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Chorizo sausage and saffron give a different flavor to the leftover Thanksgiving bird in this Turkey-Sausage Paella dish.
AP Photo
Chorizo sausage and saffron give a different flavor to the leftover Thanksgiving bird in this Turkey-Sausage Paella dish.

What to do with leftover Turkey
Plenty of ways to use excess bird

By Patrice Stewart
DAILY Staff Writer

pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Aunt Sue and Uncle Jim and children can't make it for the big dinner Thursday?

Too bad — but that could mean more leftover Thanksgiving turkey for the rest of you. So start anticipating ways to enjoy it — after all the dressing and sides are gone.

"Friday's leftover turkey sandwich is anticipated just as strongly as, if not more than, Thursday's big-deal dinner," says Rick Rodgers, author of "Thanksgiving 101" (published by Broadway Books, 1998). "Sandwiches are great, but that's just the tip of the leftover iceberg."

When asked about their favorite leftover turkey uses, Americans gave sandwiches top honors, with soup, casseroles, salads and stir-fries listed next.

You can transform that turkey into appetizer-size Turkey Tarts, Turkey-Sausage Paella, Turkey Enchilada Casserole, Creamy Turkey Vegetable Soup

Leftover recipes should never be difficult, said Rodgers. "After all, you just cooked your head off the day before. So when I'm faced with a mountain of turkey meat, there is usually a burrito, taco or enchilada casserole in my future, and sandwiches should be just as inspired."

He included some basics along with these new ideas in his cookbook; each uses about 4 cups (1 pound) of leftover turkey:

Turkey Soft Tacos: Roll strips of turkey into warm corn tortillas with salsa, guacamole and shredded iceberg lettuce.

Turkey and Black Bean Burritos: In a medium saucepan, sauté a small chopped onion and a minced garlic clove in olive oil. Add one 15- to 19-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed, and turkey strips and heat through. Roll up in warm flour tortillas with salsa, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Turkey and Pepper Fajitas: In a large skillet, sauté sliced red onion, green and red bell pepper strips and minced garlic until very soft. Add turkey strips and cook until heated through. Stir in chili powder to taste. Roll up in warm flour tortillas with salsa and sour cream.

Turkey Salad Nicoise: Arrange turkey strips on a bed of red leaf lettuce with tomato wedges, cooked crisp-tender green beans, cooked sliced new potatoes and hard-boiled egg wedges. Serve with your favorite vinaigrette.

Curried Turkey Salad: Mix diced turkey with mayonnaise, a little yogurt, chopped apples, raisins and curry powder. Serve on a bed of green leaf lettuce, or use as a sandwich or pita bread filling.

Hot Turkey, Cheddar and Apple Sandwich: Place sliced turkey on a slice of lightly toasted bread and top with thinly sliced Cheddar cheese. Broil until the cheese melts. Add some thin slices of Granny Smith apples and top with another slice of toasted bread.

New Club Sandwich: Mix cranberry sauce with Dijon mustard to make a sweet-sour sandwich spread. Make a triple-decker sandwich on your favorite bread with turkey slices, crisp bacon, lettuce and the cranberry-mustard sauce.

Rodgers also likes this Southwestern-style use for leftover turkey:

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

12 corn tortillas

1 15-ounce container sour cream

3/4 cup milk

1 cup green tomatillo salsa, green taco sauce, or thick and chunky style tomato salsa

2½ cups bite-sized pieces cooked turkey (about 12 ounces)

1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels

3 scallions (white and green parts), chopped

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 9x13-inch baking dish.

If you have a gas stove, turn a burner to medium heat. Place a tortilla directly on the burner grid and cook, turning once, until the tortilla is warm and softened, about 20 seconds total. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

If you have an electric stove, heat an empty skillet over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet and cook, turning once, until softened, about 45 seconds total. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Stack the warmed tortillas on a plate as you go and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the sour cream and milk until smooth. Spread a thin layer of the salsa in the bottom of the prepared dish. Place 4 tortillas in the bottom of the dish, tearing them to fit.

Scatter half of the turkey over the tortillas, then top with 1/2 cup of the corn and half the scallions. Drizzle with 3/4 cup of the cheese, 1/2 cup of the salsa and about one-third of the sour cream mixture. Top with 4 more tortillas, then the remaining turkey, corn, scallions and salsa.

Drizzle with half of the remaining sour cream mixture and sprinkle with another 3/4 cup of the cheese. Top with the remaining 4 tortillas, spread with the remaining sour cream mixture and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake until the casserole is heated through and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

If the weather's cold and you want comfort food, try putting your leftovers in the following potpie and soup from Taste of Home.

Turkey Potpie

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold butter

3/4 to 1 cup cold water

4 cups cubed cooked turkey

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

1 can (4 ounces) chopped

green chilies, drained

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 green onions, sliced

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead 10-12 times or until smooth.

