Asheville chefs suggest creative makeovers for Thanksgiving leftovers

HASHING IT OUT: Sawhorse owner and chef Dan Silo says he’ll likely use any turkey left over from his Thanksgiving dinner to make hash. “We always have a hash and eggs on the brunch menu here,” he says. “It’s a great way to use odds and ends of proteins, starch and vegetables.” Photo by Cindy Kunst

The downside of hosting Thanksgiving dinner in your home is that it’s labor intensive. First, there’s planning the menu — of course, taking into consideration the dietary restrictions of your guests.

Then there’s hunting down the recipes; shopping; cleaning the house/hiding the clutter; pulling out the special occasion linens, china, silver and glassware (for all the lovely wine your guests will be bringing); prepping; cooking; and doing the tricky math so everything is ready to hit the table at the same time. Finally, when you’re stuffed as full as the bird and the last drops of zinfandel and riesling are drained, the postmeal cleanup looms large.

The upside of hosting Thanksgiving dinner in your home? You get to keep all the leftovers. But then the challenge becomes: What to do with all the leftovers.

There is no shame in simply taking all the elements of your spread out of the fridge, reheating and repeating. Or putting slabs of carved turkey between two slices of white bread, slathering on some mayo and calling it a day.

Or you could turn your leftovers into makeovers, with help from four Asheville chefs who took time from their Thanksgiving prep to share these recipes. (Note: Some are more freestyle than others.)

But first, do not discard the picked-clean turkey carcass without using it to make stock. Break it up into smaller pieces, put it in a pot with a gallon of water, add peeled, quartered onions, roughly chopped celery and carrots, peppercorns and fresh thyme sprigs, then bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for several hours to reduce, skimming fat occasionally. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into containers, cool, then refrigerate or freeze. Easy-peasy.

Spinach potato cakes

Cristina and Jesson Gil, owners of Asheville’s three Early Girl Eatery cafes, have six children so, says Cristina, “Thanksgiving has always been big. The menu is pretty balanced between what I grew up with, what Jesson grew up with and each child’s favorite things. We would eat in the afternoon, and then later in the evening everyone would make their own plates from leftovers, heat it and eat again.”

Recently, Cristina has been adopting a vegetarian diet, and Jesson tries to stay gluten-free. So the Thanksgiving meal will not include turkey or bread — or, sadly, all of their children at the table since several are back in Texas (where the family is from) or in college. Jesson fondly recalls mashed potato tacos his mother used to make with leftover potatoes. “Fill corn tortillas with potatoes and fry them in a frying pan with oil. Not healthy but oddly tasty!” he says.

Here is a healthier, vegetarian option for leftover spuds he suggests for brunch:

1 pound mashed potatoes
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
¾ teaspoon minced garlic
4 ounces baby spinach
1 cup plain bread crumbs
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
A dash of hot sauce
One large egg, beaten

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil with garlic and spinach in large sauté pan over medium heat. Cook until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat, drain and cool spinach. Place spinach in food processor and purée. Place mashed potatoes in mixing bowl and add spinach and remaining ingredients (minus olive oil) and mix to incorporate. Form into six 3-inch patties and chill 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place patties on baking sheet, brush with remaining olive oil and bake for 10-12 minutes until heated through.

Turkey hash

Chef Dan Silo calls upon his upbringing in upstate New York and the Adirondack Mountains in creating the hearty menu at Sawhorse, the restaurant he opened on New Leicester Highway in the spring. Dishes like meat pie and porridge are culinary-origin touchstones for him in the same way fried chicken and grits are to Southerners.

Thanksgiving dinner was cooked by his mother, who also turned leftover turkey into turkey rice soup. “It was superthick like a porridge, which I grew up eating,” he says. “There was really nothing in it but rice, turkey, salt, pepper and butter. I loved it.”

Sawhorse is closed Thanksgiving Day, but Silo says he’ll likely roast some turkeys to take to the potluck he and his wife will attend with friends. If there is any left over, he’ll turn it into a turkey hash.

“We always have a hash and eggs on the brunch menu here,” he says. “It’s a great way to use odds and ends of proteins, starch and vegetables. We’ve used duck confit, roast pork, whatever is on hand. And I like to use duck eggs, but chicken eggs work, too.”

The chef’s instructions: Pull the meat from the turkey carcass and set aside. Cook several slices of bacon and reserve fat in a skillet (cast iron, if you have one). Remove bacon and put a handful or two of chopped onion in the skillet with bacon fat and let the onion sweat out.

