For most of us, a turkey sandwich with a schmear of cranberry sauce is about as much effort as we're likely to put into Thanksgiving leftovers. But we're amateurs. Newsday wondered: Could a professional chef make a silk purse out of a turkey's ear? To find out, we challenged Ben Durham (Four Food Studio), Lia Fallon (Amarelle) and Scott Bradley (Snaps) to create a memorable dish using cooked turkey and other foods you probably have in your refrigerator.

The ground rules: Aside from the turkey, the chefs didn't know what the other three ingredients would be until we showed up with a mystery basket. As on "Chopped" and "Iron Chef," staples and seasonings from the chef's kitchen were OK to use, but the main focus of the dish had to be the ingredients we supplied. The dish could not require more than 45 minutes to prepare.

By the way, no one got chopped from this challenge; every recipe was a winner.

THE CHEF Ben Durham, executive chef of Four Food Studio, Melville

THE MYSTERY INGREDIENTS Cooked turkey, green beans amandine, smashed red potatoes, Jarlsberg cheese

THE STRATEGY Frittata, a baked Italian-style omelet, "is the perfect strategy for any leftovers -- and a great day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast," said Durham. "Basically, you empty your refrigerator into a bowl of eggs and bake." In reality, his recipe shows a lot more finesse, but it is almost infinitely flexible. You could use baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes -- any potato dish that isn't too creamy. Any vegetable would work instead of (or in addition to) the green beans, and any Swiss-type or Cheddar cheese would be a fine substitute for the Jarlsberg.

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THE DISH: POST-THANKSGIVING FRITTATA

Vegetable or olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

Salt and pepper

Feed Me

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

8 eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 to 2 cups shredded Jarlsberg cheese

3/4 cup chopped green beans (or any green vegetable)

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2 cups cubed, cooked turkey

3/4 cup smashed potatoes, with or without skin, broken up (or crumbled baked potatoes)

For garnish: minced chives and/or baby arugula or parsley, turkey crackling (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 10-inch skillet with oil, then add onion, salt and pepper to taste, and saute over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute until onions pick up a little brown color. Spoon out into a dish and let cool.

2. In a large bowl, beat eggs with cream. Add cheese, beans, chopped turkey and potatoes, breaking up potatoes so they don't stay in a clump. Season with salt and pepper and fold to combine.

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3. Film the bottom and sides of a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet with oil and place over medium heat for a few minutes, until the pan is too hot to touch. Pour egg mixture into pan and cook, without stirring, until bubbles appear around the edges. Cover pan with foil and place in oven. Bake 30 minutes, then remove foil. Continue to cook 5 to 15 minutes longer, until top has puffed and browned. Let frittata rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with chives, arugula and/or crackling. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


THE CHEF: Lia Fallon, chef-owner of Amarelle, Wading River

THE MYSTERY INGREDIENTS: Cooked turkey (1 thigh, some breast), chunky cranberry sauce, roasted sweet potatoes, Blue Point Brewery Winter Ale

THE STRATEGY: "I'm glad to see the beer," Fallon said. "With a cranberry sauce, it'll be a great base for a barbecue sauce." Fallon's big idea was to shred dark-meat turkey and cook it in the sauce, whose sweet-sourness she heightened with sherry vinegar, ketchup and brown sugar. Cubed white-meat turkey went in at the end, so it wouldn't overcook. The sweet-potato hash, she said, also would work with regular potatoes.

 

THE DISH: PULLED TURKEY WITH SWEET POTATO HASH

For the pulled turkey:

Vegetable oil

2 shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced, plus some slices for garnish

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups (1 pound) cranberry sauce, fresh or canned

1 (12-ounce) bottle beer

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

4 cups cooked turkey, as much dark meat as possible, skin removed

For the hash:

Vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

10 to 12 wedges roasted sweet potatoes (2 sweet potatoes' worth), chopped (about 2 cups)

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup chopped parsley

For garnish:

Fried shards of turkey skin (optional)

1. For pulled turkey, coat bottom of a large skillet or saucepan with oil. Add shallots, garlic and jalapeños, and season with salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat until soft and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add cranberry sauce, beer, vinegar, bay leaf, ketchup, sugar and paprika (if using) and stir to combine. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

2. Shred the dark meat into bite-size pieces. Cube turkey breast. Add the dark meat to the simmering sauce and cook for another 10 to 20 minutes.

