Monday, November 30, 2009


I neglected to mention the other reason I love to cook Thanksgiving dinner: the leftovers. But I have to confess that this is the one and only instance where I'm a fan. I'm ashamed to admit this because it goes against every single thing my coupon-clipping, special-grabbing, budget-tightening, bargain-hunting mother has been drilling into me for years. She never met a meal she couldn't stretch for a week or so*, and I know it causes her physical pain to see a container with my daughter's extra spaghetti Bolognese sitting for days in our fridge**. Some people indulge in real cream with their coffee, I splurge by only eating a meal the first time around. There, Mom. I've said it. I know I'm going to burn for it.

While I am a clear disappointment to her, my sister is the leftovers poster child. Going out with her always involves toting half-eaten sandwiches, assorted chicken pieces, desserts with bites out of them, the odds and ends of a Chinese dinner, a taco and a spoonful of refried beans, part of a rib-eye, pesto pasta and some kind of a salad home with us. Then we find her a day or so later, happily sitting with a fork and an array of take-out boxes assembling a meal in front of the microwave***:

Me: We're going to grab some dinner at the place down the street. Want to come?
Her: No thanks. I'm all set.
Me: What is that?
Her: My chicken sandwich from Tuesday, the mashed potatoes from dinner last night, with a side of Asian noodles and a lamb skewer that I found on the bottom shelf in some foil.
Me: Ah ha. [My husband is turning pale and backing out of the door.] Are you sure you don't want to come? Our treat?
Her: That's OK. Don't order dessert though...I have half a piece of chocolate cake here that should be plenty for the three of us to split when you come back.

The dog scowls and eats his bare, dry kibble**.

Why then, do I purposely cook way too much food for Thanksgiving dinner? It's simple. Thanksgiving leftovers are different. With a little magic, they transform completely into fantastic new meals that are totally unrelated to the Thursday night feast. For example:
  • Mashed potatoes mixed with chopped scallions become crispy potato pancakes, topped with a dollop of sour cream and a slice of lox. They go perfectly with eggs the next morning.
  • A dab of cranberry sauce between two shortbread cookies, sprinkled with powdered sugar, makes an elegant and tasty treat with a cup of tea.
  • The turkey carcass tossed in a dutch oven with carrots, celery, onions, thyme and water to cover, bubbles into a rich and savory stock for risotto or turkey stew.
And the turkey itself? Thanks to my sister's recipe****, we eat enchiladas, baby!

Leftover Turkey Enchiladas*****

About 4-5 cups (use what you have) of roasted turkey or chicken, chopped or shredded into small pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
2 c. grated pepper jack cheese
1 c. chopped fresh spinach, optional
salt and pepper to taste

1 10 oz. can Las Palmas red enchilada sauce, or 2 cans El Torito green enchilada sauce
1 pkg. French's Chili-0 seasoning mix (omit if using green sauce)
1 dozen corn tortillas
vegetable oil, for tortillas

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix turkey, onion, sour cream, cilantro, 1 c. of the cheddar cheese, all of the pepper jack, and the spinach, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Pour enchilada sauce into a large sauce pan, add another canful of water, then stir in the seasoning mix and simmer until blended and warm. (If using green sauce, just heat).

You are now getting ready to form and fill your enchiladas. What I do is create an assembly line near my stove. The first station is a large frying pan, where you heat about 1 tsp. of oil. Next to that is your pan of warm sauce. Then your bowl of filling, and right next to that on the counter is a 9x13 rectangular baking dish. Take a tortilla, and place in the frying pan to soften. Flip after about 30 seconds to soften the other side. Using tongs, carefully dip the softened tortilla in the sauce to coat. Then lay the tortilla in the baking dish. Spoon a good amount of filling into the middle of the tortilla, fold over the sides, then rotate in the baking dish so the fold side is down. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adding oil as needed to the frying pan as you go. If you have extra filling when you're done, just tuck it in around the enchiladas. Pour all of the remaining enchilada sauce over, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese. It will look really soupy, but don't worry! The sauce will be absorbed by the tortillas as they cook. Bake for 40 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbling. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes (or salsa), guacamole and sour cream.

Unrecognizable Thanksgiving turkey

* After getting the ingredients for 60% off, plus a double coupon and extra value points.
** Thus we are literal interpreters of the phrase "doggie bag". The day before Mom comes over, the dog happily helps us clear away any evidence of unfinished meals. The aforementioned spaghetti, pictured here, will be gone by 5 pm today. When my sister visits, the pooch is out of luck.
*** My microwave is for softening butter, melting chocolate, and popping popcorn. My sister can whip up a seven course meal for her family (sometimes using new ingredients) in hers.
**** The amount of cheese involved should be a clue that it is her recipe.
***** You can make these any time of year using a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.

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