The tastiest way to use leftover turkey

With or without the turkey, these collard greens satisfy.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

The day after Thanksgiving, all I want is a turkey sandwich, loaded with stuffing and mashed potatoes, smeared with cranberry sauce and drenched in gravy. The day after that, I want a break from all the heavy rich things. But this roasted bird is still hogging fridge space and shouldn’t go to waste. To satisfy my craving while dealing with leftover turkey, I turn to one of my favorite fall leafy greens.

Collards are the back-up singers to kale. They’re just as good but haven’t found fame despite looking similar. I actually like kale, especially kale salad, but if I’m honest, it’s in a sort of masochistic way. Those tough frilly leaves with their bitter edge feel like they’re cleaning out my insides.

I need a gentler transition out of Thanksgiving’s pleasures — still the cleansing feeling from greens, yes, but comfort as well. Collard’s smooth, thick leaves develop a silky texture after a long simmer, along with an earthy sweetness. When cooked with roasted turkey, they take on a meaty depth that’s hearty enough to make them feel like a main meal. While some folks toss out the tough stems, I prefer slicing them into thin coins to cook with the greens. They add crunch to each bite and, along with the tasty repurposing of the turkey, make this a no-waste meal.

Leftover Turkey Collard Greens

45 minutes. Serves 8.

Even without turkey, this pot of greens develops complex flavors from sauteed onion and garlic, tangy vinegar and hot sauce.

2 bunches collard greens (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, very thinly sliced
Kosher salt
2 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Leftover turkey wings, drumsticks and other bony parts
Hot sauce, for serving

1. Strip the leaves off the collard stems and reserve both separately. Rinse the stems thoroughly, then trim the ends and cut the stems into ½-inch slices. Cut the leaves in half lengthwise and then into ½-inch-thick ribbons crosswise. Put the leaves in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Swish to remove any grit, then lift out into a colander. Repeat until the water runs clear and the leaves are clean.

2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or sauce pot over medium heat. Add the onion, sliced collard stems and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and boil, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the turkey and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil.

3. Add the collard leaves a handful at a time, stirring after each addition until it wilts before adding the next. When all the greens have wilted, stir in ½ teaspoon salt. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are very tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Season the greens to taste with salt and hot sauce. Serve hot from the pot with the juices in the pot. You can shred the meat from the turkey to serve with the greens if you want.