Add chopped fresh cabbage and a splash of turkey stock and cook down a good bit until tender. Fold in your turkey meat, some roasted potatoes or roasted winter squash if you have any left over, and let all that cook in the pan a while, getting to know each other a bit.

Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, another hit of stock and finish it with some butter and a little applesauce — not to make it soupy, but just to coat it all a bit. Cook it all together, crack two or three eggs on top depending on your skillet, then put it in a 350-degree oven until the eggs set. Serve it for breakfast, brunch or dinner with whatever bread you have left over.

Hot turkey sandwich

Robin Ziegler, who co-owns Ziggy’s Bakery & Deli in South Asheville with Joshua Widner, loves sandwiches. “I am a big fan,” she says. “I love them and could eat them all the time.”

Not surprisingly for the Philadelphia native (and culinary graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.), the signature sandwich at Ziggy’s is the cheesesteak. But the top seller is the roast turkey with pesto mayo, smoked gouda, shaved Granny Smith apples and shredded iceberg lettuce on Widner-baked baguette.

Ziegler appreciates a purist turkey sandwich with American cheese, tomato, lettuce and mayo, but she turns the heat up with this interpretation of a hot turkey sandwich and bonus side dish suggestions.

The chef’s instructions: Melt some butter in a pan, add shredded turkey and enough gravy to coat everything, and heat until it’s hot and bubbly — almost looking like a poutine you’d pour over fries. Lay some slices of Swiss cheese on top and let that melt. Cook it down some so it’s not soupy.

Lightly toast some thick slices of sourdough bread. Pull the turkey mix out of the pan — it will be gooey and stringy — and lay it on your your bread. (You can put some iceberg lettuce down first to keep it from falling through the bread.)

Open a can of that good old canned, jellied cranberry sauce, cut thick slices as if you were slicing a tomato and put that on top of the turkey mix. Add the other slice of toast on top and close it up.

You can eat it with your hands, or you can do it as an open-faced sandwich to eat with a knife and fork. On the side, use your leftover mashed potatoes to make potato cakes (see Early Girl recipe) or cut a square of stuffing and sear it off in butter in a hot pan.

Turkey and dumplins

Growing up in Florence, S.C., Elliott Moss’ family favored the pig over the poultry when it came to Thanksgiving. “We would always cook whole hog around the holidays. My dad was a welder, and that’s kind of how I got into barbecue, those memories of cooking whole hog,” says the acclaimed pitmaster and partner at Buxton Hall Barbecue. “Over the years, we kind of stopped doing whole hog and started doing turkey. You split it open and kind of treat it like a whole hog. We’d use the leftovers for turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey chili.”

Though Buxton Hall had smoked turkeys for pickup during Thanksgiving week in the past, for the first time the restaurant is open for service that day. With over 300 seats reserved nearly two weeks before the holiday, it’s doubtful there will be much of anything left over.

But if he gets to take some home, he likes to make a roast turkey sandwich on a croissant with Lusty Monk honey mustard, Swiss cheese and arugula. Or re-create the Southern supper mainstay chicken and dumplins with turkey:


2½ cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup leaf lard
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Chopped fresh herbs, if desired
¾-1½ cups milk

Mix dry ingredients and leaf lard with a fork. Slowly add milk to flour mixture until combined — it should be doughy and soft but not sticky. Pinch dough into dime-sized balls or roll out on floured countertop and cut into strips or squares. Set aside.

Stock: Dice an onion, two carrots and half a head of celery into medium to large chunks and sauté in a small amount of oil or butter on a stock pot. Add a few chopped cloves of garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and one bay leaf. Add 1½ cups dry white wine to the pan to deglaze. Add 2 gallons of water, bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until reduced by at least half. Strain. Dice up more onion, carrots and celery in small pieces to make a mirepoix. Add to 2 quarts of the stock and boil until tender; strain out mirepoix and set aside.

Finish: Return stock to the pot and bring back to a simmer. Slowly add dumplings/dough strips until stock starts to thicken and dough cooks. Add 1 cup heavy cream. Slowly add some pulled turkey meat and the mirepoix back into pot along with ½ cup green peas and salt and pepper to taste. Serves eight to 10 people.


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About Kay West
Kay West began her writing career in NYC, then was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, including contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. In 2019 she moved to Asheville and continued writing (minus Red Carpet coverage) with a focus on food, farming and hospitality. She is a die-hard NY Yankees fan.

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