In the wake of all that feasting, it’s hard to believe stomachs will growl once again. But a new day dawns and before you know it the people are clamoring for lunch. Some even prefer that mile-high sandwich loaded with cranberry sauce (and stuffing) to the original Thanksgiving line-up. But who really wants to follow a big, heavy meal with more of the same? Not I. Which is why my favorite dishes incorporating leftovers usually veer in the direction of something a bit more exotic, enlivened with tangy flavors and bright spices. That turkey sandwich, for instance? While my husband’s relatives are frying up bacon for their beloved BLTs—the T stands for turkey now that summer tomatoes are a blissful memory—I am dreaming of greener pastures.

congeeWith any luck, no fit of weary pique caused you to discard the carcass of that big bird. There’s gold in there! Simmer it in a pot with winter vegetables and aromatics—leeks, carrots, parsley, bay leaves, black pepper. The resulting stock is the basis for all kinds of fortifying soups. My favorites hail from afar, like Vietnamese phở, fragrant with ginger and coriander and brimming with fresh green herbs, crisp bean sprouts and translucent rice noodles; or congee, which is simply rice cooked down to a comforting mush and garnished with the toppings of your choice, from chopped scallions to roasted sesame oil; or pozole, the Mexican stew of hominy (dried field corn) finished with red chile sauce and crunchy radishes. Each of these is a perfect vehicle for rendering shredded leftover turkey moist, tender and newly intriguing.

For another quick and rewarding foray south of the border, make tostadas—you can feed a crowd without breaking a sweat. Bake corn tortillas until they are quite crisp, then top them with a tangle of chopped leftover turkey cooked with onion, jalapeño and spices. Layers of flavor and texture follow: hot sauce, shredded cabbage, avocado, cilantro, lime and sour cream. It’s about as far away from Thanksgiving as you can get and for this you’ll be truly grateful.

tostadaTurkey Tostadas       serves 4 

8 corn tortillas

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

3-4 cups diced leftover turkey

1/3 cup turkey stock

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

1 cup diced avocado

2 limes, quartered

6 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro leaves,

8 tablespoons Mexican crema, or sour cream, thinned with a little milk or water

Hot sauce


Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place tortillas in a single layer on the baking sheets and lightly brush them on top with a little vegetable oil. Bake in the oven until they are crisp and golden, about 15 minutes, rotating the sheets half-way through.

Over medium-high heat, warm a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add onion, spices and jalapeño, and cook, stirring frequently, until golden. Add turkey and stock, and sauté until turkey is hot and liquid mostly evaporated. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Divide the turkey between the crisp tortillas, then top each with a spoonful of hot sauce, a mound of cabbage, some avocado, a squeeze of lime, a sprinkle of cilantro leaves and a drizzle of sour cream. Serve with a wedge of lime and pass hot sauce on the side.

For more recipes, with and without turkey, visit Glutton for Life.