I am as excited as any other Thanksgiving-loving carnivore about the cold turkey sandwich I’ll get to assemble to my exact specifications and eat on Black Friday. But once that annual pleasure has passed, I am generally less grateful for holiday leftovers staring me in the face every time I open the refrigerator. To remedy my day after the holiday angst, I’ve developed 12 guidelines for making use of everything from the last bit of cranberry sauce in the dish in November and the last drops of champagne in the bottle in January.
You may or may not, as the case may be, choose to read these with the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas.
The first step to wasting no holiday fare is planning just enough food.
This is arguably the hardest step, of course, as many of us harbor the notion that food is love, and love is to be spread with abandon this time of year. But if you plan for one less person than you expect to feed, portions will adjust accordingly, and the potential for wasted food be cut dramatically.
The second step to not wasting good holiday fare is shopping just once.
Yes, that requires a list, and sticking to it. But making a pledge to shop once for any given event most often facilitates an exercise in making due with what’s on hand, a skill that when perfected, leads to less waste overall. Not running to the store to get the allspice you don’t have means learning that a combination of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg you do have will work just fine.
The third step to not wasting good holiday fare is simply roasted meat.
Having one single roasted meat or fish on the buffet table – whether that is a whole turkey, a smoked ham, a side of salmon, or a leg of lamb – gives cooks and eaters options before, during and after the party. Having the single roast serve as the only meat on the table while making everything surrounding it vegetarian, satisfies all types of eaters. Roasting it simply opens the door for dressing it up with all kinds of condiments – from spicy chimichurri to horseradish-cranberry relish – at the table, and lets a cook easily morph leftover meat in all sorts of ways. (See recipe for “Ham and Comte Bread Pudding.”).
The fourth step to not wasting good holiday fare is ample fridge space.
If you don’t have a spot in the refrigerator to store leftover food, there is little chance you’ll opt for saving it over composting it. Spend a week in early November, eating from the freezer, clearing out the vegetable bin, and using up condiments to make room to safely store soon-to-be repurposed holiday food.
The fifth step to wasting no holiday fare is a case of glass jars.
Pint and quart glass jars hold everything in plain sight so that you can see what leftovers are available for use. That said, always label them clearly so that balsamic vinaigrette doesn’t get mistaken for beef gravy.
The sixth step to not wasting good holiday fare is dressing on the side.
Dressed salads simply don’t keep. If you’re serving greens, pass the dressing separately so that neither it nor the salad gets tossed.
The seventh step to not wasting good holiday fare is combining bits and bobs.
I love latkes, but not being Jewish, I won’t weigh in on whether it’s best to garnish fried potato pancakes with applesauce or sour cream. But I will use leftovers of both to make a point. Even just a half cup of each of these left over from a Hanukkah celebration, can be combined into a whole new dish. (See recipe for “Sour Cream and Applesauce Waffles.”).
The eighth step to not wasting good holiday fare is making a good hash.
Any roasted or boiled leftover can be turned into hash. If you’re type A like me, chop turkey, sweet potatoes, turnips and Brussels sprouts into bite sized pieces, sauté them all in a bit of butter, top with a fried egg, and you’ve got dinner that looks nothing like your lunchtime turkey sandwich.
The ninth step to not wasting good holiday fare is thinking about bread.
If you have a basic bread recipe, you can stuff it with your leftovers by rolling it out to the size of a jelly roll pan after the first rise and slathering it with either savory or sweet fillings like cranberry sauce (see recipe for “Cranberry Pecan Swirl Bread”), mashed sweet potatoes or the shredded remnants of a cheese plate. Then you roll it tight and let it rise a second time before baking. When it’s baked and cooled, it slices beautifully and serves up well as festive toast.
The tenth step to not wasting good holiday fare is good mashed potatoes.
My mother once peeled 20 pounds of potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. Poking fun of the resulting pile of mashed potatoes is a holiday pastime, but so is using them up as filler for fish cakes or Indian flatbreads, topping for pot pies or pizza pie (like Otto’s mashed potato, bacon and scallion), thickener for a pureed soup or gravy, or the main ingredient in croquettes or gnocchi.
The eleventh step to not wasting good holiday fare is to plan on serving a soup.
Simmer a diced onion, two garlic cloves, and an inch of ginger sliced into ¼-inch coins in one quart of chicken, turkey or vegetable stock for 15 minutes. Stir in your leftover cooked vegetables and warm them through. Puree, season with salt and pepper and serve.
The twelfth step to not wasting good holiday fare is repurposing booze.
You probably shouldn’t have opened that third bottle of bubbly to ring in the New Year, but you did, and now it sits on the counter half-full right as you venture into the kitchen to start your 2017 greener eating regime. Instead of pouring it down the drain, make vinegar (see “DIY Champagne Vinegar”). It will be the easiest waste-not, want not step you’ll take all year.