Turkey post mortem: Polish off leftovers in style

You’ve survived Thanksgiving, round one of a serial food orgy that ends on New Year’s Day. The fall out? Acid reflux, fatigue from a turkey tryptophan and carb O.D., and perhaps a little flush in the cheeks from dishing up a few slices of humble pie. Yes, we’ve all made a culinary faux pas or two — even the Kitchen Shrink — but we’re still here to talk about them. Now we can look back at our kitchen disasters, chuckle, and hopefully learn from our gaffes. Here are some of my faves, kindly donated by family, friends and readers, along with some suggestions I’d like to share with you for creatively recycling the leftovers. Gobble, gobble.

Dressing by Doritos

A reader asked her cousin to bring the stuffing, unaware that the college-aged daughter volunteered to prepare her special dorm-stuffing recipe — a blend of pretzels, potato chips, popcorn and corn chips combined with broth and poultry seasoning.

The five-second rule

Many cooks drop the slippery raw turkey on the kitchen floor as they’re negotiating it into the oven, or drop the cooked bird when removing it from the oven.

If it’s raw, wash it off and proceed, if cooked, dab it with a cheesecloth to remove any debris. And (ssshhh) don’t breathe it to a soul!

It’s in the bag

The No. 1 Thanksgiving blunder is leaving the giblet bag in the cavity while roasting. Do a routine cavity search even before seasoning the bird to avoid spoiled stuffing or laminated gizzard.

Edible crazy glue

My weak link is mashed potatoes — a chemistry experiment on molecular cohesion gone wrong. Have you ever seen spuds resembling super-glue? That’s what happens when you put the hot boiled potatoes into a food processor on high speed. Use a ricer or a hand masher for best results. Some people even like a few lumps, nostalgic of the “real” mashed potatoes of their childhood.

Duck, duck, Goose, goose

An acquaintance, a certified neophyte cook, bought a frozen goose thinking it was a turkey. She cooked it as if roasting a turkey, and you could say her goose was cooked. Time for take-out or goose gumbo.

Nail it!

A friend confessed that she lost an acrylic nail, perhaps while preparing one of her side dishes — the stuffing, cranberries or sweet potato casserole. She searched feverishly for the nail in the trash, drain, floor, etc. but was unsuccessful. Debating whether to tell her guests to be wary of a secret ingredient in the food, she decided to zip her lips. When serving the pumpkin pie, she spotted the culprit on the whipped cream topping. She deduced that the nail snapped off when she was dispensing the cream while pushing her finger on the aerosol nozzle. No harm, no foul.

Now for the leftovers

Here are some hypothetical suggestions from assorted celebrities for recycling the Thanksgiving turkey: Megan Fox would transform hers into lobster. Bernie Madoff would make a soup and save all the stock for next year. Bill Maher would smoke his. Reese Witherspoon would throw away her leftover tom, while Katie Holmes would donate hers to Scientology. Angelina Jolie would ship hers to Third World nations. And Kim Kardashian would probably make an open-faced turkey breast salad without the dressing.

All kidding aside, you can create many easy and scrumptious meals from your Thanksgiving leftovers. Make a hearty turkey vegetable soup with the carcass.

Whip up a stir-fry or chow mein. Toss turkey chunks in noodles for a tetrazini. Make Shepherd’s pie with the turkey and mashed potatoes. Try crepes, lettuce wraps or a turkey paella that will turn the dried-out bird into a platter of Mediterranean bliss.

Post Thanksgiving Paella

  • 1 cup of cooked turkey chunks
  • 2 Spanish chorizo sausages, sliced
  • 1 pound of jumbo shrimp, shells removed
  • 1 pound of deep-sea scallops
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of leftover peas
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of saffron
  • 2 1/4 cups of short grain rice
  • 6 cups of warm stock or water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the oregano, salt, pepper, garlic and 2 tablespoons of oil in a small bowl. Toss the turkey with the mixture. Heat the remaining oil in a paella pan or skillet and brown the turkey over medium heat. Add the chorizo, onion and green pepper, and saute until caramelized. Stir in the tomatoes and rice, and cook for five minutes.
Add the liquid, saffron, shrimp, calamari and scallops. Mix well and cook rapidly covering the whole time until the liquid is absorbed, about twenty minutes. Using a large spoon, turn the rice from top to bottom. Add the peas and cook for another five minutes.

Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve in the paella pan tableside.

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