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Sunday, July 21

Gapers Block

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So I have to pull a young George Washington here, and tell you all the truth. While I have cooked turkey breasts in the past, this year I actually cooked an entire turkey. All by myself, and was beyond delighted with the results. I'll save the recipe on how to do that for another time (of course if you're interested you can leave a comment and I'll let you know).

But since I imagine I'm not the only one who reads Gapers Block who either cooked a whole turkey or ended up with a pile of leftovers from a whole turkey, I thought I'd share a few recipes on what to do with those leftovers.

And to be truly honest, I often like turkey leftover dishes just as much, if not more, than I like the actual turkey. There's something about a great casserole dish to help you get through the onset of truly cold weather. But then again, there are times when you realize that you're going to be surrounded by tempting snacks, desserts, holiday parties and more feasting during the course of the next month, so having some tasty but low-fat and healthier dishes is also nice.

First the bad. Turkey Tetrazzini is so incredibly not good for you. And it is barely Italian. It is supposedly named after an Italian opera singer who spent a lot of time in San Francisco, where the dish originated. And quick Turkey Fajitas don't have to be super-bad for you, but once you add the sour cream, cheese and guacamole it's no longer a healthy dish.

And then there are dishes that are much better for you. Since I'm fighting a cold and really, really want chicken soup, but since I have two huge bags of turkey carcass instead of chicken bones, I'll show you how to turn those bags of bones into a tasty and herb riddled soup. Since you also may be trying to save money while being healthy, how about a turkey salad recipe that will let you eat a healthy lunch while saving money.

Turkey Tetrazzini
1 small chopped onion
10 button mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of turkey, chicken or veggie broth
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1 dash of ground nutmeg
1-1/2 cups of cooked spaghetti
3/4 cup of chopped and cooked turkey
1/4 cup of shredded provolone or swiss cheese
chopped parsley
lemon slice halves
red pepper strips

Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and the mushrooms in olive oil for about three minutes, or until they're soft. Add the flour and stir well. You're going to make a slight roux, so cook this for about a minute while stirring constantly. It should just start to turn darker before you gradually stir in the milk and chicken broth. Lower the heat to medium and stir constantly. Once it gets thick and bubbly you have a gravy ready for flavor. Stir in the parsley, thyme, oregano, pepper and nutmeg. Let this cook for about two more minutes while stirring constantly. Now add the spaghetti, turkey, and half of your cheese. Once everything is combined, pour it into a greased casserole dish. Bake it for 15 minutes, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. You can either let it cook for 5 more minutes so the cheese melts and starts to turn brown, or you can turn the oven to broil and let it cook for another minute while watching it constantly. Let the casserole set for about 5 minutes before serving.
Makes two servings

For an untried, but delicious sounding, veggie alternative, try this one from Vegetarian Times.

Turkey Fajitas
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, sliced
2 portabello mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 cup of leftover turkey, chopped
sour cream
flour tortillas

In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, and olive oil. Stir everything so it is coated in the oil and let it cook for about 5 minutes and stir occasionally. Once everything is soft and starting to turn brown, add the cumin and turkey. Stir so the cumin is evenly distributed and let it cook for about 5 minutes, or until the turkey is warmed through. While this is cooking, wrap the tortillas in damp paper towels and warm them up in the microwave. Or you can wrap them in a cloth towel and place them on the top rack of the oven set at 225° F and let them warm slowly. Rotate the tortillas so they warm evenly. Add to a dish and serve with the above ingredients for toppings. You can also warm up a can of refried beans or black beans to go with it.
Makes two servings

Turkey-Vegetable Soup
To make the broth:
1 turkey carcass
1 large onion, cut into quarters
1 large carrot, cut into 4 pieces
2 ribs of celery, cut into 4 pieces
4 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 teaspoon of dried marjoram
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of salt
5-8 whole peppercorns

If you hate straining but want a clearer broth, you can add all the spices to a tea ball or tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth. I like the herbs in the final soup, so I don't bother.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with water by about 1-inch. Don't be afraid to cut up the larger pieces. Cover the pot and let the water come almost to a boil before lowering the heat to a simmer and letting it cook for about one hour. Once it has finished cooking, ladle the stock out of the stock-pot into the pan you'll be using for the soup. Most ladles hold 1/4 cup of liquid and plan on 1 to 1 1/2 cups of stock per serving of soup. Since you're likely to have more stock than you want to use right away, ladle the extra into clean glass jars that are sitting in an ice-bath in your sink. (Simply dump several ice cube trays into your sink, and add cold water until half of the jar is covered.) Once they're full, wipe the lip and place them either in your refrigerator or your freezer. If you're freezing remember to leave room for expansion.

To make the soup:
5 cups of turkey stock
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 cups of cooked turkey meat, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover it and let it cook for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables have reached the desired doneness. Taste before adding salt and pepper. Serve with a simple salad and fresh bread for a hearty but healthy dinner.

Turkey Salad with Cranberry Dressing
2 large handfuls of mixed greens
1/4 cup of chopped turkey leftovers
1/2 of a tomato, cut into wedges
1/2 of a medium carrot, peeled into strips with a vegetable peeler
1/4 of a rib of celery, chopped
1/4 of an avocado, cut into slices

Combine everything into a bowl and toss. Prepare one of the dressings below.

Creamy Cranberry Dressing
1/2 cup of leftover cranberry sauce (either jellied or chunky will work)
1/2 cup of low-fat mayonnaise
sprinkle of ground cinnamon

Using a spoon, combine everything into a dish and stir until it is well combined. If you desire a thinner dressing, you can add some olive oil. This can be refrigerated up to a week.
Makes four servings.

Oil/Vinegar with Cranberries Dressing
Large pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1 small clove of garlic, minced or pushed through a press
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2-3 tablespoon of balsamic, red wine or sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons of cranberry sauce (either variety)

In a bowl (wood works best) combine the salt, pepper and garlic. Use the back of a stainless steel spoon to smoosh the ingredients into a paste; for some reason this removes the bitterness from the garlic. Add the oil, vinegar and cranberry sauce. Stir to combine. Taste and add either more salt, pepper or vinegar as needed. Stir again and pour over the salad. This can be refrigerated for up to a week.
Makes four servings/

With just a little effort, those leftovers can go from being boring sandwiches to interesting and quick dinners that don't taste like recycled dinners. And of course, if you don't have turkey leftovers, chicken can be substituted for any of these dishes in equal portions.

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Jason / November 30, 2006 9:11 AM

Turkey enchiladas work very well, as well, along with turkey salad sandwiches (like chicken salad).

I, too, cooked an entire turkey this year for the first time and it was an enlightening experience.

paul / November 30, 2006 9:47 AM

I personally could eat turkey sandwiches for a week - with mayo and a sprinkle of tarragon.

This year, I smoked/grilled a turkey for the first time and it turned out awesome. The best leftover so far was turkey with mole (the sauce, not the underground rat). A can of store-bought mole, some onions, some peppers and some cut up turkey, served over rice.


About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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