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In the game of life, there is no greater post-meal power-up than holiday leftovers. We labor and toil for hours in the kitchen to put a feast on the table, lazily return for seconds and thirds, pass out, wake up, repeat, only to have each trip back to the fridge intensify your flavors and, like a highlander killing its own kind, transform one celestial creation into something increasingly powerful with each incarnation.

The real pros know that when it comes to leftovers and their potency, it’s time to get creative. We caught up with some of D.C.’s best chefs and sandwich aficionados to find the key to crafting the perfect leftover hoagie (Do you remember Ross on “FRIENDS” and his obsession with that sandwich? It matters.), the best turkey gumbo, savory tarts and more because there’s no reason you can’t play culinary Frankenstein this Thanksgiving. Say hello to delicious science…


Arguably one of the District’s most avid hoagie know-it-alls, Casey Patten stacks the deck when it comes to sandwich savvy.  We stopped by Taylor Gourmet and got the low-down on his ideal leftover turkey sub, complete with recipe, demo, and taste test.

According to Patten, the first step in reviving your turkey is heat. “You just want to get it warm and hot. There’s nothing worse than gamey day-old turkey.”

If you’re not planning on making sandwiches with your leftovers (who are you?), Patten recommends attempting a turkey pot pie. If you are making the most glorious manifestation of leftovers imaginable, try your hand at Patten’s turkey hoagie with cranberry slaw (recipe below).

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So what’s the secret to a perfect leftover sandwich?

“You need a good balance,” Patten says. “Thanksgiving can always be so heavy and heavy and heavy, so you need to offset it. You need good acidity and sweetness. And again, for me, if you use the turkey it’s gotta become hot again.”

We took one bite and we were hooked–the thyme lends a familiar oven-roasted flavor while the slaw adds crisp, cold texture to the heated sub. With bacon and dried cranberries, it’s a killer combination of sweet and salty that’ll whip your leftover turkey into fighting form.

Gourmet Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipes Photos Brightest Young Things2

Red Cabbage Cranberry Slaw Ingredients
1 cup of shredded cabbage
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup dried cranberry
1/3 cup of blue cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sage
salt and pepper to taste

Sandwich Ingredients
2 tablespoons chicken stock
Leftover turkey, sliced or shredded
Hearty hoagie roll

1.) Combine Slaw ingredients in a large mixing bowl; bring together.
2.) Grill shredded turkey in pan or on a flat top – just get it hot! Drizzle with chicken stock to keep moist.
3.) Cook bacon separately.
4.) Once turkey is throughly heated, place onto hoagie; top with bacon and slaw. Enjoy.

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“After Thanksgiving, we always use the carcass to make a nice turkey broth. The broth is good for all kinds of things, but I really like using it to make soup. I sweat a few leeks and then use leftover mashed potatoes to make a Thanksgiving potato leek soup. Finish it by crisping up the leftover scraps of turkey and putting them on top of the soup.

Another great leftover dish I make uses all those leftover candied yams. Buy a pre-made tart shell at the store with your holiday shopping. The day after Thanksgiving, mash your candied yams and fill the shell with them, then top that with some crumbled pecans and bake it for a good and easy sweet potato pie.”

BONUS: Curious as to what Mike Isabella’s Thanksgiving leftover sandwich might taste like? Through Sunday, December 1, you can find the chef’s Thanksgiving Leftovers sandwich, a turkey panini with fresh stuffing, cranberry chutney and potato aioli at G for $9. (Trust us, it’s delicious.)

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Make a turkey “French Dip”

1.) Get a sub roll; open it up, and put Gruyere cheese on it.
2.) Toast it.
3.) Warm up a few thin slices of leftover turkey and lay them on the roll.
4.) Take your leftover gravy and thin it out a little using either chicken or turkey stock.
5.) Warm THAT up, then dip and eat!

BONUS: If you’re craving turducken leftovers but never had turducken to begin with, try Chef Critchey’s Turducken Sandwich at Bourbon Steak made with turkey, duck sausage, duck breast and chicken that is rolled and poached. The patty is then grilled and served in a sea salt bun. To integrate the flavors of Thanksgiving even more into the sandwich, he tops the whole thing with gravy mayonnaise, arugula, Meyer lemon and craisins. (Available at the bar and lounge only from Black Friday until New Year’s Day, $24.)

Turducken sandwich

 (Courtesy of Bourbon Steak)


“Being from south Louisiana, when the whole family gets together most of our time is spent in the kitchen cooking with cocktails in hand, reminiscing about good times and talking about what we’re going to cook and eat next.  So after Thanksgiving it’s normally spent cooking a Turkey Gumbo served over dirty rice, a staple on the table during Thanksgiving.”

Turkey & Sausage Gumbo

5 lbs Leftover turkey
1 lbs smoked sausage
1 cup oil
1½ cups flour
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced bell peppers
1 cup chopped tomato
¼ cup minced garlic
3 quarts Turkey stock
2 cups sliced green onions
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon gumbo file
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Louisiana hot sauce to taste
½ cup chopped parsley
Left over turkey gravy
Left over rice dressing

1.) Simmer turkey carcass and any left over bones with 1 gallon of water, and feel free to throw in some carrots, onions, celery, bay leaf and thyme to make the Turkey stock.
2.) Simmer for 2 hours and then strain.
3.) Cut smoked sausage into ½-inch slices and set aside.
4.) In a 2-gallon stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour, stirring constantly until golden brown roux is achieved. Stir in onions, celery, bell peppers, tomato and garlic.
5.) Sauté 3–5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted.
6.) Mix turkey and sausage into vegetable mixture, and sauté approximately 15 minutes.
7.) Add turkey stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook approximately 1 hour.
8.) Skim any fat or oil that rises to surface. Stir in green onions, bay leaf, thyme, Cajun seasoning, and file powder. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
9.) Cook an additional 1–2 hours, if necessary, until turkey is tender and falling apart. Stir in parsley and adjust seasonings. Dump in any left over giblet gravy and serve over dirt rice.

 Until next time, GET IN THAT TURKEY.

This piece originally ran November 2013