Set aside a third of the dough. Roll remaining dough into a 15x11-inch rectangle. Transfer to an ungreased 11x7x2-inch baking dish.

In a bowl, combine turkey, cheese, soup, sour cream, onion, chilies and green onions. Spoon into crust. Roll out reserved dough; make a lattice crust. Place over filling; trim and flute edges.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Makes 6 servings.

Creamy Turkey Vegetable Soup

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

3 cups diced unpeeled red potatoes

2 14½-ounce cans chicken broth

2 cups cubed cooked turkey breast

2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 cups heavy whipping cream In a large saucepan, sauté onion in butter until tender. Add potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in the turkey, vegetables, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Cook 10 to 12 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Stir in cream; heat through (do not boil).

Makes 8 servings (2 quarts).

If you're having friends over after Thanksgiving, consider putting your leftover turkey into bite-size servings of Turkey Tarts.

These appetizer-type tarts are made in won ton wrappers and include three types of cheese, green onions, fresh sage, chestnuts and winter squash, as well as turkey (leftover or not). This recipe is from Wilton Enterprises:

Turkey Tarts

24 won ton wrappers

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 pound (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened

4 eggs

4 tablespoons finely chopped green onions

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 cup diced cooked turkey

1/2 cup pureed or mashed cooked winter squash (see note)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped cooked, peeled chestnuts (see note)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cavities of 12-cup muffin pan with pan spray; press 12 won ton wrappers into cavities.

In food processor or with electric mixer, combine cheeses, cream cheese, eggs, 2 tablespoons of the green onions, sage, salt and pepper until smooth and well blended. Stir in turkey, squash and chestnuts. Spoon half of mixture into won ton cups.

Sprinkle with additional green onions. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until set. Repeat with 12 remaining won ton wrappers and filling. Cool slightly to serve. Makes 12 servings, of 2 tarts each.

Note: Acorn or butternut squash work very well; almost any other squash, except maybe spaghetti squash, also would work. For chopped chestnuts, if preferred, substitute pine nuts.

The next recipe, which gives a tasty new twist to the classic Spanish paella, is from the November issue of Cooking Light magazine. It's low in fat, and you can have it on the table in 42 minutes.

Turkey-Sausage Paella

2¾ cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

Cooking spray

2 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup uncooked Arborio rice

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

14½-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained

2 cups shredded cooked turkey breast (about 8 ounces)

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Combine broth and saffron in a small saucepan over low heat; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chorizo to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove chorizo from pan with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.

Add onion and pepper to pan; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add rice; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add wine and paprika; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in broth mixture and tomatoes; bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Gently stir in turkey, peas and parsley; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Makes four 1½-cup servings.

Note: Use Spanish paprika for this recipe, since regular paprika won't give you the same rich, smoky flavor. Chorizo is the Spanish sausage that can be fiery or mild but is always well seasoned. Hot Italian sausage is a good substitute if that's more convenient. Saffron is sold in tiny packages. While it's a little expensive, a few threads go a long way. Saffron and smoked Spanish paprika can be found in the spice aisle of gourmet markets, or are available online at www.penzeys.com or www.tienda.com.

In addition to turkey, you may have leftover cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and other vegetables. Associated Press vegetarian food writer J. M. Hirsch has some ideas for using those items, including making a Leftover Sandwich.

Mashed potato croquettes: For this tasty treat that is similar to a latke, finely dice any leftover cooked veggies (corn, peas, onions and green beans are especially good). In a large bowl, combine equal amounts of the vegetables and mashed potatoes. Mix well.

Count one egg for every 1½ cups of potato mixture. In a small bowl, whisk the necessary eggs, then add the potato mixture and mix well. Form the mixture into hamburger-sized patties and bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Flip after 12 minutes.

Cranberry sauce dessert topping: In a small saucepan, whisk together 1 cup cranberry sauce, 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced by half. Spoon warm over ice cream, cheesecake, angel food cake or pound cake.

Leftover sandwiches: Conventional versions of these leftover sandwiches usually contain turkey, but try tofu turkey or a veggie burger. Cook or thaw the burger before adding it to the sandwich, as the cooking time in the oven isn't sufficient to heat a frozen patty.

Leftover Sandwich

2 large slices bread, preferably whole grain or similarly hearty loaf)

2 slices cheese (smoked Gouda or provolone are nice)

1/2 cup mashed potatoes

2 tablespoons cranberry sauce

1 veggie burger

1/2 cup bread stuffing

2 tablespoons gravy

Preheat oven to 500 degrees, or set it to broil.

Place one slice of cheese on one slice of bread. Use a butter knife to spread the mashed potatoes over the cheese. Top the potatoes with cranberry sauce, the veggie burger and stuffing. Drizzle with gravy, then top with another piece of cheese and bread.

Carefully place the sandwich on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese has melted. Makes 1 sandwich.

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