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Thanksgiving leftovers extend holiday feast

Thanksgiving in my family is one big potluck, which is great, since one person is not doing all the work. But not so great since it sometimes means I don't get all the leftovers.

The rest of the year, leftovers are a fact of life. It makes life easier to make a big meal we can use for dinner one night, then for another dinner or some lunches later in the week.

But at Thanksgiving, the leftovers are special. I savor the extra turkey and stuffing, gravy and cranberry relish and even the mashed potatoes. Having leftovers somehow keeps the holiday spirit going. Plus leftovers mean not having to worry too much about what else to cook over the long holiday weekend.

Of course, everyone has their favorite version of the turkey sandwich. People envision big, Dagwood-style creations piled layers deep. I have even seen some go so far as to include green bean casserole between the layers of bread. I will pass on that part.

I prefer a more basic sandwich with a mix of the white and dark meat and some cranberry relish on leftover Parker House rolls.

But to really maximize the remains of the turkey day, I want to use more than just the bird. To sort of re-create the whole dinner in a single portion, turkey is joined by sweet and mashed potatoes in a nice hash patty that gets browned to a golden crisp. It's like a pilgrim's version of crab cakes.

This "turkey dinner in a patty" works for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Breakfast is my favorite, when I top the patties with fried eggs and gravy. I love how the warm yolk mixes with the gravy to make a nice sauce. Maybe a little cranberry on the side for a sweet-tart touch.

Heck, I make it this way even for dinner.

While I enjoy the turkey, my favorite part of the meal is the stuffing. Or dressing. Whatever you call it. I call it stuffing, even though I cook it outside the bird. And I like a packed stuffing with celery, onion, carrot and mushroom. It has a lot of flavor, making it a great base for a brunch dish.

This is as easy as turning on the oven and cracking some eggs. It's basically just eggs baked into little pockets in the stuffing. I add some leftover gravy to make sure the twice-baked stuffing does not get too dry. And it makes for a rich flavor.

I suppose some chopped turkey could be mixed into the stuffing, but I have never felt the need to do that. The dish is one of my favorite post-Thanksgiving treats. And if there is just a scant amount of stuffing left, I have been known to hide it in the back of the fridge until Monday morning when I have the house to myself and I can make a single serving in a little ramekin.

With so many good things on the menu, it is easy to overlook the leftover cranberry sauce or relish.

I love cranberry-orange relish with my turkey. I sometimes make my own, but when I am feeling busy or lazy, the cranberry-orange relish from Trader Joe's is great stuff. When I buy it, I buy two.

The relish goes great with turkey on the big day, and it swirls nicely into a sour cream cake batter for a tasty and pretty treat. It's a perfect little snack with a cup of tea or coffee. It's not too sweet, and the fruit and sour cream in this help keep the cake moist.

By the time the holiday weekend and the leftovers wind down, it's time for a nice cocktail. This jewel-toned gem that I call a cranberry-orange bourbon-tini was born out of what I had on hand: leftover cranberry-orange relish, bourbon and Bar Keep fennel bitters.

Add a little sugar and a splash of club soda and this drink is bright and sweet from the fruit, but also a little herbaceous from the bitters and warming from the bourbon.

This cocktail is another reason I make sure to have leftover cranberry-orange relish. If your cranberry relish does not have orange in it, muddle an orange wedge in the glass with the sugar cube and bitters.

This was so tasty that I might need to run to the store for one more package of that relish. I am thinking I could freeze the puree in ice trays to use later. You know, something to keep the Thanksgiving festivities going until Christmas rolls around.

Thanksgiving, it is said, first came about as a celebration of abundance from a good harvest. These days, the abundance is more likely to be in the form of leftovers. Here are four recipes to help you raid the fridge and turn the remains of the day into a new feast.

TURKEY DINNER IN A PATTY

Yield: 8 patties

1 shallot, minced 1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped 1/2 a red bell pepper, finely chopped 1 teaspoon dried thyme 1 cup cold, roasted sweet potatoes or yams, diced 3 cups cooked turkey, chopped 1 cup cold mashed potatoes 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 1/4 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Procedure:

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine shallot, celery, red bell pepper, thyme, sweet potatoes or yams and turkey.

2. Gently mix in mashed potatoes, eggs, flour, salt and pepper.

3. Divide mixture evenly to form 8 patties (each about 3-4 inches wide).

4. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 4 of the patties and cook 7-8 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. Carefully turn patties and cook on the other side, again until golden brown. Place cooked patties on an oven-proof dish and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining patties.

5. Serve with poached or fried eggs, gravy and cranberry relish or sauce.

EGG AND STUFFING BREAKFAST BAKE

Yield: 4 servings

4 cups prepared stuffing 1/2 cup turkey gravy (or broth or stock)

4 eggs

For serving: Finely grated Parmesan cheese or extra gravy

Procedure:

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish with vegetable or grapeseed oil.

2. Mix stuffing and gravy (or broth) in a large bowl

3. Spread stuffing in the prepared baking dish, making four indentations for the eggs.

4. Crack one egg into each of the indentations in the stuffing.

5. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until eggs are just set.

6. Serve with warmed turkey gravy or sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

SOUR CREAM CAKE WITH CRANBERRY SWIRL

Yield: 1 loaf of cake

2 cups flour 1 cup sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup sour cream 1/4 cup buttermilk 1 egg 2/3 cup cranberry-orange relish

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a standard loaf pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.

3. Mix in sour cream, buttermilk and egg until smooth.

4. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan, then top with the cranberry relish. Using a butter knife, swirl the relish into the batter.

5. Bake 50 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes and remove from loaf pan.

CRANBERRY-ORANGE BOURBON-TINI

Yield: 1 serving

1 sugar cube

Dash of bitters (I like Bar Keep fennel bitters)

2 tablespoons pureed cranberry-orange relish 2 ounces bourbon

Splash of club soda

Ice

Procedure:

1. In a cocktail shaker or large glass, muddle the sugar cube with the bitters and cranberry-orange relish.

2. Fill the glass with ice, then add bourbon.

3. Top with a splash of club soda, shake or stir, then strain into a martini glass. Alternatively, strain over ice into an old-fashioned glass.

4. Garnish, if desired, with an orange wedge and a couple of fresh cranberries or a maraschino cherry.

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