Food for Thought

The best part of the feast? Leftovers

I give up.

Resistance is futile, a waste of energy.

There is no way I can avoid cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, short of being taken to the ICU, or worse. At the least, I must produce a meal as close to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as I care to get. It is, after all, the most boring meal in the standard repertoire, its centerpiece a mutant creature with gigantic breasts eerily reminiscent of those sported by surgically-altered pole dancers. Odd that we overeat, eh ?

I stick close to the tradition, inspired by fear. If I dare suggest that I am going to do “something different” with the ingredients, or hint that I want to “put a twist” on the menu, the browbeating begins. Members of the family gang up on me.

The horror.

I can‘t take it; I am too old to resist, so this year I give up the ghost. I surrender without a fight.

Never again will I try to evade this duty. I march to the kitchen, head bowed, to meet my depressing food fate. Not even the prospect of making gravy buoys my spirits.

I have come to grips with the fact that I have to reserve creativity … for the leftovers.

If there is one thing that rings universal about the Thanksgiving dinner, it is that there are leftovers. Plenty of ’em. One awakes the morning after the “feast” to discover a fridge packed with remnants enough to fuel a rugby team. And, generally, just enough protein to provide balance in at least two outings.

So, I have adjusted my concept of Thanksgiving dinner: it is now merely a labor-intensive way to produce leftovers that, in turn, can be used as ingredients in something worth eating.

The leftover production process begins when my daughter, Ivy, jumps into the kitchen with me at about 10 a.m., doing her part to make a 6 p.m. meal happen. She’s good in the kitchen, a superb cook; she more than pulls her weight.

Kathy tended to the desserts the night before, staying up to 1 a.m. to put out three options — all great: a spectacular lemon brulée tart, a deep almond/cranberry tart, and a pumpkin pie, from scratch, that is to die for (and I can’t stand pumpkin pie).

I’ve purchased a turkey. It hurt to do it.

I prepare the disgusting creature for roasting. I have a stuffing ready to go, with hot, Italian sausage to bolster the otherwise bland mix of toasted, large croutons, herbs, onion, garlic, egg and broth. I sauté shaved Brussels sprouts with shallot and pancetta, steaming the blend to a finish, and put together a corn and red pepper medley. I assemble a salad of mesclun and tomatoes, with a simple garlic/mustard vinaigrette.

Ivy cowboys up with her muscular, twice-baked potatoes — the fluffy innards dolled up with plenty of butter, cream and white cheddar, the tops of the massive spuds graced with bits of crispy bacon. She also powers through with mashed sweet potatoes, amped up with roasted, hot Hatch green and maple syrup. We have gravy, we have fresh-baked rolls.

For nibbles prior to the meal, there’s a wedge of Cotswold and a slab of runny Brie.


You betcha: Zin and Pinot Noir — compliments of the guests.

We have enough chow for 20 people.

More than twice the number invited.

So, we have leftovers; the meal is a success.

We send a plate piled with stuff home with each guest, and the fridge is still crammed with bowls and containers and foil-wrapped packs of debris.

What to do?

First: Don’t panic. Everything (except the wilted, dressed greens) is usable.

Second: Take heart — nearly everything gains in flavor with a day or two in the cooler.

An option: Toss the turkey carcass in a soup pot, crack the big bones open with a hammer, make a flavorful stock.

Another option: Reject the first option. I am not a soup type of guy and, though a turkey stock — the flavor enhanced by aromatics — is delicious, after a glass or three of wine, I tend to spill soup. I prefer to pick the turkey carcass clean, and use the meat in other applications.

I take note of ingredients as I calculate my strategy. I have a bowl of mashed sweet potato. I have four, twice-baked bombers hulking at the back of the fridge. I have a bunch of stuffing (baked outside the bird) and I have … turkey.

What to do? And, more critical, what to do in three days time since, after that, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be sickest, quickest.

I put on the thinking cap.

Night one: I’ll warm the twice-baked potatoes. I’ll whip up a green salad with some tomatoes and olives. I have some leftover green chile left from the day before Thanksgiving and I will slop it over the potatoes.

Then, day two … to the turkey.

I have an old standby ready for the bird, and I intend to use it.