3. While sauce simmers, make the hash: Generously coat bottom of a large skillet with oil. Saute onion over medium heat until it softens and gets a little brown, about 10 minutes. Add chopped sweet potato, salt and pepper, and mix into the onions. Add a little more oil to the pan and cook over medium heat without stirring too much; you want it to brown a bit on the bottom. Stir half of the parsley into the hash.

4. When you're almost ready to serve, add cubed breast meat to dark meat in simmering sauce and cook to heat through. Mound hash on a serving platter and top with pulled turkey. Garnish with jalapeño slices, remaining parsley and optional turkey crackling. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


THE CHEF: Scott Bradley, Snaps, Wantagh

THE MYSTERY INGREDIENTS: Cooked turkey (1 breast, 1 drumstick), squash puree, cranberry sauce, mixed nuts

THE STRATEGY: Bradley was happy to see the pureed butternut squash. "I'm all about the squash and pumpkin," he said. The puree put him in mind of the classic Bolognese pumpkin-filled ravioli made with crumbled Amaretti cookies, hence the (optional) Amaretto liqueur in this pasta recipe. The garnish combination of cranberry sauce and goat cheese is actually a Bradley favorite.

 

THE DISH: TURKEY-SQUASH PASTA

1 cup mixed nuts

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil or bacon fat

3 to 4 cups chunked, cooked turkey, skin on

1 pound dried pasta

2 cups squash puree (or canned pumpkin)

2 tablespoons Amaretto (optional)

1/2 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup fresh goat cheese

1/2 cup chunky cranberry sauce

For garnish:

Baby arugula or parsley leaves, extra-virgin olive oil or truffle oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Coarsely chop nuts and roast until fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over high heat and add turkey. Toss turkey in oil to coat it well, then slip into oven to heat through.

3. When water boils, add pasta and cook until it is just short of al dente.

4. While pasta cooks, place squash puree into a saucepan large enough to also hold all the pasta. Add optional Amaretto and enough heavy cream to make a thick sauce and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat, add Parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. When pasta is a little underdone, use tongs (if spaghetti) or a large slotted spoon (if short macaroni) to transfer to the squash sauce. Simmer the pasta in the sauce until it is al dente, just a few minutes, adding additional cream if sauce is too thick. When pasta is done, add half the parsley.

6. Remove turkey from oven and toss with remaining parsley. On a serving platter, or in 4 to 6 individual bowls, make a mound of sauced pasta and top with the turkey. Sprinkle with nuts and then with chunks of goat cheese and small mounds of cranberry sauce. Garnish with baby arugula or parsley and drizzle with oil. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

SCRUMPTIOUS SKIN

Turkey skin, so delicious when freshly roasted, pretty much loses its appeal by the next day. Two of our chefs were inspired to reinvigorate the skin by frying it. Both methods produced addictive results.

 

TURKEY CRACKLING

Ben Durham of Four used pork skin as his inspiration for this classic garnish / snack.

Turkey skin

Vegetable oil

Using a sharp knife, cut skin into very thin slices. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a deep skillet. Add sliced skin and fry until it is crisp and browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain.

 

FRIED CHARDS OF TURKEY SKIN

Amarelle's Lia Fallon and her sous chef, Bernie Menendez, came up with the idea of dusting the turkey skin with brown sugar and then frying it to sweet crispness.

Vegetable oil

Turkey skin

Light brown sugar

Pour 1/2 inch oil into a deep saucepan and place over medium heat. Leave skin in large pieces and pat them dry. Put a few spoonfuls of sugar into a small bowl. When oil is hot, toss each piece of skin in the sugar so that some sugar adheres. With tongs, place 3 or 4 pieces of skin in the oil, cooked side down, and turn after about 10 seconds. Cook for a few more seconds and remove. It will burn quickly. Place cooked skin on a kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. When cool, break into smaller shards.