As the holidays approach, people seldom spare a thought for the amount of food that goes uneaten between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It’s estimated that Americans waste more than $165 billion worth of food per year, with $277 million dollars of that occurring over Thanksgiving week. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 200 million pounds of leftover turkey will be tossed in the garbage over the holidays.
Food waste has become a hot-button issue in the culinary world, with restaurants across the nation instituting strict, no-waste policies. This means repurposing ingredients that might otherwise be tossed, or employing composting companies like Atlanta’s Compost Wheels, who then create fertile soil from food scraps for local farms.
How can the home cook cut down on holiday food waste? The simplest solution is repurposing the leftovers. Think casseroles, soups and stews. Make tacos or burritos from the remaining turkey meat or toss it into a stir-fry with the leftover vegetables. Throw a leftover party with friends and see what comes of that sweet potato casserole or cranberry relish.
To offer a little inspiration, chefs Linton Hopkins and Steven Satterfield, along with bartender Mile Macquarrie, talk (leftover) turkey.
Linton Hopkins, chef/owner, Holeman & Finch, Restaurant Eugene, C. Ellet’s Steakhouse
Hopkins says it’s vital to his restaurants to be as close to zero-waste as possible and utilize every ingredient to its “fullest potential.”
The restaurants pickle or create pastas from vegetables that are just beyond their peak freshness. C. Ellet’s Steakhouse, Hopkins’ latest restaurant at SunTrust Park, sends cuts of unused meat to Holeman & Finch and Restaurant Eugene to be cured, smoked or repurposed. The beef tartare, for example, is made from fresh cuts that are not large enough to produce an entree.
Creating dishes from holiday leftovers doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Hopkins suggests making a turkey curry with leftover sweet potatoes or green beans. Add turkey meat and curry spices to the mixture and serve over rice for a quick and easy dinner.
One of Hopkins’ favorite dishes to make the morning after Thanksgiving is the classic toad in the hole. Cut a hole in the middle of a piece of bread with a biscuit cutter, then butter and toast each side. Place the toast in a prepared skillet. Crack open an egg over the hole and fry. Add leftover turkey dressing on top, allowing it to get crispy, for a one-dish breakfast.
Steven Satterfield, chef/owner, Miller Union
Satterfield’s restaurant Miller Union on Atlanta’s Westside is known for its vegetable-heavy menu. The restaurant was one of the first in the city to create a zero-waste kitchen structure and repurposes ingredients as much as possible.
“If we make any kind of fruit relish, garnish or sauce and it doesn’t get used, we repurpose it on the cheese plate,” Satterfield says. “Items we have extra of, that we cannot serve, get turned into family meals to feed the staff. Overripe fruit could end up in a soda or drink special or an ice cream flavor.”
Thanksgiving and holiday meals at Satterfield’s home incorporate a lot of vegetables in addition to the traditional turkey and pies.
“I usually have vegetable sides like roasted Brussels sprouts, apple, radish and celery root [dish], glazed sweet potatoes or field peas, and Southern-style cornbread dressing.”
His favorite leftover dishes include a turkey gumbo with Brussels sprouts and toasted cornbread to create croutons in place of rice. He creates hand pies from leftover sweet potato casserole. “I love cranberry relish on a leftover turkey sandwich, but you could also make this a layer inside the sweet potato hand pie to keep it from being cloying,” he says.
Miles Macquarrie, bartender/owner, Kimball House
The bar at Kimball House works in tandem with its kitchen to cut down on food waste. The pastry chef, for instance, saves egg whites in an airtight container to give to the bar to create cocktails like the Ramos Gin Fizz. The bar infuses bourbon and makes bitters using peach pits and peels. Cherry and peach pits are packed with flavor.
Macquarrie suggests using leftover sparkling wine or Champagne to create a classic Champagne cocktail. Place a sugar cube in a flute or coupe glass. Soak the cube in bitters and fill the glass with Champagne. If serving a crowd, create a punch, many of which call for Champagne either as a float on top or as part of the base mixture. He advises purchasing a Champagne stopper, which will keep the carbonation in place for a few days.
Making an apple pie? Save the cores and peels to infuse in vinegars for cocktail shrubs, or create a simple syrup. Soak the apple cores and peels in a warm mixture of equal parts sugar and water to create a subtle apple simple syrup for use in a fall-inspired Old Fashioned.
To create an apple-infused cocktail shrub, save all of the peels and cores, and put them in a jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. (Macquarrie recommends Bragg’s with the mother.) Shake daily for three to four weeks. Strain through a fine strainer and then through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. The mixture will be ready in time for the next round of holidays.
So, in the aftermath of holiday feasts, think strategically about your next meals. Instead of running to the store for breakfast or dinner items or pouring an opened bottle of red wine down the drain, consider the bounty of leftovers waiting in your refrigerator.
For Steven Satterfield’s turkey gumbo and other dishes, use vegetables from the crisper that are beginning to lose freshness or weren’t all used in the holiday meal.
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