Thanksgiving dinner is great, but I really look forward to the leftovers. No doubt, there's satisfaction in sitting down to eat a meal that's taken me a week to prepare. But tomorrow, when practically all I have to do is open the Tupperware, is when I really enjoy the fruits of my labor.
I am surprised when I see ambitious recipes for transforming leftover turkey into tetrazzini or mashed potatoes into shepherd's pie. If I'm not going to eat my leftovers standing up and over the sink, I'm going to slap them between two slices of bread.
With their rich ingredients and familiar flavors, post-holiday sandwiches epitomize comfort food. That doesn't mean they have to be boring. Although the main ingredients -- turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts -- are the same year after year, there are plenty of combinations to keep things interesting.
I try to incorporate leftover ingredients from the whole meal. Cheese and olives from the appetizer tray are always good on sandwiches. This year, I'm determined to repurpose leftover pigs in blankets. And I didn't buy that half-gallon jug of maple syrup just to use a quarter cup in a pecan pie. It will flavor French toast stuffed with sweet potatoes and turkey. Using the flatbreads, bagels and English muffins I keep in my freezer, I have improvised heroes, wraps and breakfast sandwiches made with leftovers. Varying the cooking method -- panini press, skillet and broiler all come in handy -- also changes things up.
A sandwich of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach on brioche, grilled in butter, is my ultimate post-Thanksgiving indulgence. At my house, the diet doesn't start until the leftovers are gone.
BACON, BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND EGG MUFFIN
If Brussels sprouts are not part of your Thanksgiving meal, you may use any other green vegetable. Green beans or sauteed spinach would both be good.
1/4 cup chopped Brussels sprouts, room temperature
1 English muffin, split and lightly toasted
1 slice crisp-cooked bacon
1 teaspoon butter
Ground black pepper
1. Arrange Brussels sprouts on bottom half of English muffin. Cut bacon slice in half and place on top of Brussels sprouts.
2. Melt butter in a small skillet. Fry egg until white is set and yolk is warm. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, slide over bacon, and top with top half of English muffin. Makes 1 sandwich.
CHEDDAR MELT WITH CRANBERRY SAUCE AND MUSTARD
Chevre or Brie may be substituted for the Cheddar if you like.
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 slices whole-grain bread, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons or more cranberry sauce
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Preheat broiler. Spread mustard on 1 side of each bread slice. Place slices on a baking sheet, mustard-side up. Spread cranberry sauce over each slice. Top with cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately. Makes 2 open-faced sandwiches.
THANKSGIVING "EVERYTHING" SANDWICH
Use this recipe as a model for creating your own leftover sandwich with items from your Thanksgiving table.
2 (1/2-inch-thick) slices of country bread
2 tablespoons mashed potatoes
2 tablespoons cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons mashed sweet potatoes
2 to 3 ounces sliced turkey
1/4 cup cooked string beans
1/4 cup leftover cornbread stuffing
Between 2 slices of bread, arrange mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, turkey, string beans and stuffing. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut in half. Makes 1 sandwich.
GRILLED MASHED POTATO AND CREAMED SPINACH SANDWICH
1/4 cup mashed potatoes
2 slices stale or lightly toasted brioche
1/4 cup creamed spinach
1 tablespoon butter
1. Spread mashed potatoes over 1 bread slice. Top with spinach and second bread slice.
2. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat and grill sandwich until golden, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Makes 1 sandwich.
MAPLE TURKEY STUFFED FRENCH TOAST
Be patient and lower the heat if necessary while cooking the French toast. A full 10 to 15 minutes in the pan will ensure that the sweet potatoes are heated through when you're ready to eat.
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 (1 1/2-inch thick) slice brioche or challah
1/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes
2 ounces sliced leftover turkey
1 tablespoon butter
1. Whisk together egg, milk and maple syrup in a shallow bowl.
2. Cut the bread slice almost in half lengthwise, creating two connected slices. Spread sweet potatoes in between bread slices. Stuff with turkey.
3. Add sandwich to bowl with egg and let stand 2 minutes. Turn and let stand another minute.
4. While bread is soaking, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add butter, melt and cook French toast until golden, 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Makes 1 sandwich.