When Marcie Turney was growing up in Wisconsin, Thanksgiving wasn't complete without classics like Stove Top stuffing and cranberry sauce out of a can. Turney's tastes have evolved, but the chef and co-owner behind restaurants Barbuzzo, Bud & Marilyn's, and Lolita still relishes the comforting tastes of childhood, like the tang from a slice of jellied cranberries. And on the morning after the big feast, she's far from burned out on holiday food.
"I can eat Thanksgiving food for two weeks," she said.
To that end, Turney and her loved ones plan ways to make family-style brunch meals out of their Thanksgiving leftovers, like turkey chilaquiles, which resemble baked nachos. Turney uses a bag of store-bought tortilla chips and layers them with turkey, leftover stuffing, salsa, black beans, and cheese. Other leftover vegetables can be incorporated, too, like Brussels sprouts or potatoes. She tops the platter with scallions, cilantro, maybe some guacamole and sour cream, and a few sunny-side-up eggs.
Yianni Arhontoulis, chef-owner of Mica in Chestnut Hill, didn't grow up on Thanksgiving sandwiches. Thanks to his Greek heritage, stuffing for him was more like dirty rice. He was 21 before he ever tried a bread-based variety, but once he did, he was hooked.
"Stuffing," he said, "was a revelation. So was real cranberry sauce."
For his day-after feast, Arhontoulis created a "Thanksgiving melt," an open-faced turkey sandwich on slices of crusty sourdough, covered with a smear of cranberry sauce that he heats up with red wine and a hint of vanilla. He blends leftover stuffing with milk and cream, smoothing it into something almost like cheese, which he pours over the sandwich. The sandwich can be heated under a broiler until the topping starts to turn golden-brown, then devoured instantly.
"By the end, it's almost like a tuna melt," he said. "With leftovers, you don't want something you need to commit to. You want something fun, something comforting."
Chef Hiroyuki "Zama" Tanaka of the Zama sushi restaurant in Rittenhouse said his family usually eats hot pot on Thanksgiving, maybe with a turkey sandwich on the side as a nod to tradition. He recommends a Japanese twist for leftover meat: Nasu dengaku, a riff on a popular Japanese dish made with eggplant and miso. He chops up turkey and throws it in a pan with miso, sugar, mirin, and a dash of sesame oil, and slowly cooks it down until the texture resembles a paste.
Tanaka serves the hearty, sticky-sweet blend over a thick slice of grilled eggplant but said it also can be tucked into a lettuce wrap, used as a dip with vegetable crudite, or even served over a bowl of rice. "It's like soul food," he said.
At the Blue Corn restaurant in the Italian Market, brothers Amado and Agustin Sandoval Hernandez serve turkey with rich, velvety mole sauce. But they have plenty of ideas for Thanksgiving leftover dishes done Mexican-style, like crispy turkey flautas, and rich, comforting turkey enchiladas slathered in spicy salsa verde and sour cream.
Leftover turkey can be sauteed with onions and garlic, then tucked into pan-fried corn tortillas. Leftover vegetables can be incorporated, as well. Whip up the sauce using tomatillos, jalapeño peppers, onions, and garlic, drizzle over the enchiladas, and top the whole thing with sour cream and cheese.
"You can use whatever kind of cheese you have in the fridge," Amado Hernandez said. "Make it whatever you want."
And then, maybe it’s time for another nap.