Chef Mike proclaims the day after T-Day to be a cuisine classic
The only thing I like more than Thanksgiving, is the day after Thanksgiving. The Friday after America unhinges its collective jaw and swallows 45 million turkeys whole is a day of reflection and reckoning. While alkaline-tide-suffering gluttons awake to such burning questions as, “Did I really eat an entire green bean casserole?” “Why is my brother-in-law in the bathroom crying?” and “How did all this stuffing get into my pants pockets?” someone has to answer the far more important and pressing question: “What in the hell are we going to do with all these leftovers?”
As problems go, what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers is in the same league as having too many orgasms. Don’t look at it as a problem; it’s more of an opportunity. You’re starting with Thanksgiving leftovers, for heaven’s sake—that almost guarantees you’re going to end up with something toe-curlingly delicious.
The real issue at stake, however, is how to effectively extract the last drops of flavor out of every remaining morsel. How can you ensure that those foil-wrapped treasures, those precious Thanksgiving riches somehow saved from the marauding hoards of all-but-forgotten relatives are plundered for whatever remaining pleasure resides in their carbohydrate-rich strata? That is the joyous dilemma that the fourth Friday of every November poses and why I love it so.
There are more uses for Thanksgiving leftovers than this page could possibly contain, so I have narrowed it down to my single, favorite repurposing of those traditional holiday dishes—the Thanksgiving leftover sandwich. Don’t you roll your cynical “I’ve heard it all before” eyes at me. The Thanksgiving leftover sandwich is a goldurned American classic and I’ll not have you or the writers of “Friends” (“moist maker” my ass) demeaning this icon of American ingenuity in the kitchen. If more people were making this paragon of the sandwich arts the way God intended, I wouldn’t have to write this article. So let’s focus and talk about the right way to make this divine dish that springs forth from Thanksgiving’s bountiful loins.
Note: If you do not have access to enough Turkey Day remnants to recycle into the following sandwich, sneak into someone’s house who did not fail at Thanksgiving’s prime directive and while they are cheating death in the apocalyptic running of the bulls we aptly refer to as “Black Friday,” steal enough of their leftovers to complete the task. Don’t be concerned about getting caught. We’re in the South. No judge will ever convict you.
This is ‘Murica and Jesus gave you the freedom to make your sandwich any darned way you please. You also have the freedom to mix Skittles into your mashed potatoes but that doesn’t make it right. Some people believe just drizzling a little gravy over a few chunks of leftover turkey that’s been layered between two slices of cranberry-sauce-brushed bread constitutes a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich. These people have been watching too much “Barefoot Contessa.” Preparing and eating a proper Thanksgiving leftover sandwich should look like a runaway episode of “Epic Meal Time,” starring Lipitor and gravy.
First, grab three slices of your favorite bread. It doesn’t have to be special Thanksgiving pumpkin spice chai latte bread. Plain sandwich bread is not only sufficient, it is preferred.
Next, pile on a generous portion of sliced, leftover turkey. Follow that with a handful of stuffing and continue to layer handfuls of every non-dessert item you have salvaged from your Thanksgiving feast onto this sandwich. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce—pile all of it on like your own little T-Day art project. If you are so inclined, place a piece of bread in the middle of the tower of carb power for stability. You may soak this centerpiece of bread in gravy for added moisture, but at no point should you raise the specter of a certain sitcom starring Joanna from “Office Space” or Angelina Jolie will show up and cut you. Seriously, she will cut you.
The sandwich should have a liberal amount of gravy poured over the ingredients before topping this absurd amount of food with one final slice of bread. Give it a good press downward in one last, failing bid to stabilize the mammoth before you attempt to pick it up and experience the foodgasms to come with each bite.
Should you heat any of these ingredients before assembling the sandwich? It’s up to you. Just don’t heat up the cranberry sauce. If you heat up the cranberry sauce…well, just don’t.
That’s it. Now go eat!
Longtime food writer and professional chef Mike McJunkin is a native Chattanoogan who has trained chefs, owned and operated restaurants. Join him on Facebook at facebook.com/SushiAndBiscuits