Three Ways to Use Up Stuffing, the Pinnacle of Thanksgiving Leftovers

Every year, I look forward to Thanksgiving as an opportunity to eat bread by the spoonful. That’s all stuffing is: bread, which is already delicious, made more perfect by being ripped into bite-size bits, tossed with seasonings and mix-ins, and baked until crisp on the outside but still squishy and soft on the inside. It’s forkable, ideal for sopping and ready to play nice with whatever else is on the plate.

I grew up in a Stove Top household, but fancied up, with milk swapped in for water, and seared giblets and sautéed vegetables added to the stuffing mix. It would appear once a year alongside all the classics: jellied cranberry sauce from the can, sliced thick along every other ridge; creamy green bean casserole topped with French’s fried onions; and a basket of doughy Pillsbury crescent rolls.

Over time, we’ve moved away from the traditional Thanksgiving spread, sometimes opting for roast duck instead of turkey, and losing the canned sauce for fresh cranberry-pomegranate relish. But I still love a casserole dish filled with stuffing; nothing else hits me with all the nostalgia of those cream-of-something soup years.

I also believe that stuffing is the pinnacle of Thanksgiving leftovers. Not only can you make stuffing with any bread, mix-ins and seasonings, it’s also a chameleon of an ingredient, ready to take any form you want to give it — quite literally. I’m enamored by how I can smash and squash stuffing, bend it to my will, to make something totally new. Show me a roast turkey that can do that!

Anywhere you might find bread, stuffing can step in and step it up, bringing with it a certain holiday flair. For my Thanksgiving leftovers turkey club, I press the stuffing into a big slab as thick as a slice of bread before cutting it into squares and griddling until seared and toasty. Each square then replaces the middle slice of bread in my turkey club, a distinctive divider for the rest of the sandwich layers. Everyone knows the sandwich you make the day after Thanksgiving is the best part of the holiday, and now it may be the best sandwich you eat all year.

This pressed-and-fried technique is useful beyond sandwiches. I also like to squeeze stuffing into a loaf pan, so it’s dense and thick, before chilling and cutting it into chunky cubes. I’ll fry the cubes until they are crackly and golden on the outside and tender and custardy on the inside. These delicate yet rich stuffing pieces top a salad of mixed greens and shaved crunchy vegetables that’s dressed with cranberry vinaigrette. It’s hot and cold, creamy and crisp, and a way to eat holiday food while technically also having a salad.

Anything bread can do, stuffing can do better, and this is especially true of dumpling soup. I mash leftover stuffing with a splash of turkey stock until all the big nuggets are broken up. Then I’ll stir in eggs, flour and baking powder to make a dumpling dough. I’ll simmer a simple bone broth with the turkey carcass — another hero of Thanksgiving leftovers — and then load up the soup with kale and sweet potato before dropping in dollops of the stuffing dumpling mix. The dumplings soak up the broth, growing plump and tender, while also adding body to the soup. Because the stuffing is already packed with flavor, the dumplings are too, without any extra help from you.

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Turkey F.A.Q.

We have a full guide on buying and cooking Thanksgiving turkey, but here are answers to some of your most common questions:

    • What’s the easiest way to roast a turkey? You don’t need to brine, stuff, truss or baste a turkey to get delicious results. Try this simple recipe for starters.
    • How big of a turkey should I buy? Buy one pound per person, or a pound and a half per person if you’d like to make sure you have leftovers. If you’re ordering your turkey from a butcher or farmer, you’ll need to do so a few weeks in advance.
    • How do I thaw a frozen turkey? Allow one day for every four pounds of turkey. A 12-pound turkey, for example, will need three days to defrost. Thaw your turkey in the fridge and make sure to put it in a bowl or on a platter as it may drip.
    • How will I know when the turkey is cooked? Take its temperature. A digital thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should read 165 degrees.
    • How do I carve the turkey? Watch this video for instructions.

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