PUBLISHED: 6:38 PM on Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Making the most of holiday leftovers
Peering into the depth of my cluttered refrigerator, I stare at the mass of leftover holiday goodness sitting in its carved-out glory. Should I prepare something else for dinner tonight? Sighing, I make another turkey and stuffing sandwich, slather it with cranberry sauce and munch it down.

After the holidays, most people are faced with the daunting mounds of leftovers hogging our shelves. We send guests away with to-go plates, we bring it to work and share the love, and we eat it until it's gone. And then, we don't make turkey or ham again until the following holiday season.

My husband loves turkey dinner leftovers, he could probably consume them every day for two weeks, but I just can't. So I sifted over a few recipes and thought of what's completely opposite of holiday dinners and came up with a few ethnic contributions.

Turkey is actually a great protein-full of flavor, healthy and very versatile. I find that leftover gravy and stocks are ideal for soup, stews and casserole bases. Leftover sweet potato-marshmallow or green bean casserole can't be touched, but mashed potatoes can be turned into Shepard's pie, or even made into a delicious potato-leek soup. After a few days, mashed potatoes get hard and not so palatable. Another interesting dish usage of mashed potatoes is a Spanish breakfast cake, which mixes the starch with beaten eggs, cheese and roasted chopped poblano chiles, and then dipped lightly in flour. They're fried in butter and topped with salsa-delicious!

Vegetable crudité platters with carrots, celery and other vegetal treats can be chopped up for a quick sauté, stir fried or thrown into your favorite turkey soup.

For roast beef or prime rib, sample a Chicago style beef sandwich: take a French hoagie and lightly butter it, place thinly sliced leftover beef on bottom of bread half and then place a few slices of provolone cheese on top. Heat in a 400 degree oven until cheese is melted and bread is toasty. Sauté sliced red bell peppers and sweet onions in olive oil until soft and caramelized, and add a pinch of dried or fresh oregano leaves and ground pepper. Place on top of melted cheese, and close sandwich. Serve with au jus or thinned down leftover beef gravy: it's the ultimate comfort food.

Add chunks of ham to a favorite bean soup recipe or breakfast scramble. Try a Mexican twist on your favorite chicken or beef enchilada with leftover finely diced turkey or roast beef. When it comes to leftovers, renovating the ham, turkey or roast beef into something completely different is not only delicious but economically practical.

Turkey Rigatoni with Rosa sauce

This recipe doesn't even taste like leftovers-it's flavorful, bright and very different than the traditional turkey noodle casserole. The list of ingredients may seem long, but the pasta goes together in a pinch. Pair with a green salad, crusty bread and a glass of your favorite white wine.

Serves 4

1 pound cooked rigatoni pasta or other favorite tube pasta

1 tbs. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

3 strips bacon, diced

½ cup white wine

½ cup cream

½ cup turkey stock

½ cup petite frozen peas, thawed or blanched asparagus pieces

2 cups leftover turkey meat, chopped in small pieces

3 roma tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp. lemon zest

Juice of one lemon

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 tbs. fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

4 large fresh basil leaves, chopped coarsely

Kosher Salt to taste

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Grated parmesan or pecorino romano

In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium and add in the bacon pieces, cook until almost crispy, and then add in the garlic-stir until garlic softens slightly. Add in the white wine and let reduce for 2 minutes. Add in the stock and cream, stir to incorporate, and then add in the roma tomatoes and turkey meat. Cook until turkey is warmed through and the tomatoes have softened slightly and the sauce is turning a light pink color, and then add in the peas. Toss to coat and then add in the cooked pasta, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice-cook for another few minutes or until sauce begins to thicken and coat noodles. Season with salt and pepper, taste and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat and add in the fresh parsley and basil leaves. Serve with freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano.

Potato-Leek Soup

I hate to "leak" this tidbit, but many restaurant reuse leftover mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes for this very soup. And, there's nothing wrong with it because it's a fabulous soup with thoughtful food usage.

Serves 4

3 cups leftover mashed potatoes

2 large leeks, white end only; cleaned, halved and finely sliced

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tbs. butter

½ tbs. olive oil

½ cup white wine

About 4-5 cups leftover stock, vegetable or chicken broth

¾ cup Cream

Pinch of Fresh grated nutmeg

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp. dried thyme leaves)

½ tsp. fresh ground pepper or more to taste

Kosher salt to taste

Chives or chopped parsley for garnish

In a large stockpot heat olive oil and butter over medium heat, and add in the leeks and garlic. Sauté until leeks are soft. Add in white wine and reduce for 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups of stock and bring to a simmer. Add in the mashed potatoes and stir briskly with a whisk until potatoes have broken down and are a smooth consistency. Bring back to a simmer, and then add in the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add in the nutmeg and thyme leaves. If the soup seems too thick, add in additional stock-tasting as you go. Simmer on low for another 10-15 minutes for flavors to meld. Serve with chives or chopped parsley for garnish.

*If you prefer a smoother soup, puree soup in blender or with an immersion blender.