To some, the very word "leftover." is chilling, both figuratively and literally. But to food-savvy folk, the little covered plastic containers and oddly shaped aluminum-foil packets in the fridge present an unequaled culinary challenge.
Let's begin with the most popular bird of the season - turkey. Because its flavor, particularly the white meat, is delicate, leftovers take well to preparations with a bit of spice and zing. Soup to salad, hot foods are in.
Anticipate and imagine that culinary life does exist beyond chopped celery and onions. What was on that appetizer tray? Sticks of carrot, jicama, fennel, olives, and orange and lemon slices for garnish. We can create all sorts of kitchen theater with that cast.
If at all possible, begin with poultry chunks, rather than slices, as they tend to be juicier.
Use your traditional starter ingredients, but toss in some of those other crudites, fragments of the citrus rounds, and a handful of walnut or cashew pieces. Carry through on the theme by adding a tablespoon or two of cranberry sauce plus a dash of Tabasco to your chosen herb, light mayonnaise, or your favorite salad dressing.
If turkey soup is traditional in your family, jazz up an heirloom recipe with a few shakes of Asian or Latin hot sauce. Grandma's lavish use of black pepper doesn't have the subtle, layered depth of flavor that many of the chili preparations impart.
Attitude and imagination are the two most important ingredients in all leftover cooking. Turn on all your creativity switches. You're about to produce a marvel of ingenuity and economy. Note that some of the recipes below use odds and ends otherwise destined for the garbage grinder. Let that be your guide.
"Waste not, want not," and remember that everyone loves a clean refrigerator.
Turkey 'Fusion' Pasta with Asian Pesto
1-1/2 cups roasted peanuts (or a combination of peanuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts)