Mashed Potatoes, Turkey and Green Beans: Making Leftovers Yummy

I don’t know about you guys, but Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Not because of the four-day weekend, and not because of the chance to see your entire family crammed into a small three-room townhouse. Forget all that. When I look down at my plate and see enough mashed potatoes, turkey, green beans and gravy to feed a small, impoverished country, that’s when I get the warm holiday fuzzies.

But if you are anything like the average college student, then there is no way, no chance that you’re doing your own cooking for Turkey Day weekend. No, you prefer to leech off of the leftovers, like a normal, sensible college student should. But after five days of hammering away at Thanksgiving leftovers, even homemade gravy and potatoes start to get a little tiring. So this week, I come to you bearing a cornucopia of fast and easy Thanksgiving leftover recipes.

Clueless about what to do with that fat Ziploc baggie of cranberry sauce? For starters, you can nuke it in the microwave to use as a warm ice cream topping. You can also whisk it into a vinaigrette for your next salad, or (my favorite) mix it in with some cream cheese as a bagel spread. If you’re the proactive type and need something for poultry baste, melt the sauce over low heat on the stove along with a small amount of oil or reduced fat margarine. Unfortunately, healthy eating is going to have to play the bench this week. Thanksgiving isn’t well-known for its calorie-sensitive recipes.

I personally see no reason why you need to change it up with mashed potatoes (a.k.a. nature’s perfect food), but if you want to put them to good use before they solidify in the back of your fridge, try one of these ideas. Form them, cold, into patties (you might need to mix them in with an egg so they’ll hold together) and toss onto a frying pan with oil or margarine for browning. Cook until golden, and shazam! You have a neat alternative to French fries. Or, if you’re Jewish, it’s an easy alternative to potato latkes for Chanukah. You can also use leftover mashed potatoes as a topping for shepherd’s pie.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Feeling especially lazy? Wish you could just throw all that food into a blender and make a simple Thanksgiving leftover smoothie? Well, this is almost as easy, and it’ll actually taste good, too.

Everything but the Pumpkin Pie Soup

Prepare soup stock using the non-prime parts of the leftover turkey. If you don’t have that, just use chicken stock. Then, dump in the leftovers! This is the beauty of soup; nearly anything — except the cranberry sauce and the pie — will fit in. Cut up the turkey into bite-size bits; throw in the stuffing, the veggies and the sweet potatoes. Season it with salt and pepper, heat and serve. It doesn’t get easier than this. Delicious! Recipe courtesy of Chef Steven Levine, Cosmopolitan Café, San Francisco.

Breakfast of Champions

Not necessarily something you can whip up when running out the door, but it doesn’t take all morning either. Gather your leftover turkey, butternut squash, potatoes, onions and stuffing. Mix it all together and form it into patties. Fry them up in margarine (always remember to go for the reduced fat kind if you can) along with two poached eggs, and you have a scrumptious morning meal that requires very little time and effort. Recipe courtesy of Chef Jak Mitchell of Beach Chalet, San Francisco.

Turkey and Stuffing Cakes

This is for a quick, filling snack. Shred your leftover turkey, plop it in a bowl with the stuffing and stir in an egg after you’ve beaten it (as food glue). Then, shape it into patties and toss it onto a frying pan with oil. Fry both sides and serve with turkey gravy. Damn tasty. Recipe courtesy of Chef Gary Danko, San Francisco.

Poor Man’s Turkey Casserole
OK, not really for poor men, but it’s so simple that it’s easy to think so. Grab your leftover gravy, your turkey and your veggies and dump them into a casserole dish or similar container. Mix it up. Decorate the top with refrigerator biscuits or leftover unbaked pie dough (you might have to make a special request to Aunt Gertrude for this one). Bake it at 350 degrees until the dough is cooked through and golden. Fantastic — you’ve just made your dinner for the next week! If you can keep your roommate out of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!