Fifteen reimagined poultry possibilities considering the whole bird, interesting sides, various menu sections and regional angles.
ou don’t want to turn away from turkey dinner tradition during the holidays, so no doubt the bird is on your order list. But this year, why not put pen to paper and map out some imaginative dishes and strategies to get the most mileage out of the parts and leftovers. Not only will it tap into your creativity, guests will likely understand and appreciate your thoughtful results.
Here are 15 turkey ideas chefs have featured on their menus.
1. Turkey dinner pizza appetizer
It’s called The Gobbler and is executive chef Aaron Whittington’s spin on turkey dinner leftovers at R Public House, Chicago. Instead of pizza sauce, he spreads a thin layer of mashed potatoes on 12-inch pizza dough to hold all the other ingredients — leftover turkey picked from the bones and pulled-apart stuffing. He bakes it in the wood-burning pizza oven at about 600 degrees Fahrenheit until the crust is crunchy. To finish, he pours turkey gravy over the top and adds his house-made cranberry sauce — dried cranberries, orange juice, a little orange zest and water cooked down and held overnight to set the natural pectin. The Gobbler is a four-year restaurant tradition now. “Whenever I have turkey dinner, people know there will be turkey pizza the next day,” Whittington says.
2. Turkey spring rolls
They are flavorful, healthful and simple to prepare, says Marlon Alexander, chef/owner of New Orleans-based Jekyll and Hide Hospitality Group LLC, which owns and operates Poulet at the Pythian Market. The spring rolls simply require leftover turkey breast meat, shredded carrots, chunky avocado and some vermicelli noodles — all wrapped in rice paper wrappers and served with any number of sauces, including a sweet chili sauce. However, you could make a roux out of roasted turkey carcass to serve as a dip, Alexander says.
3. Lunch turkey and stuffing roll-up
A favorite redo of the classic Thanksgiving flavors includes turkey and stuffing done in a roll-up. Thinly slice turkey breast meat and add a bit of the classic stuffing mix. Roll it up and secure with a toothpick, Alexander says. You could even add some of that giblet gravy to the mix for an even bigger Thanksgiving flavor presence — turning it into an easy-to-eat lunch format.
4. Turkey galantine
Calling upon classical French sensibilities, Alexander is known to take the time to make turkey galantine. “Essentially, you skin the bird in one precise cut and stuff the skin with an interesting combo,” he says. “Think about venison, ground duck, cooked salami, etc. Basically, this is a complex turkey stuffed pâté.” He has made 10 or 12 turkey galantines, which he believes are most delicious if you sous vide the turkey to prevent overcooking. “At the end, flash it in the fryer for crispy skin, then thinly slice it like a log or tube, put some gravy on it, and it’s a beautiful dish.”
5. Waldorf-inspired lunch salad
Though Alexander typically mixes chicken in this salad, leftover turkey also works. Combine with apples, fennel, dill, golden raisins and walnuts. For the dressing, combine Dijon, a hint of lemon and low-fat mayonnaise. Add a scoop of the salad to a bed of butter lettuce or fill a wrap with it, Alexander says.
6. Health-forward salad
“While this is the season to curate nostalgic and comforting dishes, I always consider how I can utilize healthy ingredients,” says Jose Guerrero, corporate chef for Denver-based ViewHouse Eatery, Bar & Rooftop, operating three locations. Thus, for one of his salads, he combines pulled turkey, farro, fava beans, dried cranberries, a little rosemary and frisée. To complete the flavors, he prepares a caramelized red onion vinaigrette. This satisfies health-conscious guests who find it difficult to enjoy eating out for the lack of healthful options.
7. Pancake bread late-night snack turkey sliders
Guerrero has found a way to use leftover stuffing by combining it with pancake batter, which results in pancake bread — or three-inch buns for his sliders or grinders, which he calls a play on chicken and waffles — only with turkey and pancakes. He dredges leftover turkey in tempura batter and fries it. Between the two pancake buns, he features the tempura turkey, cranberry jam, red onion and sage. “You get Thanksgiving dinner in a late-night grinder,” he says.
8. Turkey chicharrones
While fried pork belly is the usual medium for chicharrones, Guerrero makes a rendition from deep-fried turkey skin with a sprinkle of house-made lemon chili powder served with a light dip, like lemon, garlic and herb aioli. When working in Spain, he says he learned the art of puff popping, or puffing the skin of fowl to make it light, airy and wafer-like. When he menus turkey chicharrones, he says, the response is so great, he knows to order 50 pounds of turkey skin.
9. Foie gras substitute
One of Guerrero’s favorite recipes is a cranberry and sage terrine served on brioche crostini. “I use the neck, gizzard, liver and kidneys combined with roasted sweet garlic, sage and caramelized onions,” he says, adding that while he loves foie gras, his conscience steers him away from it. However, he found that he could achieve that same gamey, deep, rich flavor with turkey giblets, liver and kidneys. “It started as a pâté, and then eventually I turned it into a terrine.”
10. Fried rice with confit turkey legs
Bill Telepan, executive chef of Oceana in New York City, finds that rich turkey meat works well in a fried rice dish he creates that also includes such other holiday seasonal ingredients as cranberries, scallions, cauliflower and pomegranate seeds. In addition to confit turkey legs, he may add some extra white meat from the turkey, he says. One of the keys to the flavor is the rice. He uses a three-rice combination he purchases from Columbia, South Carolina-based Anson Mills — black, red and Carolina gold rice, which is a Southern heirloom variety.
11. Turkey posole soup
Borrowing from Mexican cuisine, Telepan likes to make turkey posole soup beginning with dried posole he buys from Rancho Gordo, Napa, California. He soaks it overnight and cooks it in stock. Other possible ingredients are endless, but he suggests carrots, celery root and leeks cooked in stock with turkey meat added in. “You could also add white beans,” he says. As garnish, top with a mix of chopped jalapeño, cilantro and raw onion.
12. Vegetables and turkey gravy
Though many vegetables would taste good combined with turkey gravy, Telepan suggests starting with whole roasted carrots. “When you’re done roasting them, deglaze with turkey gravy and a little chopped turkey. Add rutabagas, celery root and small potatoes,” he says. “It makes a nice mostly-vegetable meal.”
13. Stuffing substitute
Telepan makes a bread salad, similar to Panzanella salad, using turkey innards. He boils the heart, liver and gizzards for about 45 minutes until tender, then chops them. Separately he sautes the liver and cuts and combines with the other innards, adding the mixture to a bread salad that also includes raw mushrooms, celery and lentils. He calls it a play on stuffing to which he adds and tosses sherry vinegar.
14. Dirty rice stuffing
A decidedly Creole dish, dirty rice is usually made with duck at Brennan’s of Houston in Houston, Texas. But for the holidays, executive chef Joe Cervantes gives dirty rice a makeover as turkey stuffing. Cervantes cooks the rice and folds in the liver and gizzards, stuffing it all into the turkey. “It makes a good side dish and is a good way to utilize those other turkey parts,” he says.
15. Turkey neck gumbo
The Southern dish pairs well with dirty rice stuffing and is a great use for the turkey neck, Cervantes says. The key is to make sure the turkey bone stock is as concentrated and flavorful as it can be to begin with. “Then you won’t need to do much to the gumbo.” He adds Andouille sausage, onions, bell pepper, celery, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, bay leaf and the turkey meat. Okra and tomatoes would also be good additions, he says.