Indeed, there are probably more than fifty ways, but since we’re still crazy after all these years we couldn’t resist using Paul Simon’s song to provide guidance for using Thanksgiving leftovers. So here’s our list. These are not formal recipes, but rather general outlines which, when combined with a little imagination, will clear out your refrigerator in a hurry. If your imagination fails you, the internet is your friend, as there you will find multiple recipes for most of these ideas.
1.Assemble a Thanksgiving plate with turkey and all the trimmings and take it to a neighbor or friend, perhaps one who will be spending Thanksgiving alone.
2. Better yet, invite an individual or family who won’t be able to spend Thanksgiving with their family to join yours, which will reduce the amount of leftovers you need to use.
3. Make a turkey sandwich, perhaps the quintessential Thanksgiving leftover. Sandy likes hers with plenty of butter, a good cheddar or gouda, and a bit of salt. Doug is more a mayo kind of guy.
4. Go big with that turkey sandwich: follow the lead of The Dickens sandwich at McNally’s Tavern in Chestnut Hill, and make your turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce.
5. Heat up turkey and gravy and serve over waffles or toast.
6. Turkey tetrazzine might be clichéd but it will use up turkey, gravy and veggies.
7. Combine some turkey, vegetables and gravy in a turkey pot pie.
8. Forget the crust and top that “pie” with mashed potatoes for a post-Thanksgiving version of cottage pie. Sweet potatoes also work for topping the pie.
9. Gather the leftover vegetables—root vegetables and brussels sprouts are particularly good—to make Bubble and Squeak à la Jamie Oliver.
10. Scoop out the flesh of any leftover baked potatoes and make twice-baked potato skins to eat while watching the Penn State-Wisconsin football game. Toppings can likely be found amongst your other leftovers.
11. Make stock with the carcass before throwing it away.
12. Puree leftover sweet potatoes (or squash or broccoli) with a bit of stock, and perhaps some cream, to make bisque.
13. For a different sort of soup, add some turkey and leftover vegetables to the stock; extend the soup by adding some pasta or egg noodles to the pot.
14. Combine turkey and rice with a bit of egg and lemon juice to make an avgolemono soup.
15. Whip up a custard and pour it over leftover bread to make bread pudding. We believe there is no better book for guidance on improvising bread pudding than Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio.
16. Spice up the bread pudding by using the filling from leftover pie. Don’t throw away the pie crust that remains; see No. 40.
17. Don’t forget that bread puddings don’t have to be sweet: pour that custard over turkey, vegetables and stuffing for a savory bread pudding. Layer the turkey and vegetables with the stuffing before pouring on the custard for strata—a bread pudding for those who prefer to keep the individual components of a meal separate.
18. Arrange leftover turkey and vegetables in a pie crust, add a bit of cheese, cover with custard and bake for a post-Thanksgiving quiche.
19. According to Julia Child, a quiche “is practically foolproof, and you can invent your own combinations.” So invent away. Follow Julia’s recommendation to serve it with a salad and cold white wine to use up two more leftovers.
20. Turn leftover turkey and rice into turkey rice pilaf.
22. Make curried turkey salad or soup.
23. If your family serves ham for Thanksgiving, instead of a turkey sandwich, make a Cubano.
24. Love baked potato soup?
25. Combine leftover mashed potatoes and ham to make croquettes.
26. Make a hash out of potatoes and ham (or turkey or both).
27. Mince any leftover ham and make ham salad. This works with turkey, too.
28. That minced ham or turkey can be used in your favorite stuffed pepper recipe.
29. Use the ham bone to flavor a split pea, lentil or bean soup. Your slow-cooker is your friend for this soup.
30. The variations on omelets are almost endless. A little turkey, cheese and some of those cocktail onions left on the relish tray would be tasty. A side of cranberry relish would be nice, too.
31. Make a turkey chili.
32. Make a turkey posole.
33. Improvise your own casserole or stew. The number of variations rival that of possible omelets.
34. Caramelize some onions and mix in leftover cranberry relish and Brussels sprouts for a pasta “sauce” which captures the essence of autumn.
35. Cube leftover bread or rolls and make croutons to pep up your salad.
36. Leftover stuffing, separated and toasted in the oven or a skillet, makes great croutons as well.
37. Puree the leftover spinach, collard greens or other dark green, leafy vegetable with some parmesan cheese to make a pesto-like topping for pasta.
39. Use leftover pie filling as the fruit component in your favorite muffin recipe. Leftover whole cranberry sauce would be good for this purpose, too.
40. Puree some leftover pie, filling and crust, to add to muffins that call for applesauce: it adds both moisture and a different flavor.
41. Elevate ordinary mac and cheese or scalloped potatoes by adding leftover ham or turkey.
42. Combine the leftover meat and some of those veggies, chopped up, with your favorite pasta shape and mayo for a great pasta salad.
43. Use leftover meat with your leftover salad in tacos or burritos.
44. Steep leftover cranberry sauce or relish in vodka to make a homemade cranberry liqueur. Use this liqueur in your next Kir Royale.
45. Try a stir-fry with your leftovers and serve over rice. (Now, where did I put the wok?)
46. Leftover fruits or veggies can be pureed with yogurt and ice to make a smoothie.
47. Whip up some mashed sweet potatoes, milk, cream, spices and gelatin for a post-holiday panna cotta. Leftover cranberry jelly or relish is a perfect accompaniment.
48 . Use your leftover cranberry sauce or relish to make granita.
49. If you made those Brussels sprouts especially for Uncle Art, then by all means send them home with him. He probably only gets them once a year!
50. Tag, you’re it! Create your own leftover recipe (and please share it as a comment).
Many of the leftovers will work well as they are for lunch at work or school. Keep out individual-sized portions, making sure to use or freeze following food-safe guidelines.