Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Leftovers Tacos

What would a proper Thanksgiving dinner be without leftovers the next day? As exciting as the dinner itself may be, I have a sneaking suspicion there's a not insignificant portion of the population that's actually more excited about the food the next day. Freed from its more formal presentation Thursday, Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday are a chance to experiment and get creative.

Sandwiches are the easy way out and, while certainly satisfying, I like to find other interesting ways to use up that little bit of cranberry, that massive mound of bread stuffing. In that vein, last year I offered a Thanksgiving leftovers pizza topped with turkey and various sides. This year, I'm headed south to the versatile taco.

Tacos and Thanksgiving leftovers are made for each other. You can fill a taco with just about anything, although with a little care, the tacos can be especially good. A few tricks: don't over-stuff them. Focus on a combination of a couple ingredients and garnishes that complement each other. Offset something savory with a little something sweet. And don't over-carb it. Piling potatoes on stuffing in a tortilla seems like a bit much.

Tacos frequently have the one thing missing from Thanksgiving: fire. So I spiced this dish up by further seasoning the turkey and adding a spoonful of salsa verde with poblano pepper. Prepping the turkey is pretty simple: I chopped it and reheated it in a frying pan with a little oil and the additional seasonings of oregano, cumin and chipotle chili powder. Salsa verde requires a little more work, but comes together in about 40 minutes. If you don't feel like making it, you could buy it. Same goes for the totillas (although they really are better homemade).

Thanksgiving Leftovers Tacos

Serves 4 (3 tacos each)

2 tsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
12 oz. roasted turkey, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
12 corn tortillas (see recipe to make your own)
Green tomatillo salsa (see recipe below)
4 cups of basic bread stuffing (such as southwestern cornbread, classic 11-ingredient bread, or rye bread stuffing)
1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add chopped turkey and season with cumin, chili powder, oregano and garlic powder. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant and heated through.

2. Assemble tacos: start with a corn tortilla base. Top with a little spiced turkey, salsa verde, bread stuffing, a spoonful of cranberry sauce and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Salsa Verde (Green Tomatillo Salsa)
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything

6 tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
3/4 cup diced sweet onion (about 1/2 onion)
1 poblano pepper, seeded, ribs removed and finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt, to taste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place tomatillos in a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven until softened, about 20-25 minutes. Remove, allow to cool a bit, and dice.

2. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, poblano pepper and garlic and season with salt. Sauté until the vegetables are quite soft, about 10 minutes. Add chopped, roasted tomatillos and 1/2 cup of water. Increase heat until mixture boil, then reduce heat to medium for an active simmer. Cook until the liquid has reduced, about 7-8 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse to a chunky puree. Stir in the chopped cilantro.


  1. Your Thanksgiving tacos were terrific, although I think potatoes, stuffing and tortillas would make an amazing combo.

  2. This is such a great idea! Next year, how about some homemade tortillas made from STUFFING? Not sure if that would even work, but it's worth a shot...

    1. I think you could totally do that. Pulse it in the food processor to give it a finer texture. Mix with egg for binding and then brown in a hot pan. It might be a little thick--kind of like the ramen tacos I made recently--but I think it would definitely work.