Turkey Gumbo (pre-turkey) bubbles on the stove, while chef Scott Serpas prepares to add the leftover turkey topping. (Photo Chris Hunt/Special)
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Atlanta chefs share tasty recipes using leftover Thanksgiving turkey

Thanksgiving dinner is probably the most talked about meal of the year for most Americans. When it comes to dealing with the leftovers, there’s no question a turkey carcass, preferably one with a lot of meat left on those bones, is a prized possession.

For Scott Serpas of Serpas True Food in Old Fourth Ward it’s not Thanksgiving without a deep-fried turkey. He and his crew will be frying turkeys by the dozens for their Thanksgiving To-Go customers, but he’ll make sure that Thanksgiving morning he’s frying one for himself. “We’ll invite friends and family over and serve the traditional sides like potatoes, macaroni and cheese, greens and squash casserole but we’ll also do some Louisiana stuff like oyster patties served in a puff pastry shell and shrimp and eggplant dressing. Maybe stuffed mirliton. And the typical desserts like apple pie or maybe a bread pudding.”

And after Thanksgiving? “I’m making sandwiches, or knocking out a gumbo if there’s enough turkey left. If nothing else, I’ll use that turkey carcass and make a nice stock for the freezer.”

He says using the carcass for stock is actually the easiest way to get every last bit of usable meat out of that turkey. “Put the whole carcass in a stock pot, break it up if you need to so it will fit, and cook with it a mirepoix of celery, onions and peppers along with some bay leaves and peppercorns. Simmer it 45 minutes to an hour and use that stock to make a great gumbo. Or to make gravy for a pot pie. The meat will be easy to pull off the bones.”

This year Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del sol will be traveling to Texas to celebrate the day with his daughter. Hernandez refers to himself as a “born again Southern boy.” He says, “I observe every holiday and make up new ones as we go along.”

For Thanksgiving, he makes the side dishes and his family does the turkey. “Then I fix it.” He says his family likes his giblet gravy and all his side dishes, but each year when they roast the turkey, they mess it up and he steps in to fix it. “Every year we go through the same thing.”

He developed the hash recipe we’re featuring while considering traditional hash made with chorizo. “I started thinking about what to do with our leftover turkey and created this idea. Everybody looks forward to the day after Thanksgiving because they know I’ll be making turkey hash with eggs. We might eat it in burritos or tacos, but we will definitely be having it.”

Hector Santiago of El Super Pan at Ponce City market says his Thanksgiving has to have a Caribbean flavor, something that reflects his upbringing in Puerto Rico. “Thanksgiving is one of the national holidays of Puerto Rico just as it is here in the States. My mother would stuff a turkey with mofongo and it was always served with very Caribbean sides like calabaza. But I admit, my personal favorite is sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. You might be surprised that many Puerto Rican families cooked from very classic American cookbooks like Betty Crocker. But adding Caribbean flavor.”

Here in Atlanta, Santiago gets together with friends and if he’s in charge of the turkey, it could be deep fried, it could be smoked, or he could debone it and roll it up with seasonings. But there are always those Caribbean sides like boniato, a sweet potato-like tuber that when well-roasted, tastes like chestnuts.

As for leftovers, they may not be a lot. Turkey sandwiches are a standard, of course, made with pan de agua, the Puerto Rican equivalent of Cuban bread, a combination of flour, yeast and water that makes a fluffy bread perfect for Cuban sandwiches.

Leftovers could go into empanadas and Santiago created a recipe just for us. “I thought about what I’d do if I had turkey, calabaza and greens leftover and empanadas are the perfect foil for all that. In Puerto Rico empanadas are often a weekend thing, stuffed and then fried.” Since many home cooks aren’t into frying, he created a baked empanada recipe that combines his favorite leftovers.

Scott Serpas’ Turkey Gumbo

This big pot of gumbo will serve a gracious plenty in true Louisiana style. Traditionally it would be served over rice, but Serpas says it’s OK to substitute something like butternut squash. And if it’s just not gumbo for you if it doesn’t have andouille sausage, then add some of that, too. “Tweak this and make it your own,” he says.

Turkey gumbo from Scott Serpas / Photo by Chris Hunt
Photo: Chris Hunt

Creole Dry Spice Seasoning

You’ll use all this spice mix for the gumbo, but make up an extra batch and use it to season fish, rib eye or filet, pot roast or short ribs. Just add some salt and pepper to the mix.

Eddie Hernandez’ Cast Iron Skillet Turkey and Potato Hash

Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del Sol will be offering this hash as a taco on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving. This is a special treat since Taqueria del Sol does not generally serve breakfast-type tacos. Hernandez says you can make your own if you add some scrambled eggs to this recipe and serve the hash rolled up in your favorite tortilla.

The trick of finishing the hash in the oven is a restaurant thing — useful when many hands are putting out many different dishes and cooktop space is at a premium. If you’d rather, cover the hash with a lid and cook on the stove top until everything is tender, then uncover and allow to crisp.

Chef Eddie Hernandez's Turkey Chile Hash / Photo by Chris Hunt
Photo: Chris Hunt

Hector Santiago’s Empanadas de Pavo with Cranberry-Chipotle Sauce

Empanadas de Pavo are traditionally made with leftover turkey or chicken. Hector Santiago adds other Thanksgiving leftovers to make these perfect little hand pies, including, yes, mini marshmallows.

For the roasted squash, Santiago prefers calabaza, a winter squash that’s popular in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. He says you can substitute sweet potato or butternut squash if that’s what you have on hand.

Any winter greens will do.

And finally, he likes to add mini marshmallows which he uses a torch to brown slightly.

Make your dough ahead of time and keep it chilled until ready to roll. If the dough cracks, carefully patch it and move on. Santiago admits to being an “overstuffer” so the filling recipe below will make very well-stuffed empanadas. Again, if your dough cracks when you’re folding the pies in half, just do a little patching and move on.

Turkey Empanadas, shared recipe by chef Hector Santiago. / Photo by Chris Hunt
Photo: Chris Hunt

Cranberry-Chipotle Sauce

Santiago adds the chipotles separately and at the end of the first chilling in case you have guests at your table who are not into spicy. If you know everyone will be ok with it, you can go ahead and add the chipotles and sauce as the cranberries cook.

Turkey Broth

That turkey carcass isn’t trash, it’s treasure! Scott Serpas of Serpas True Food in Old Fourth Ward reminds us that turning that turkey carcass into turkey broth is the easiest way to get every bit of meat off those bones.

For the family of Rhonda Dehbozorgi, owner of four metro Atlanta Flying Biscuit locations from Buckhead to Brookhaven to Peachtree City, her turkey noodle soup is a day-after-Thanksgiving tradition.

To make turkey broth, she fills a large stockpot about halfway with water and seasons the water to taste with seasoned salt and seasoned pepper. Then she adds the turkey carcass including the leftover turkey skin and combines that with poultry seasoning, celery seed and a little bit of sage and onion powder. She adds chopped celery and onion, and brings the mixture to a boil. She reduces the heat so the stock simmers and cooks up to 2 hours or until the meat falls away from the bones, topping the mixture with more water if it’s needed. Strain it and it’s ready to be used or frozen for use another day.

To make her turkey noodle soup, she combines the broth with chopped turkey, celery, carrots and onion and seasons it with sage, celery seed, garlic salt, onion salt and more salt and pepper if needed. This comes to a boil, and then the heat is reduced and the mixture simmers until the vegetables are tender. She adds spaghetti noodles, broken into three pieces, and spinach and cooks until the noodles are tender. Time to enjoy the soup with a turkey sandwich or crusty French bread.

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