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What the Fork: Burritos, waffles, and other life hacks for holiday leftovers

Ar 181129995
Courtesy of Tim Kapustka

When in doubt, everything can become a soup.
Ar 181129995
Courtesy of Tim Kapustka

When in doubt, everything can become a soup.

What the Fork: Burritos, waffles, and other life hacks for holiday leftovers

Courtesy of Tim Kapustka

When in doubt, everything can become a soup.

It happens every year. Despite my best efforts of eating two (or, ahem, three) servings, there are still so many Thanksgiving leftovers. Before I drift away into a food-induced coma, I always do my future self a favor and save everything. I might not want it now, but I’ll be thanking past Lindsay as soon as I mow down a slice of pecan pie for breakfast (with or without the ice cream, I’m not here to judge). Really, I save the leftovers for my favorite meal, a garlic mashed potato and gravy sando. It would feel like a starch-on-starch crime if it wasn’t for the addition of turkey and cranberry sauce.

As delicious as it is, that’s a once-a-year sandwich. By dinnertime on Black Friday, I find myself gazing at all the Tupperware in the fridge and begging for something that isn’t another version of my Thanksgiving meal. Luckily, there are some creative ways to re-purpose what’s leftover and have fun cheffin’ it up. They won’t all turn out to be winners, but they’re all munchie approved, so maybe check out a strain review first, just in case.

Taco taco, burrito burritoIs there anything you can’t turn into a taco? Any sandwich somehow tastes better when it’s folded up in a tiny tortilla. Probably because tacos are nature’s most perfect food: small, hand-held, and ultimately customizable. If you must, you could super-size your taco and make it a burrito (which are just larger, harder-to-eat tacos).

Anything from the Thanksgiving table would make a great taco: turkey with cranberry salsa, sausage stuffing breakfast tacos with cilantro-lime sour cream, sweet potato casserole and black beans with guacamole, loaded mashed potatoes topped with bacon and cheddar, apple pie dessert tacos… Now that I think about it, I might skip Thanksgiving all together and just celebrate Tacogiving.

WafflesThis might sound like a total stoner meal, but you can put leftover stuffing into a waffle iron to make stuffing waffles. Top it off with cranberry sauce, gravy, and turkey for a fun and funky take on last night’s dinner. You can do the same thing with mashed potatoes, but you’ll have to add eggs and flour to get them to stay together.

Pizza, nachos, and quesadillasWhat do these three things have in common? Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. There’s nothing like smothering dry leftovers in melty cheese to breathe new life into them. You don’t even really need a sauce to pull this off (mashed potatoes as a pizza “sauce?” Yes, please!). That being said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to toss a jar of salsa into the mix. At the very least, a drizzle of Sriracha.

CasserolesI’m thinkin’ shepherd’s pie, baked ziti, creamy turkey tetrazzini, or vegetable gratins. Use any random vegetables and bake them with some cheese and garlicky breadcrumbs and it’ll probably taste amazing. If you want to go next level, make it saucy by adding pesto, tomato sauce, alfredo-style cream sauces, or a can of cream-of-whatever soup. Any leftover fresh herbs will add a punch of flavor and make everything taste uber fresh again.

Bowls of any varietyAnything eaten in a bowl instantly becomes comfort food. So why not whip up some pasta, rice, or quinoa and use it as the base of your leftover bowl? You could also go ramen-style by adding water to your gravy. Boil an egg, dice an avocado, or throw in a spoonful of hummus before you garnish it with a few green onions. Easy!

SoupWhen in doubt, everything can become a soup, stew, or chili. If you save the turkey neck or carcass, you can even make an incredible broth as the soup’s base. Add canned beans to leftover turkey to make chili, or puree sweet potato casseroles with cream until they’re smooth and delicious, or keep things chunky and add barley, couscous, pasta, or wild rice to create a stew.

BreakfastAnything can become a hash if you chop it up into small pieces. It’s the perfect way to transform those boring leftovers into something you’d like to eat again. Chop up your turkey, toss in some stuffing, and add in any leftover vegetable sides. Then, #putaneggonit to make your Instagram friends instantly jealous. If it sounds like too much work, mix those eggs with milk or cream and turn the whole thing into a frittata.

Turn to the deep fryerIf all else fails, ball up your food, dredge it in breadcrumbs, and deep fry it until it’s golden brown (GBD, every time). It works for everything. Just toss the leftovers in the food processor with eggs and cheese and roll them in breadcrumbs. If you don’t think you can pull it off, wrap ’em in wonton or egg roll wrappers, or make pierogi dough for dumplings. Gravy and cranberry sauce make excellent dipping sauces.

Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef and food writer living in Durango. She enjoys long walks in the woods, the simplicity of New York-style cheese pizza, and she’s completely addicted to Chapstick. Contact her at lindsaymattisonwriter@gmail.com.