Leftovers: The Best Part of Thanksgiving

You’ve planned and shopped for weeks to get ready for Thanksgiving. You’ve cooked for two days, maybe even three. You’ve polished Granny’s Grand Baroque silver, gotten out the good china — the bone with the gold band not the pink flowers because that’s too summery, ironed the napkins into perfect rectangles, and arranged the flowers in the vase Mama bought you. All the food turned out beautifully if you do say so yourself even the gravy (thank the sweet baby Jesus), the relatives ate till they were full as ticks, and no one got in a fight, not even … well, you know who wants to pick a fight every year. The dishes were done and nothing broke.

It was a great day.

But you’re always amazed that after so much preparation, so much work, so much anticipation, just like that, in the blink of an eye, it’s over.

And once again, you’re in the kitchen staring at the picked-over carcass of a greasy, dead bird. Gaping cavity empty of its dressing heart. You knew you should get the 14 lb. turkey, but the 25 lb. was just too enticing. What were you thinking? It sure was good, though. What are you going to do with all this meat?

Here’s what you do. After you send go-plates home with anyone who wants one, then slice the rest of the meat off the bone, pick off all the good dark meat bits, and get ready for sandwiches! My favorite sandwich is plain ole white bread, lightly toasted, smeared with Kraft mayonnaise, just enough to cover both slices of bread to the edges but not enough to squish out. Add a few nice pieces of turkey and some freshly ground black pepper, and you’ve got yourself what may be the most perfect sandwich there is.

If you have a cold biscuit, you can use that instead of white bread, and it’s just as good. Maybe add a little cranberry because it is a biscuit, and biscuits just yearn for jelly. And I have, I’ll admit, in years past gobbed a little extra dressing on my sandwich. It’s the concept of trying to capture the perfect bite, only instead of on your fork it’s between two slices of bread. But I always go back to the simple goodness of unadulterated white bread. mayo, and meat.

If you want to get a little fancier, you can make creamed turkey to serve over toast or a cold biscuit. Make a white sauce (recipe below), add in chopped turkey meat, and heat through. If you’ve got leftover green peas, throw them in there too. Maybe add a jar of sliced mushrooms. It’s warm, and creamy, and comforting especially if we get a rare cold Thanksgiving.

My favorite thing about leftovers? Once all the family and friends have gone back home, once all the dishes are dried and back in the china cabinet, once the silver has been hand-dried so it doesn’t get water spots and it’s back in its box, and once things are quiet and relaxed and twilight, you can sit down with your nearest and dearest, take a moment to really, I mean really, count your blessings, and savor the last bites and the last moments of the day.

From the bottom of my heart to all of you, I hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving that turns out just the way you want it to.

White Sauce (a/k/a Bechamel if you want to be fancy schmancy)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 cup of milk

Directions

  1. Melt that butter in a small saucepan then take it off the heat.
  2. Whisk in the flour and put it all back on the fire.
  3. Slowly add the milk, constantly whisking to avoid lumps.
  4. Cook over medium heat, while you stir stir stir until it gets thick.
  5. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Black pepper leaves unsightly flecks, and we can’t have that!

 

Photo: Frances Brundage [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons