FOOD: The Best Thanksgiving Leftover guide from Chef Tom

FOOD: The Best Thanksgiving Leftover guide from Chef Tom

Every celebrity chef and food personality has a perfect go-to recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers. Martha Stewart recommends a turkey banh mi. Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten makes turkey hash. Paula Deen has turkey pot pie. But can they top this Ace archives take from Chef Tom on The Day After: piccadillo stacked turkey tostados with cheese-filled chili rellenos.


A 15-pound turkey for two people goes a long way. A very long way. Last year, we forgot to buy bread, which meant no turkey sandwiches. Not one. This year, bread was boldly underlined three times on our shopping list. We had sandwiches this year. Michael took the traditional route. I had mine with double mayo, pickles, lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, Sriracha, salt, pepper, and a pile of Grippo’s Bar-B-Q chips.

We had plate after plate of Thanksgiving turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, dressing, and gravy. The leftovers were fantastic. Familiar. Delicious.


Though wonderful, the usual line-up got old. Weary.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stare at or eat another plate of brown food. Not even a shower of fresh parsley could jar my palate from its culinary lobotomy.

We weren’t tired of turkey. We were tired of those flavors.

I promised Michael I wouldn’t make another turkey soup this year. Or Hot Brown. Or Turkey Hash.

Last night, I ventured very far away from traditional Thanksgiving flavors — 1,200 miles away for the tastes of Mexico. We would still have turkey leftovers, but they would be jacked up. Way up. Leftovers on steroids.

I decided to treat the turkey like ground beef and make piccadillo stacked turkey tostados with cheese filled chili rellenos.

I placed poblano chiles over a gas flame to char and blister the skins. Once blackened, I dropped them into a plastic bag to steam and cool down. After removing the smoky blistered skins, I carefully cut small slits on one side of the peppers, removed the seeds, stuffed them with queso blanco cheese, and set them aside.

Picadillo is traditionally a dish of sauteed ground beef, onions, garlic, and green peppers. Some recipes add raisins. Puerto Rican recipes include green olives. I had olives. I didn’t have raisins. I sauteed sliced green peppers, onions, garlic, and quartered tomatillos until softened before adding sliced turkey, chicken stock, tomatoes, coriander, annatto, roasted red peppers, and halved Spanish olives. I let the picadillo simmer for 30 minutes while I prepared the tostados.

After arranging six fried corn tortillas on a baking sheet, I topped them with sharp cheddar cheese, crumbled cotija cheese, dried Mexican oregano, and dried epazote. I slid the tostados into a 350 oven to crisp the shells and melt the cheeses.

While the picadillo simmered and the shells baked, I dipped the roasted stuffed poblano peppers into whipped egg whites, dropped in the deep fryer to brown, and set them on paper towels to drain.

I pulled the shells from the oven and spooned the turkey picadillo over the melted cheeses, stacking the tostados three layers high.

Soft runny mexican crema drizzled over the tops dripped down the sides of the stacked tostados. I tumbled tart fresh quartered tomatillos and green peppers around the stacks for bright freshness. Halved limes and yellow rice finished it off.

It was a far cry from Thanksgiving turkey. The sleepy flavors of our previous turkey meals were thankfully gone. Briny olives, acidic tomatoes, sharp tomatillos, sweet onions, and sauteed peppers replaced the richness of giblet gravy. The piccadillo was bright, spicy, and alive, soothed by the silken oozing dripping crema. The crunches and crackles of the stacked tostados were welcome relief from the previous days dreamy soft food. Fun to eat. Messy. Loud.

The chili rellenos were gratuitous. Yeah, they were tasty. But, they didn’t beg devouring like everything else on the plate.

Our dinner was a great finale for Thanksgiving leftovers and a fantastic ending to a Thanksgiving weekend.

This morning, I bagged the remaining turkey and tossed it into the freezer. It’ll get lost in there for a while, hiding under shrimp shells, frozen meat, and chicken backs.

When rediscovered, maybe we’ll have a proper plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

And, be thankful for it.


Chef Tom’s Food and Cooking Column appears on page 13 of the Ace Weekly print edition. Text and Photos by Chef Tom.

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