There's far more to holiday leftovers than your standard turkey soup and turkey sandwiches.
Alberta-based cookbook author Sandi Richard, host of the Food Network Canada series Fixing Dinner and a whiz at meal planning, says there are plenty of creative ways to use up your excess bird.
"Look at those leftovers as something that's not only interesting, but also is going to save your sanity in January," she says, noting they can be prepared and frozen for packed lunches, potluck meetings, or last-minute meals once the holidays are over.
One of her favourite ways to use up leftover turkey is to make filling for "crunchy bread cups." She trims the crusts off slices of bread, butters one side, and places them in muffin tins, butter-side down. Then she fills them with a mixture of turkey meat, green onions, mushrooms and a simple consommé sauce, made from a can of consommé soup, a tablespoon of gravy mix, cornstarch and curry powder. The entire pan can then be frozen as it is, to be baked when needed, or baked first and then frozen, so the cups can be pulled out individually and packed for lunch. (You can use up any leftover cranberry sauce by adding a dollop on top.)
Another dish that can be prepared and frozen ahead of time is turkey pizza, Ms. Richard suggests. Her turkey pizza of choice is Southwest Barbecue Pizza, which can be quickly made by spreading a simmered mixture of salsa, bell peppers, onions, balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce on top of a pre-made thin-crust pizza, and topping it with turkey and mozzarella cheese. That can also be kept in the freezer as is, or baked and cut into individual portions before freezing. Ms. Richard recommends garnishing it with a southwest barbecue sauce, sour cream and slivers of romaine lettuce, fresh tomato and green onion before serving.
Leftover turkey or baked ham can also be used to make strata, similar to a crust-free quiche that can be served as a breakfast for overnight guests, she says. Most of the ingredients, including the turkey or ham, mixed with bread cubes, asparagus or broccoli, cheddar and chopped onion, can be stored in a covered casserole dish in the freezer. Then, when company comes, all that's needed is to add a mixture of eggs, milk and dry mustard. The dish can then be left in the fridge overnight, and baked in the morning.
"We can think out of the box with our leftover turkey," she says. "All of a sudden what you've done is taken the stress off your back."
Talk about killing two birds - or in this case, too much of one - with one stone.
TURKEY IN CRUNCHY BREAD CUPS
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dry brown gravy mix
1 can consommé soup
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 1/4 teaspoon butter, softened (for all)
1 loaf bread, multigrain, sliced (18 slices)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (for all)
3 cups leftover turkey meat
2 green onions
5 small mushrooms
Preheat oven to 400F.
Combine cornstarch, gravy mix, consommé and curry in a small pot at medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
Butter each slice of bread sparingly, then slice off crusts and discard. Press bread slices, butter side down, into muffin tins. Sprinkle poultry seasoning over each.
Finely dice turkey and add to a medium-size bowl as you cut. Finely chop green onions and mushrooms adding to bowl as you cut. Stir to combine. Spoon turkey mixture evenly over bread in muffin cups. Drizzle consommé sauce over turkey mixture. Place in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
SOUTHWEST BARBECUE PIZZA
1 teaspoon canola oil
3/4 pound leftover turkey
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon fresh garlic
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 cup chunky salsa
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
12-inch thin-crust pizza base
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup mozzarella cheese, part-skim, shredded
1 tablespoon southwest barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons sour cream, light
2 romaine lettuce leaves, slivered
Tomato, chopped (optional)
Green onion, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan at medium high. Add turkey, spice and garlic. Set aside.
Sliver onion and peppers, adding to pan as you cut. Add salsa, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Stir to combine and simmer until thick. Remove from heat.
Brush pizza base with olive oil. Layer pepper mixture, then turkey, and cover with cheese. Place in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until cheese has melted.
Drizzle with barbecue sauce and sour cream. Sprinkle lettuce, tomato and green onion on top as a garnish.
TURKEY OR HAM STRATA
2 cups leftover ham or turkey
7 asparagus spears or 1/3 pound small broccoli florets
5 cups dried bread cubes, whole wheat
2 1/2 cups 1 per cent milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Cut ham or turkey into cubes and set aside. Snap off bottom nodes of asparagus and discard. Rinse and slice asparagus into approximately 1-inch pieces. Set aside.
Spray a large lasagna or cake pan with cooking spray. Layer in this order: 1/3 each of ham, bread cubes, asparagus and cheese. Repeat to make three layers. Finely chop onion and sprinkle over top.
Whisk egg whites in a mixing bowl until frothy. Add in yolks, milk and mustard and whisk again. Pour evenly over casserole.
Cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least a couple of hours)
Uncover casserole and bake in oven preheated to 350 F for 50 minutes.
Source: Sandi Richard