in a 250 degree oven for 1 hour. Check turkey after an hour. It should be coming off the bone. Once turkey is done, allow to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes. Pull turkey out of pot and strain braising liquid into a saucepan. Reduce by 1/3 or to a consistency that you like, keeping in mind that salt will concentrate as sauce reduces. Add turkey back to sauce along with pearl onion, mushroom, and bacon mixture. Bring back up to a simmer to reheat turkey. Serve in a large bowl with sauce.