To some, the very word "leftover." is chilling, both figuratively and literally. But to food-savvy folk, the little covered plastic containers and oddly shaped aluminum-foil packets in the fridge present an unequaled culinary challenge.
Let's begin with the most popular bird of the season - turkey. Because its flavor, particularly the white meat, is delicate, leftovers take well to preparations with a bit of spice and zing. Soup to salad, hot foods are in.
Anticipate and imagine that culinary life does exist beyond chopped celery and onions. What was on that appetizer tray? Sticks of carrot, jicama, fennel, olives, and orange and lemon slices for garnish. We can create all sorts of kitchen theater with that cast.
If at all possible, begin with poultry chunks, rather than slices, as they tend to be juicier.
Use your traditional starter ingredients, but toss in some of those other crudites, fragments of the citrus rounds, and a handful of walnut or cashew pieces. Carry through on the theme by adding a tablespoon or two of cranberry sauce plus a dash of Tabasco to your chosen herb, light mayonnaise, or your favorite salad dressing.
If turkey soup is traditional in your family, jazz up an heirloom recipe with a few shakes of Asian or Latin hot sauce. Grandma's lavish use of black pepper doesn't have the subtle, layered depth of flavor that many of the chili preparations impart.
Attitude and imagination are the two most important ingredients in all leftover cooking. Turn on all your creativity switches. You're about to produce a marvel of ingenuity and economy. Note that some of the recipes below use odds and ends otherwise destined for the garbage grinder. Let that be your guide.
"Waste not, want not," and remember that everyone loves a clean refrigerator.
Turkey 'Fusion' Pasta with Asian Pesto
1-1/2 cups roasted peanuts (or a combination of peanuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts)
1/4 cup chopped garlic
3 tablespoons fresh ginger
5 serrano chilies, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
2 cups fresh mint leaves
2 cups fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1-1/2 cups peanut or canola oil
3 tablespoons orange zest
2 teaspoons sesame oil, or more to taste
Salt to taste
3 cups cooked turkey meat, cubed in bite-size pieces
1 pound pasta of preference, cooked al dente
Chopped nuts of choice for garnish
Make the pesto in two batches. Place one-half of the nuts, garlic, ginger, and chilies in a food processor and process to a paste.
Add half of the mint, cilantro, and basil to the above mixture, and process until minced. Add one-half of the oil in a thin steady stream. Scrape into a bowl. Repeat the procedure with the remaining peanuts, garlic, ginger, chilies, herbs, and oil. Combine with the first batch.
Add the orange zest, sesame oil, and salt to taste. Scrape one-half into a jar and store in the refrigerator. May also be frozen for several months. Yield: 3 cups.
In a large skillet or wok, heat the vegetable oil and quickly toss in the turkey cubes to heat through. Add one-half of the pesto recipe and toss to coat the turkey cubes. Add the cooked pasta and toss again lightly. Serve at once in heated bowls, garnished with chopped nuts.
Adapted from 'Terrific Pacific Cookbook,' by Anya Von Bremzen and John Welchman, Workman Publishing
1 pound smoked sausage (andouille if available, or other smoked sausage, or chorizo), cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped celery
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
4 cups chicken or turkey broth
1 teaspoon gumbo file (powdered sassafras)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
Brown sausage in a large skillet, stirring well. Drain on paper towels, set aside.
Combine vegetable oil and flour in a large Dutch oven; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 10 to 15 minutes or until roux (mixture) is the color of a copper penny. Stir in celery, onions, and bell pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sausage, turkey, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir in gumbo file, salt, and cayenne pepper; pour into heated bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley and scallions and serve with white rice. Serves 6.
From the National Turkey Federation
Shotgun Billy's Turkey Chili with Black Beans
1 large red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, cut into small cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, chopped, with liquid
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, and drained
2 cups cooked turkey, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Grated Cheddar or Jack cheese
1 cup chopped onions
In a 3-quart microwave-safe dish, combine the red onion, bell pepper, garlic, jalapenos, and tomatoes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon; cover dish.
Cook in microwave on high for 10 minutes; stir halfway through. Stir in beans and turkey; recover dish. Cook on high for 4 minutes; stir in cilantro. To serve, ladle into heated bowls with grated cheese and raw chopped onions on the side. Serves 4.
Adapted from a recipe from the National Turkey Federation
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society