If you’re like me and can’t resist roasting a large turkey for Christmas dinner, when you peek into the refrigerator this morning you may be wondering what to do with all that leftover meat.
It’s not a hardship, really, particularly when the first thing many of us do is to turn some of it into the most delicious turkey sandwiches to enjoy for lunch today.
Tomorrow night my family will also do a redo of Christmas dinner, slicing and reheating some of the meat in the leftover gravy and serving it with any leftover vegetables remaining from the big feast.
Of course, if you would like to try something else, there are all kinds of other things you can do with the leftover meat, and today I’m offering three recipes showcasing that.
The first one is quesadillas. A quesadilla is a Mexican-style creation that involves folding a flour tortilla in half around a filling rich with cheese and other savoury things. In this instance, along with the diced, leftover turkey, I used bell peppers, cilantro and seasonings.
Once filled, the quesadilla is cooked in a skillet or griddle until the tortilla is toasted and filling deliciously hot. I cut the quesadilla into wedges and serve it with salsa and sour cream. It will make a very nice, casual supper to enjoy after going for a holiday skate, walk or other activity.
Leftover turkey is a wonderful thing to use in a soup, and I did that in a recipe also swimming with kale and beans. It’s fairly easy to make with just a few things to chop up before you start simmering. The soup has an Italian-style flavour, being accented with oregano, garlic and, at the table, Parmesan cheese and, if desired, chili flakes. Serve bowls of the soup with slices of crusty bread and a glass of white wine, such as pinot grigio, to create a most enjoyable winter lunch.
To make the soup, you’ll need stock, and you can make your own — see recipe on page B3 — with the turkey carcass, once cleaned of any meat.
That turkey stock can also be used in today’s last recipe for simple and hearty turkey stew.
It’s simple because the turkey is already cooked, and all you’re doing is simmering it on the stovetop with a few colour- and flavour-enhancing ingredients. You can enjoy the stew now or later. To preserve it for future use, cool the stew to room temperature then freeze it in suitably sized containers to enjoy for a meal later in the winter.
Serve the stew with egg noodles or mashed potatoes to make a winter night much brighter.
I keep cooked, leftover turkey meat refrigerated for up to three days. Health Canada advises reheating leftovers to at least 74 C (165 F). If you have not used up all the meat in the ways suggested above or in other recipes, you can slice, dice or cube it, put it in containers, label and date, and then freeze for up to three months, to thaw and use when needed.
Turkey, Bell Pepper and Jack Cheese Quesadillas
Tex-Mex-style quesadillas tastily filled with leftover turkey, spices, cheese and peppers. Serve with salsa and sour cream for dipping.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 6 minutes, per batch
Makes: 4 servings
1 1/2 cups cooked, skinless turkey meat, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
n salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or thinly sliced green onion
4 (10-inch) flour tortilla shells
Place turkey in a bowl and mix in chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add the bell pepper, cheese and cilantro or green onion and toss to combine. Distribute an equal amount of mixture on one half of each tortilla shell. Fold the unfilled side of the tortilla over the filled side and gently press down.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Set a large, non-stick skillet — mine was 12-inches wide — over medium, to medium-high heat, or preheat a non-stick electric griddle to medium heat, to medium-high heat
Cook a couple of the stuffed tortillas for 3 minutes per side, or until the cheese is melted and the tortillas golden brown.
Set the cooked quesadillas on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you cook the second batch. When all are done, cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve.
If desired, place bowls of salsa, sour cream and guacamole on the table for diners to help themselves.
Simple and Hearty Turkey Stew
Serve this easy-to-make, let’s-use-up-that-leftover-turkey stew on a bed of egg noodles or mashed potatoes. It would also great with a hot batch of biscuits.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: About 40 minutes
Makes: 3 to 4 servings
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- pinch dried sage leaves and paprika
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock
2 cups cooked, skinless turkey meat, cut in 1/2- to 1-inch cubes
n splash or two Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup frozen peas or corn, or mix of both
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a medium, heavy bottomed pot (mine was 9-inches wide) set over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, sage, paprika and mustard and cook for 2 minutes more.
Slowly add 1/2 cup of the stock. Cook a minute or so and when the mixture is very thick, slowly mix in the rest of the stock. Add the turkey and Worcestershire sauce, and bring stew to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface).
Simmer stew, uncovered, 30 minutes, until lightly thickened and richly flavoured. Add the peas and/or corn and cook 2 minutes more, until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.Turkey Stock
Homemade stock you can use as the base for gravy, soups and stews.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: About 2 hours 10 minutes
Makes: 8-10 cups
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
16 cups water
4 fresh parsley sprigs
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 turkey carcass, cut into 4-6 pieces
Place all ingredients in a tall pot. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam.
Reduce heat until liquid gently simmers (small bubbles should just break on the surface).
Simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.
Ladle a little stock into a small bowl, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and then taste it. If it has a nice turkey taste, it’s ready; if not, simmer the stock a while longer.
When ready, strain the stock and use right away in these or other recipes.
Any stock you don’t need to use right away can be cooled to room temperature and, after removing any fat from the surface, put into containers for later use.
Homemade turkey stock can be stored in covered containers in the refrigerator to two to three days. Stock also freezes well.
Turkey, Kale and Bean Soup
This sustaining soup will make a nice winter lunch served with rolls or crusty bread. After it has cooled to room temperature, it will also freeze well, providing you something you can thaw, heat and enjoy at another time.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: About 30 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
5 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups diced, cooked turkey meat
1 (19 oz./540 mL) can white kidney beans, drained well, rinsed, and drained well again
1 (14 oz./398 mL) can diced tomatoes
2 cups baby kale, sliced (see Note)
* salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
* freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
* crushed chili flakes, to taste (optional)
Heat the oil in a soup pot set over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste and oregano and cook 1 minute more. Add the stock, turkey meat, beans and tomatoes. Bring soup to a gentle simmer, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in the kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper. At the table, let diners top bowls of the soup, to taste, with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and, if desired, chili flakes.
Note: Baby kale is sold in tubs at most supermarkets.
Eric Akis is the author of the just-published, hardcover book Everyone Can Cook Everything. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.
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