Make the greatest sandwich from turkey leftovers

How to transform leftovers into a late-night treat

aweigl@newsobserver.comNovember 20, 2012 

  • Upgrade that turkey sandwich These suggestions come from culinary instructors Rusty Nichols of The Chef’s Academy in Morrisville, Joshua Rosenbaum of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte and Ashlyn Smith of The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham and Spicy Green Gourmet in Research Triangle Park. • Elevate the classic turkey and dressing sandwich with Nichols’ fresh-tasting uncooked cranberry pecan relish. • Make a panini by layering turkey and smoked gouda between two slices of crusty bread brushed with melted butter. If you don’t have a panini press, place sandwiches in a large skillet over medium heat. Place a smaller skillet or a plate weighed down by four cans of beans on top of the toasting sandwiches to smash them down while cooking. Flip once while cooking to brown both sides. • Dress up a turkey sandwich with a slice of Swiss cheese, sliced avocados and diced roasted red peppers. • Top with a slice of pepper jack cheese, avocado slices, pickled red onion slices and spicy black bean spread. To make pickled onion, douse slices with white vinegar and sugar to taste. To make the spread, puree a drained and rinsed 15-ounce can of black beans with 1 jalapeno, 3 tablespoons salsa, 1 teaspoon cumin, salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Cook for 15 minutes and let cool. • Serve a turkey Reuben using rye bread smeared with Dijon mustard, topped with sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese. Cook the sandwich in a skillet over medium heat, 3 minutes per side. • If you have leftover ham as well as turkey, make a muffuletta by topping meat with Havarti cheese and olive spread. To make olive spread, combine drained 21-ounce jar pitted green olives and drained 6-ounce jar pitted black olives; a quartered onion; a quartered green bell pepper, seeds removed; 1 garlic clove; 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar in a food processor. Chop until mixed but still chunky. Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Andrea Weigl
  • Last minute tips and help • An unstuffed 10-pound turkey will cook in 2 1/2 hours in a 325-degree oven. A stuffed 24-pound turkey will take 5 1/2 hours in the same oven. For a chart of roasting times based on the size of the turkey and whether it is stuffed or unstuffed, go to Butterball’s Frequently Asked Questions page:• Use a meat thermometer to determine if the turkey is done. The turkey is ready when it reaches 185 degrees in the thigh, 170 degrees in the breast and 165 degrees in the stuffing. • The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is taking calls from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays and the weekends before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Call 800-288-8372; email; or get help via Facebook,, or Twitter, by following @butterball. • As soon as dinner is over, carve remaining meat from the bone and refrigerate so leftovers are not exposed to the temperature danger zone between 41 degrees and 140 degrees where bacteria can thrive. • For more information on how to safely prepare the Thanksgiving meal, N.C. State University food science professor Ben Chapman has a series of helpful videos at Andrea Weigl
  • A Proper Turkey Sandwich In “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well” (Random House, 2012), Sam Sifton wrote, “What follows is merely a starting point. Racy diners might sprinkle some curry powder on the mayonnaise before closing the sandwich. Others might lay some leftover carrots across the meat, soft and sweet. And if any gravy remains, cold and congealed in a cup in the refrigerator. Spread a teaspoon or two of it across the bread in place of, or in addition, to the cranberry sauce.” 2 slices thick-cut bread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce 1 tablespoon leftover Thanksgiving dressing 1 scant handful of turkey meat, ideally dark meat and skin 1 piece romaine lettuce, washed, dried and ripped in half TOAST bread so that it has a crisp exterior but remain soft within. SPREAD mayonnaise thickly on one piece of bread, cranberry sauce on the other. Spread the stuffing on top of the cranberry sauce, and cover with the meat, then the romaine. Top sandwich with the piece of toast spread with mayonnaise. Yield: 1 sandwich
  • Pasta Shells With Turkey, Mushrooms and Capers A recipe adapted from Molly Stevens in “Fine Cooking Thanksgiving Cookbook: Recipes for Turkey and all the Trimmings” (Taunton Press, 2012). 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms 1 1/4 cups warm water 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 1/4 cup fresh button mushrooms, wiped clean, steams trimmed and sliced 1 large shallot, thinly sliced 1 clove garlic, minced 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup dry white wine 6 to 8 ounces dried pasta shells or farfalle Splash of sherry vinegar 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed 1 cup diced (1/2-inch) cooked turkey Grated Pecorino Romano, for serving, optional SOAK porcini mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes. Strain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid. Squeeze them dry, chop them into small pieces and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve or a coffee filter; set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. HEAT oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When butter has melted, add fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and most of their liquid as evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add shallot, garlic, rosemary and chopped porcini. Cook, stirring, until shallot is soft, about 4 minutes. Pour in wine and reserved porcini soaking liquid; bring to a boil and cook until liquid is reduced by more than half. Taste; if it’s not flavorful enough, continue reducing a bit more. COOK pasta until just tender. Drain pasta and add it to the skillet. Add vinegar, capers and turkey, toss to coat everything, and heat gently for a few minutes. Stir in the remaining butter; taste again and adjust vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve warm with the grated Romano, if you like. Yield: 2 servings
  • Thanksgiving Eggs From “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well,” by Sam Sifton (Random House, 2012). 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 to 4 cups leftover Thanksgiving stuffing 6 large eggs 2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees. Use the butter to heavily grease an 8-inch square baking pan and put the leftover dressing into it. Use the back of a spoon to press into this field of dressing 6 indentations into which you will later crack the eggs. Place the pan into the oven to heat for 10 to 15 minutes. REMOVE heated dressing from oven and crack the eggs into the indentations. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and return to oven to bake until the eggs are just set, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with hot sauce and coffee. Yield: 6 servings
  • Uncooked Cranberry Pecan Relish You use the entire orange, seeds, peel and all. From Chef Rusty Nichols, an instructor at the Chef’s Academy in Morrisville. 2 (12-ounce) bags fresh cranberries 1 orange, cut into 8 pieces, stem removed 3/4 cup pecan pieces Sugar, to taste COMBINE cranberries, orange pieces and pecan pieces in a large food processor. Process until cranberries and oranges are chopped fine. Add sugar to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 12-16 servings

We probably all have our own post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich ritual.

It may be the classic: slices of turkey stacked atop gravy-smeared bread with a dollop of cranberry sauce and a spoonful of leftover dressing. It may be as simple as turkey, mayo and spongy white bread.

My ritual dispenses with the bread; instead I enjoy strands of breast meat dipped into a jar of Duke’s mayonnaise.

Many enjoy this ritual sandwich after raiding the refrigerator late at night. As Sam Sifton, a former New York Times restaurant critic who has written a new cookbook, “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well,” says, “You have to eat it barefoot in the kitchen and there cannot be much light.”

We share Sifton’s recipe for the classic turkey sandwich that he calls “simplicity itself.” We also tapped cooking school instructors from Morrisville to Charlotte for their advice on how to elevate the leftover turkey sandwich. Their suggestions call for avocados, roasted red peppers and a family recipe for uncooked cranberry pecan relish.

In case there’s a lot of leftover turkey and dressing, we share recipes for a breakfast dish with baked eggs nestled in leftover dressing and a comforting pasta dish with turkey, mushrooms and capers.

We’re also sharing the Butterball hotline (800-288-8372) to ensure a bird so delicious it just might be impossible to wait until midnight to savor a sandwich by the light of the refrigerator.

For a printable version of the recipes, click the links:

A Proper Turkey Sandwich

Uncooked Cranberry Pecan Relish

Thanksgiving Eggs

Pasta Shells with Turkey, Mushrooms and Capers

Weigl: 919-829-4848

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