One Turkey, Two Turkey, Red Turkey, Blue Turkey: You Can Take Charge of Your Leftovers

Learning to feed yourself can be one of the most terrifying things. Am I about to give myself food poisoning? If I eat this too often will I end up with scurvy? How can I get the most nutritional bang for my buck? Why does this still taste like ass?

With Ode to My Pantry, learn to navigate a grocery store without having a meltdown in aisle three. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a queer to cook and stave off malnutrition for another semester.

OdetoTurkeyI’m not really a turkey person, but I’ve somehow been signed up for four Thanksgivings. That’s right, four. I think a lot of people would be jealous of Thanksgiving-a-Thon 2013 complete with three Canadian Thanksgiving and an American Friendsgiving, but my eating arm is tired and my freezer’s looking as bloated as I am. Worst of all, this tryptophan-induced haze meant I failed at storing our leftovers, transforming my Thanskgiving table into a bounty only fit for the compost heap. But this time round, I have a plan! When it comes to dinner search and rescue, you gotta come armed with knowledge before you can walk away armed with dinner for two weeks.

Big Bird is always the most problematic when it comes to storage since he’s so gosh darned big. If you’ve gotten the carving out of the way, you probably have a picked over platter of poultry parts and a giant-ass skeleton. You’re probably tempted to throw the whole thing in the fridge and deal with it when it no longer hurts to breathe, but you’re only gonna get 3-4 Fridge Days out of it. So figure out how many Turkey-Stuffing Sandwiches your fam need to survive Black Friday and we’ll use black magic to turn the rest into memorable meals.

The only thing it's missing is the pumpkin pie. via Cool Material

The only thing it’s missing is the pumpkin pie. via Cool Material

If your Valentine’s Day happens to involve turkey, your love life is saved since you can get 2-3 Freezer Months out of your birds. I’ve lost a lot of leftovers to freezer burn, but there are better stashing techniques than hucking a Tupperware into the back of the chill chest. Dehydration and oxidation are the culprits that’ll leave your food dry, grey and off, so you gotta get the situation under wraps. If you’re a Stuffing-in-Bird kind of chef, be sure to perform separation surgery first sincestuffing will also get about 3-4 Fridge Days, but only 1 Freezer month. Keep everything protected by wrapping your turkey slices with plastic wrap or foil before encasing in a Tupperware and/or freezer bag. If this was a particularly good year for leftovers, take out a Food Insurance Policy by freezing a cup of water to stabilize the humidity.

If you’re in my camp and find turkey four shades of boring you can always rework your leftovers. Throw the oddly sized bits into quesadillas, Reubens or turkey salad sandwiches. Sauté cubes of turkey with peas in a white sauce for a Thanksgiving take on Chicken à la King. If you want to use up even more leftovers, cover that sauce with mashed potatoes for a new take on chicken pot pie. Or just throw the potatoes and turkey straight into the deep fryer to make some croquettes.

All I want in life is a Thanksgiving bomb. via Diana Rattray

All I want in life is a Thanksgiving bomb. via Diana Rattray

Soupy type-applications are always welcome ’round Thanksgiving because water and bones are pretty much BFFs. Bones seem like solid meat rocks, but they’re actually delicate networks of calcium carbonate crystals held together by collagen. If collagen is a foreign word you’ve only heard in the same breath as the newest useless beauty product, you might be more familiar with it’s jigglier iteration of gelatin. Collagen and gelatin are both forms of connective tissue proteins, but their Clark Kent-Superman transformation requires a bit more than a pair of glasses.

It's almost as tasty those rope candies you can pull apart which I thought were called Twizzlers but I'm totally wrong. via America's Test Kitchen

It’s almost as tasty those rope candies you can pull apart which I thought were called Twizzlers but I’m totally wrong. via America’s Test Kitchen

Given enough water and heat, collagen will unravel and reform into a water-stable structure. Even though collagen and water were already friends, gelatin’s that needy one that thinks water is its sun and the moon and won’t stop running around tackling them with all-encompassing bear hugs and poetry written on the back of restaurant napkins. While this might be creepy for work, school or living arrangements, it works out pretty well when it comes to food since gelatin can hold onto ten times its weight in moisture. Thin broths and boring fruit juices transform into unctuous sauces or wibbly wobbly alcohol delivery devices.

Use the power of magic and water to turn those bones, giblets, wings and questionable animal bits into stock! (Have you ever tried to reheat a chicken wing? Might as well fucking chew on a rawhide.) Marni recommended using fresh veggies for your stock, but this is totally a legit way to get rid of your veggie scraps or that bowl of roasted veggies your nephew refused to touch. Boil, boil and boil away to liberate all of the collagen and transform it into mouth-smacking gelatin. You’ll know that those bones gave all they could when they snap as easily as my temper in traffic.

The only thing better looking than the Thanksgiving spread itself. via Chow

The only thing better looking than the Thanksgiving spread itself. via Chow

If you weren’t planning on bagging and tagging your stock right away (it’ll keep for 1-2 days in the fridge and the freezer for 2-3 months) you can divert some of that poultry goodness deluge into your next dinner! Stave off your inevitable winter colds by sacrificing a breast or leg for some turkey noodle soup or, with some added kale and orzo, Italian Wedding Soup. You can also up your congee game by substituting stock for water and topping your bowl with a pile of shredded turkey. If all of that still seems like too much work, you can just reheat the broth with some egg noodles, parsley, lemon and fresh cracked pepper. Because let’s face it, but the time we’re finished with this eat-a-thon we’re gonna want to stick with the easy solution.

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Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 140 articles for us.

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