Getting Creative the Day After Thanksgiving

Turkey Shepherd's Pie made the day after Thanksgiving. Michael Heller photos

For some, the days after Thanksgiving can be as important as the holiday itself. Strip away the pressures of hosting a house full of relatives or cooking the turkey just right and add in a healthy dose of football, comfy clothes, plenty of couch time and a mountain of leftovers and there’s a recipe for success that families have customized and made all their own for generations.

Let’s face it — for most of us, the excitement of Thanksgiving leads to an overabundance of food and copious leftovers. Turkey, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing, roasted vegetables, peas, gravy, bread — these ingredients lend themselves to an array of leftover possibilities. One-pot dishes are popular because they can incorporate a wide variety of leftovers into one tasty dish, and they’re easy, a fact not to be overlooked following the days of preparation that led into Thanksgiving Thursday.

Soups are another easy option and a great way to repurpose that roasted turkey carcass. First thing Friday morning, throw them in a stock pot filled with water and a mirepoix of raw vegetables — carrots, onions and celery — a couple of bay leaves, some peppercorns and any herbs you still have laying around, and cook the stock for several hours at a low simmer. Strain and use this base for an assortment of soups, or use the stock as the base for turkey pot pie or shepherd’s pie (see recipes on these pages). We’re going to shake things up this year from our usual take on chicken noodle soup (using turkey, of course), and make a turkey chowder with bacon and sweet potatoes, culled from Balsam Farm in Amagansett.

As for turkey sandwiches, this is when Thanksgiving leftovers get serious. We’re not suggesting you tamper with the classic Friday afternoon tradition of college football with an old-fashioned turkey sandwich on white toast with lettuce, mayo, cranberry sauce and stuffing. We would suggest elevating the bread from Wonder to something a bit more hearty and flavorful that can be found at any one of our incredible bakeries on the East End. We also like to use homemade mayonnaise, and have included a recipe here, which can be customized by adding basil or roasted garlic or chipotle peppers or just about anything, for that matter.

The turkey sandwich is an opportunity for novice chefs to really flex their muscles and impress their post-holiday family and friends with alternates to the old classic. This year we’re making a turkey B.A.L.T (bacon, avocado, lettuce — or Mache, in our case — and tomato) with the aforementioned basil mayonnaise on toasted oat bread from the famed Levain Bakery, which made its name on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but long ago opened an outpost in Wainscott. We’re also going to prepare a grilled turkey, Brie and green apple sandwich on stout bread from Carissa’s Bakery in East Hampton, which truly is not to be missed and provides the perfect blend of a crunchy crust with this salty, soft and deeply flavorful bread.

Perhaps the best thing about leftovers during the long holiday weekend is that it extends the flavors of Thanksgiving, but most important they are dishes created in the home. For us, Thanksgiving weekend is truly one of our favorite times of year, for nothing less than it is all about family and stepping away from the stress of work or school life and ideally the pressure of an increasingly digital world. It’s a holiday that revolves around the home, and the kitchen, long walks in the neighborhood and a little backyard football. And of course, lots and lots of pie.

Leftover Turkey Chowder

8 servings

8 oz. bacon

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

½ cup celery, chopped

8 cups turkey stock

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 ½ cups raw sweet potato, peeled and chopped

4 cups cooked turkey meat, chopped

2 tsp. fresh parsley

2 tsp. fresh thyme

salt and pepper

Roux of butter and flour (1 Tbsp. of each, combined together with a fork)

Chop raw bacon into one-inch pieces and brown in a deep sauté pan until just slightly underdone. Drain half the bacon fat from the pan. Add onions and celery to the remaining bacon fat and bacon and cook until soft, about four to six minutes. Add turkey stock, shredded cheese and heavy cream, whisking rapidly until cheese is melted and the chowder is mostly smooth. Add sweet potato and turkey, simmering until potatoes are cooked through, roughly 20 minutes.  Add roux and cook for another 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add parsley, cook for five more minutes. Serve garnished with fresh thyme.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 Tbsp. chopped thyme

Salt and pepper to taste


3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 ¾ cups chicken stock

3 cups cooked turkey meat

1 cup frozen peas

1 to 2 cups leftover roasted root vegetables

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 cups mashed potatoes

1 cup leftover Thanksgiving gravy

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown and softened, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and cook until the flour is pale golden, about two minutes. Stir in the broth, scraping any brown bits on the bottom of the skillet and simmer until thickened, about four minutes. Add cream and simmer for another two minutes. Stir in the turkey, peas and leftover vegetables and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer turkey mixture to a 2-quart baking dish or single 8-ounce ramekins or soup bowls. Spread the potatoes over the turkey mixture. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the potatoes are golden in spots, about 20 minutes.

Turn on the broiler and move rack to the top position. Broil until the potatoes are evenly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve topped with leftover gravy.


Thanksgiving’s traditional day-after treat can take on many forms


Sliced turkey

Leftover stuffing

Cranberry sauce


Homemade mayo (see recipe)

Salt and pepper

Toasted Levain Bakery country bread

This sandwich is classic for a reason as it includes some of the most basic ingredients and literally tastes like Thanksgiving dinner in sandwich form. We picked up a white country boule from the Levain Bakery in Wainscott and had it sliced. Toast the bread and cover both sides with a thin layer of mayo and some cranberry sauce. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Add a healthy portion of turkey and top with stuffing and lettuce and serve.


Sliced turkey

Brie cheese

Granny Smith apples

Carissa’s famous stout bread

Salt and pepper


This sandwich is all about the bread. While nice cranberry nut bread would work well, we chose wonderful stout bread from Carissa’s The Bakery in East Hampton, which was crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The bread is brown, so when pressed it takes on a beautiful dark coloring. To make the sandwich, cut the bread into 1 inch slices and place a layer of Brie cheese, cut a ¼-inch thick, on one slice. Peel the Granny Smith apple and slice thinly before laying on top of the Brie. Add a layer of sliced turkey and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Melt two tablespoons of butter on a griddle or in a sauté pan. Grill one side of the sandwich, pressing down on the top a few times, melt another tablespoon of butter in the pan and grill the other side of the bread. Once both sides are golden brown, remove from the pan and serve sliced in half.


Sliced turkey

Crispy bacon strips

Sliced tomato

Sliced avocado

Mache, sprouts or lettuce

Homemade basil mayo (see recipe)

Salt and pepper

Here is another traditional sandwich, but one that is not often thought of in the days after Thanksgiving. We picked up oat bread from Levain Bakery, toasted it and added a layer of homemade basil mayo on both sides and sprinkled each side with salt and pepper. We then added the turkey, bacon, avocado, tomatoes and some freshly cut Mache, though you could use lettuce or any kind of sprouts. Slice the sandwich in half and serve.

Philippe’s Classic Homemade Mayonnaise

Yields 1 cup

1 large egg yolk

2 tsp. lemon juice or white vinegar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. fine black pepper

1 tsp. cold water

¾ cup canola oil

In a medium bowl or electric mixer, whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice or vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and cold water until well-combined. Whisking constantly, slowly add the oil drop by drop until the mayonnaise is thick and the oil is totally incorporated.

Basil Mayonnaise

Blanch 12 fresh basil leaves by dropping them into boiling water for 30 seconds and then plunging them into a bath of ice water. Once cold, remove basil from water and dry in a paper towel. Chop fine and whisk into 3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise along with 1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon more of lemon juice.