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Get creative with Thanksgiving leftovers

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Thanksgiving leftovers - many of you probably have your entire fridges stuffed with them right now. But there's another kind of leftover we want to think about this post-Thanksgiving weekend - all the raw materials that you stocked up on to make the big spread, those half-full boxes of stuffing, those cans of cranberry sauce you thought you would use but you didn't, gravy mixes. You get what we're talking about. So if you ended up not using the whole box or can, what can you do with the leftover ingredients?

Bon Appetit editor Rachel Gurjar published some tips just for that in this magazine's November issue. We've invited her on to share some of these tricks for using up all of those leftovers. Hey, Rachel.

RACHEL GURJAR: Hello.

DETROW: All right. So everybody's probably in a similar position right now, right? You've got the extra stuff sitting around. You've got the boxes that you thought you need, but you wouldn't. Big picture - how should you be thinking about these other than, oh, man, I bought too much?

GURJAR: Right. You know, I run into this problem every year. And when I don't know what to do with what I have left over, I - I'm sick of Thanksgiving food. So I want to do something different.

DETROW: Right. Right. I usually make it till, like, Saturday morning before I feel sick of Thanksgiving.

GURJAR: Right. Yeah. How many leftover sandwiches can you eat, right?

DETROW: Yeah.

GURJAR: I think you need to think about how you can fit these in your daily weeknight dinners. And that's how I came up with these recipes. So, you know, we all have that one straggler can of pumpkin puree, don't know what to do with it. Yes, you've made pumpkin pie, and it has a great application in sweet things, but I think it is an excellent base for a pasta sauce.

DETROW: I mean, you wrote, (reading) here's a controversial opinion. To me, pumpkin puree works better in savory applications than in sweet ones. That's a bold claim.

GURJAR: Yes. And I am also one of those people who does not like pumpkin pie.

DETROW: I'll grant you that more. It depends year to year how I feel about pumpkin pie, but tell me about the pasta approach.

GURJAR: Because it's already pureed, half of your work is done. You know, pumpkin puree has a slight sweetness to it, but it definitely has savory notes as well. And I think the idea is to just punch it up using some aromatics, and you don't need anything fancy for this - you know, your go-to, like, garlic, onion, some good olive oil and a little bit of red pepper flakes to add just that heat, which kind of cuts through all the sweetness and makes this, like, really beautiful, luscious sauce. Just throw in your pasta there, and it will kind of envelop whatever pasta you use just beautifully, and you have dinner ready in about 35 minutes.

DETROW: I want to talk about stuffing next because, I mean, you've got the stovetop box kind. You also have, you know, people who do the whole thing themselves, all of the stale bread cubes. Stuffing is always the most central part of my family's Thanksgiving. And every year, without fail, when I'm making the stuffing, I buy too much bread, and I just have this stale bread sitting around. Or, you know, for people who use the box approach, you've got the extra boxes. What can you do with stuffing? Because I feel like stuffing is maybe the most, like, what-do-you-do-with-this-outside-of-Thanksgiving item out there.

GURJAR: OK. So all you need to do to your box stuffing mix is add a little salt, some butter, and it makes for an excellent crust, whether you use it on fish like I have in my recipe, or you could make chicken fingers with it. It's crispy, it's buttery, and it gets extremely golden brown.

DETROW: All right. One other thing to ask about, and that is cranberry sauce, particularly canned cranberry sauce. How did you think about that? What are some of the things you came up with?

GURJAR: So cranberry sauce, generally, you're associating it with winter and coziness. It's the perfect thing to add a little bit of tang. But, you know, I come from India. We pickle a lot of things. We use so many chutneys, and cranberry is, like, the perfect vehicle to do that. It is tangy. It's sweet. And when you add some warm winter spices, it really becomes the most versatile condiment you can use across so many things. So think in your smoothies. Think on your granola. Think on a sandwich with peanut butter.

DETROW: Rachel, I know you said at this point, everybody's probably sick of Thanksgiving leftovers, but thinking ahead to next year, can I also ask what your favorite go-to Thanksgiving leftover is, still in the vein of, like, Thanksgiving meal-type mode.

GURJAR: My favorite leftover Thanksgiving meal is a big Thanksgiving sandwich that is almost too big to eat, but it has a layer of mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, and stuffing.

DETROW: So that's one other idea for anybody out there who's not quite sick of it just yet. That's Rachel Gurjar, food editor at Bon Appetit. Thank you so much.

GURJAR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ALL-AMERICAN REJECTS SONG, "GIVES YOU HELL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Emma Klein
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Scott Detrow
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.