By Daniella Byck
Photo by Isabel Jordan
As a lover of food and a champion of Eating Until You’re In Pain™, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. My family takes note from the Mayflower and makes pilgrimage to my grandparents in New England. Once we arrive, we are greeted by billowing clouds of turkey scented goodness – a much welcomed change from the scent of Doritos that engulfs the backseat of the car where my brother reclines. My grandmother serves an iconic Thanksgiving. We’re talking sides busting with buttery bacon goodness and numerous turkeys, cooked in multiple manners to maximize reasons to give thanks.
But even if you are the Joey Chestnut of candied yams, you are bound to be faced with leftovers. Some people will argue that the Thanksgiving post meal rivals the main event itself. Whatever the case, our nation is experiencing too much polarization for me to create a dramatic chasm between the day-of devotees and the leftover lovers. Let’s just agree that when it comes to repurposing the reheated, a sandwich is the route to go. Here are some tips for magnifying your leftover potential:
The Main Event
The centerpiece of the sandwich is, naturally, the turkey. Trading out traditional deli slices for a bite of thick turkey elevates the texture of the sandwich. And texture is the name of the game in this piled high masterpiece.
The bread plays a key role in your success. The trick is working between the spectrum of a flimsy wrap and an overpowering ciabatta. Try:
Toasted white bread You can’t go wrong with a lunchbox classic crisped to a beautiful gold.
Sliced challah The thick, sweet bread is ideal for carrying the weight of a Thanksgiving meal.
Scooped out bagel Get rid of the excess and wedge your sides into the bagel’s pockets for a handheld meal with minimal mess.
Soft rolls For those wholly dedicated to going full blown leftover, break out last night’s rolls for slider style sandwiches.
As a middle child, I identify with a sandwich’s middle fillings, the true drama queens of any meal. Thanksgiving sides bring a certain nostalgic character. Try:
Stuffing Go full blown bread – we dare you. Squeeze a little lemon to accentuate the herbiness and wake up both your ‘wich and any napping relatives.
Sweet Potatoes Mash and pile on the way you would avocado toast. The rich orange color is like biting into a sunset of sweetness that pushes your sandwich right to the edge of savory without diving into the saccharine.
Green Beans This tubular veggie might feel like a strange choice for a sandwich but green beans give the sandwich that messy, sloppy joe feeling with grown up zest. Embrace the uncertainty of adulthood and green beans in a sandwich!
Mashed Potatoes Spread your sauces on one slice of bread and your mashed potatoes on the other. A thin tier is all you need to absorb the rest of the flavors and avoid an overtly excessive bite.
Brussel Sprouts Whether your Turkey Day brussel sprouts are tossed with pecans, glazed in balsamic or chilling with some thick cut bacon, we’re here for it. Don’t be afraid of a flavor extravaganza – the bread and turkey will ground the bolder layers.
If just the word “tryptophan” has you stretching for your pillow, reach for the green instead. The holiday might be known for its excess but the day after doesn’t have to be. Try:
Spinach, Butter Lettuce or Arugula Whatever your leafy layer of choice, keep it at a deep kelly green or darker. Congratulations: you’ve already gotten a head start on your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier!
Avocado Turkey and avocado is a classic combo for a reason. Layer on for some nutty flavor and vibrant color.
Apple The fruity, crisp bite sounds as fresh as it tastes. Bonus points if you pair with the melty cheese.
Celery Fold into your stuffing to break through the bread on bread combination with a burst of crunch.
If spreads be the food of love, spread on! Condiments elevate this respected work of art to monument status. Try:
Cranberry Sauce In my humble opinion, cranberry sauce is the ultimate spread for a leftover sandwich. It combines tangy flavor, vibrant color and the right kind of chutney texture to make the Leftovers Sandwich really stand out.
Gravy The “Moist Maker” – a slice of bread dipped in gravy and stuffed in the middle of a sandwich – was popularized by Friends. Channel french dip and pour the gravy in a second bowl for dunking.
Mayo You can’t go wrong with a thin layer of mayo. Mix in some herbs like dill or chives for some added brightness and a more complex flavor profile.
Out of all of the holidays, Thanksgiving is all about letting loose and being unpredictable. Instead of bringing up politics at the dinner table, I recommend slapping some of these options onto your sandwich for ultimate rebel status. Try:
Fried egg Who says leftovers are only for lunch? Throw an egg on it and BOOM! A Thanksgiving wake up call. Let your pan heat up for a few minutes before cracking your egg for the perfect over medium yolk.
Caramelized onions There are very few sandwiches that cannot be improved with a smattering of savory caramelized onions. These fit in so naturally with the rest of the Turkey Day flavors it almost feels silly to consider them a wildcard.
Melty brie Decadence meets decadence. Throw your sandwich in a panini press for a gooey cheese pull that will overshadow everyone’s Thanksgiving spread Snapchat stories.
Set the Mood
The day after Thanksgiving, you can find me rocking exclusively soft, tattered t-shirts and oversized sweatpants. The theme of leftovers is head to toe comfort. I recommend cuddling into couch cushions, wrapped in a blanket as if you are channeling the iconic Ikea monkey. Grab your laptop, scope out the Cyber Monday deals and treat your shopping cart to that furry red vest you claim you’ll wear on game day next year. In the season of giving thanks, be thankful for the redemption story that is the Leftovers Sandwich.