Leftovers the star of post-holiday meals

Hinsdale home cooks share favorite ways to repurpose menu items, from turkey to cheese

Planning is the key to preparing Thanksgiving dinner - especially if you want good leftovers, like turkey enchiladas.

"There's usually plenty of cheese leftover from the cheese appetizer tray," Hinsdale's John Sachanda said. "That's a great thing to add to the enchiladas. Put some good cheese out there to begin with. Get ahead of the game."

Another favorite ethnic dish that uses up leftovers and pays tribute to Sachanda's eastern European heritage is pierogis. He fills them with regular mashed potatoes or a combination of regular and sweet mashed potatoes. And more cheese.

"If you've got some caramelized skin, you can add that to it," he said, noting that he likes to crisp the turkey skin on a sheet pan in the oven.

"That gives you that nice crispy skin and it's salty and seasoned and it's a real treat if you're a fan of that particular part of the bird," he said. "Once it's crispy, you can add it back in to leftover dressing. You can chop up some of the leftover white meat or dark meat and add that in as a crispy topping to any dish you decide to make."

He also has created what he calls a "cheater" version of pierogis.

"I kind of combine the enchilada and the pierogi recipe and I make what's called quesarogis," he said. "Pierogis take a lot of work."

The quesarogi is made by dipping an 8-inch flour tortilla in water, placing it on a plate and adding stuffing, potatoes and cheese on one half. After folding the tortilla over, microwave it for one minute and then top with caramelized onions and sour cream.

"It makes a great pierogi substitute," he said. "It's just as good - almost as good, not quite - as making it from scratch."

Sachanda uses the turkey carcass to create a stock that serves as the base for turkey noodle soup or turkey vegetable soup, if there are some leftover veggies lying around.

Turkey hash, turkey chili and turkey a la king are some other dishes Sachanda has made. He enjoys cooking with leftovers as much as making the actual meal.

"Oh, man, that's one of my favorite things to do is tear up that bird after you've carved the breasts and some of the dark meat off," he said.

Keeping it simple, flavorful

Fellow Hinsdalean Amy McCauley also enjoys making the most of Thanksgiving leftovers. She created a recipe for chicken and wild rice soup that she said would be delicious with leftover turkey. And it takes less than 30 minutes to make.

"What I like about it is it's very flavorful, but it's not super time-consuming," McCauley said. "Sometimes after you've cook a huge meal, the thought of spending a lot of time to recreate leftovers is tough."a

The soup is seasoned with the packet that comes with the Uncle Ben's wild rice, so cooks don't have to worry if they still have enough sage in the cupboard. It also satisfies picky eaters, she noted.

Another popular post-Thanksgiving dish is turkey and sour cream enchiladas.

"In our house, that is just like happy food, my husband's favorite," she said. "It reminds us of home and Texas for sure. It's hard to go wrong with melted cheese and avocados. It's not too hard to put together and assemble, and the taste is so great."

She suggests serving the enchiladas with a drink that carries the holiday theme - a cranberry margarita.

"I will make a batch of those to go with that," she said.

Susan McBride at the Hinsdale Public Library, who heads up the Hinsdale Bite Club, passed along a favorite recipe for turkey and sweet leek pie from Jamie Oliver. Her co-worker, Meghan Hall, likes to use her leftover turkey in tikka masala, using a New York Times recipe.

These ideas - plus one for turkey swiss cheese and cranberry quesadillas from this reporter - are posted on the paper's website at https://www.thehinsdalean.com.

As a final suggestion, Sachanda recommended a key non-food item.

"Definitely the grocery list should include some storage containers for the leftovers," he said.

McCauley remembers a year when she and her sister declined their mom's offer to send them home with leftovers.

"We thought we were so full," she said.

Several hours later, at about 8 p.m., the two were starving and regretting their decision.

"I came to appreciate that leftovers are a really great thing and you should never say no to Thanksgiving leftovers," she said.

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean