The Remains of the Bird

The romance of leftover turkey begins to fade a few days after the feast. First pickings bring pleasure, but what about the rest?

Before you do anything else with the leftover turkey, find the little morsels of meat called the oysters. They are on the underside of the turkey, right in the center, at the base of the backbone. There are two, one straddling either side of the bone. Each oyster is about two bites of the tenderest, most succulent dark meat on the whole bird. They're the reason that I offer to carve the turkey every year--so I'm assured that no one else beats me to them.

Now the strategy for the rest of the bird: Cooked turkey will stay fresher if it's left on the bone until you use it. Once it's cut, it dries out more quickly. The turkey must be wrapped airtight, either in a plastic food bag or foil. If your refrigerator space is limited, cut off the legs and wings and wrap them separately. Leftovers can be refrigerated up to four days.

You might consider freezing some sliced or chopped turkey meat (also the carcass) until you can face it with renewed enthusiasm. Wrap in foil, then seal in an airtight food bag (to prevent off-odors and freezer burn) and label clearly. The meat can be frozen up to two months. It's best to thaw, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.

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Before you go for this long-term strategy, however, consider the following recipes: Asian turkey salad, broiled open-face turkey sandwiches with mushrooms and cheese and turkey-vegetable soup with orzo. They are easy preparations--and unlike most typical post-Thanksgiving leftovers, they don't require cranberry sauce.

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This is a quick salad to get on the table. It's also the perfect sequel to Thanksgiving dinner because it's light and refreshing.

ASIAN TURKEY SALAD

1 medium clove garlic

1 (1-inch square) piece ginger root

6 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 cups diced cooked turkey

2/3 cup packaged fine dried rice noodles (rice sticks), deep-fried

2/3 cup diced celery

2/3 cup diced sweet red pepper

2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

2 cups chopped iceberg lettuce

Finely mince garlic and ginger in blender or food processor. Scrape down sides of container. Add vinegar, honey and oil. Mix well. Set aside.

Put turkey, fried rice noodles, celery, sweet red pepper and green onions in 2-quart bowl. Add dressing. Toss until well-mixed and evenly coated. Add iceberg lettuce. Toss until well combined. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve chilled. Makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains about:

488 calories; 97 mg sodium; 71 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 62 grams carbohydrates; 28 grams protein; 1.3 grams fiber.

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Served with a green salad, this turkey sandwich topped with sizzling cheese makes a nice supper or lunch.

BROILED OPEN-FACE TURKEY SANDWICH WITH CHEESE AND MUSHROOMS

4 slices challah or brioche bread

Dijon mustard

Sauteed Mushrooms

8 full slices turkey breast meat

6 ounces Muenster or Monterey Jack cheese, sliced thin

Generously spread 1 side of each bread slice with mustard. Spread Sauteed Mushrooms evenly over mustard-covered side of each bread slice, about 1/3 cup per slice. Top each with 2 turkey slices. Top with cheese slices, about 1 1/2 ounces on each. Put sandwiches on baking sheet.

Bake on center oven rack at 350 degrees until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.

Turn on broiler and set rack about 6 inches from heat source. Broil until lightly browned and sizzling. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

530 calories; 770 mg sodium; 144 mg cholesterol; 24 grams fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 50 grams protein; 0.93 gram fiber.

Sauteed Mushrooms

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 pound mushrooms, trimmed, sliced

1/4 cup beef stock or broth

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 medium green onions, thinly sliced

Heat oil and butter in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add garlic and mushrooms. Cook, uncovered, mushrooms, about 3 minutes, stirring often.

Add beef stock, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until mushrooms are just tender but still have texture, about 2 minutes. Add green onions. Toss until well-combined. Remove from heat.

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This is a thick and sustaining soup that makes a great supper. The depth of the broth flavor--from the turkey stock used as a base--makes the soup. Serve with biscuits or cornbread. If you want, you can tackle the soup a few weeks after Thanksgiving, following the freezing instructions in the story above.

TURKEY VEGETABLE SOUP WITH ORZO

1 quart Turkey Stock

2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

2 ribs celery, diced

2 small carrots, peeled, diced

2 small parsnips, peeled, diced

2 small onions, diced

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 1/2 cups diced cooked turkey

1/2 cup orzo

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Put Turkey Stock, 2 cups chicken stock, celery, carrots, parsnips, onions and thyme in 3-quart pot. Bring to boil. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Add turkey and orzo. Mix well.

Simmer, covered, until orzo is tender, about 12 more minutes. Add additional broth to adjust consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

112 calories; 604 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams protein; 0.67 gram fiber.

Turkey Stock

Turkey carcass, broken up

1 medium carrot, cut into chunks

1 large onion, cut into chunks

2 stalks celery, cut into chunks

6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 quart water

Leftover skimmed pan juices from turkey

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

3 peppercorns

Put carcass, carrot, onion, celery, chicken broth, water, pan juices, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns in 4-quart stockpot. Bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours. Strain solids from broth and discard solids.

Cool. Refrigerate stock until fat solidifies, then remove and discard fat. Pour stock into conveniently sized containers. Refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months. Makes 2 quarts stock.

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