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Why Leftovers are the Best Part of Thanksgiving Dinner

A compelling argument for still cooking a full-size turkey this Thanksgiving - even for a small guest list.

Lauren Holdcroft at SideChef

Recipe Editor 📝🍴Chipped dishware, breakfast for any meal, and eye-watering spice levels. Find me on Instagram @bitesbylauren
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Lauren Holdcroft at SideChef

Recipe Editor 📝🍴Chipped dishware, breakfast for any meal, and eye-watering spice levels. Find me on Instagram @bitesbylauren
GO TO BLOG

I love Thanksgiving. This isn’t a secret, nor do I consider it to be a particularly groundbreaking opinion. I love food, Thanksgiving is the single most food-centric holiday that we have in the USA, and thus the moment the leaves start changing, my mind skips Halloween altogether and begins to plan for Thanksgiving Dinner. Even in the days when my apartment was the size of a large closet, I would still manage to roast 2 birds and have loved ones over for a night of being thankful and stuffing our faces.

But there is one thing that I love equally, if not more than a big thanksgiving dinner surrounded by friends and family - it might be the following week of leftovers. Feeding all my favorite people on Thanksgiving always warms my heart for weeks to come, but as the one doing most of the cooking, the actual dinner part is usually a bit more subdued. After the turkey has been carved and the final plate set, you can usually find me sitting off to the side, happily nibbling pie and sipping wine, resting my feet while everyone digs into plate after plate of thanksgiving grub. Then, inevitably, someone will ask why I made two turkeys when there are only 10 of us. Like a scripted play, I grin and answer, “Leftovers.”

Thanksgiving this year is destined to be a smaller, more intimate affair for people across the country (and throughout the world), and so for many of you, this means potentially being stuck with leftover turkey even if you don’t intentionally cook for double the amount of people eating, like I have been known to. However, a small thanksgiving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still cook a whole gobbler (at least 10lbs) and reap the benefits all week long. There is SO much you can do with leftover turkey - so why not make a ton and turn thanksgiving flavors into a weeklong affair?

Let’s start with the next day or so, when you should still have a little bit of everything - why not relive the moment and just make yourself up a plate identical to the night before? After all that hard work, you deserve to enjoy it more than once. My absolute favorite is to throw an egg into some stuffing, then pop it into the waffle maker for some stuffing waffle action, then load it up with all of your favorite sides and throw on a Christmas movie. It's officially the holiday season as soon as Thanksgiving ends!

As the non-turkey sides begin to dwindle, it's time to have some fun. We’re well into soup season now, so throw a couple handfuls of cooked turkey into your favorite fall soup or stew instead of chicken. Need lunch? Grab a loaf of your favorite bread and condiments and make a couple of amazing turkey sandwiches. Maybe (like me) you just don’t feel like cooking one night- leftover turkey can easily become the star of a haphazard charcuterie board, along with some crackers, fruit, cheese, or whatever else you’re in the mood for. Feeling overwhelmed by too much meat? Remove it from the bones, wrap in foil then place in a ziplock and freeze for up to 3 months. Gravy freezes great too, and if you portion before freezing, it makes a great little flavor bomb for soup and stew all winter long.

Before I ramble on too long about all the ways you can turn leftover turkey into deliciousness for days to come (for which there are many! Get creative with it!), my parting words are these - with everything as crazy as it is right now, why would you not prolong the warmth, the thankfulness, and the delicious flavors of thanksgiving across a single evening?

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