Happy Thanksgiving week to those of you in the United States! If you live in Canada, you can bookmark this and read it in eleven months, or whenever Canadian Thanksgiving happens again. If you live in another country, good luck finding a good time to give all your thanks!
This year, I’m once again focusing on sandwiching turkey-focused leftovers instead of a sandwich that you eat at your main Thanksgiving meal. I don’t want to anger your mom or grandma.
This is a sandwich that is utilizing leftovers to their best potential.
Unlike the Thanksgiving sandwich I wrote about last year, this sandwich could easily be made at other times of the year as well. First, we need some bread and since I’ve been refining my sourdough sandwich loaf recipe lately, I’m using it. But you could make this sandwich on any sort of sandwich bread slices. You could even make it on a bun or leftover dinner roll if you were so inclined.
Thanksgiving melt ingredients:
- sliced, roasted turkey
- roasted Brussels sprouts
- cranberry chipotle mayonnaise
- Muenster cheese
- sourdough bread.
There’s a lot of sourdough bread content this week, so feel free to scroll and view the photos if you just want to get to the sandwich content—or here’s a direct link for the Thanksgiving melt recipe.
The sourdough sandwich loaf content
This isn’t one of those big round sourdough bread loaves that have big air pockets in the crumb or bubbles inside the bread. This also isn’t a loaf that has a crispy and crunchy exterior. This is a loaf of soft sandwich bread that has added flavor from the sourdough starter.
This loaf does have some added lift from one teaspoon of instant yeast, but hopefully, your sourdough starter is hungry enough to help out with the lift and contribute to the bread flavor.
This recipe has special dry milk or instant milk powder as an ingredient that will contribute to extra moisture and softness in the loaf. In other words, our goal here isn’t to make bread that you can use for bruschetta, but instead, we’re making something that is perfect for sandwiches.
King Arthur Baking vs Jimmy Starter Jr.
I started my starter on October 1st, 2019. This happens to be, the United States of America’s 39th President’s birthday. I remember catching a TV news blurb that morning about Jimmy Carter and the name, James Earl Starter, Jr., just came to mind.
If you don’t know what a starter is, it’s a combination of flour, water, and wild yeasts. The yeast will eat the sugars in the flour and turn those into co2. This is what yeast typically does in bread dough and it’s the main source of lift that will give allow your bread to rise while proofing and in the oven.
But in sourdough, we’re dealing with wild yeast instead of industrialized yeast that you buy at the store. In most homemade starters, this wild yeast comes from the air in the environment. You may not realize it, but things like fruit may be harboring these wild yeasts that live in the air and they are already likely inside your house. The wild yeast will smell different than regular yeast while the bread is proofing, and it will contribute funkier flavors to the final bread.
I have used my starter for three years off and on. I’ll use it for a few batches of bread, feeding the starter every few days until I move on to a different type of baking, and then my starter will often get moved to the back of the fridge. At least twice I have left the starter in the back of the fridge for WAY too long and I’ve had to work hard to resurrect it with many feedings to bring it back to its old state. It usually takes a bit of effort and about four days of feedings to bring it back to its former glory.
When I was bringing my starter (Jimmy Starter Jr.) back from near death in the back of the fridge, I was two days into the feeding process when I started to get worried that maybe it wouldn’t revive again. At that point, I decided to order a fresh starter from King Arthur. While the King Arthur live sourdough starter was shipping, I continued feeding Jimmy Starter and he slowly came back to life. On the delivery day, it worked out that I had two functioning sourdough starters in my house, so I decided to do a Saturday bake-off test.
Turns out the test was fairly unexciting. Both loaves were pretty similar. These were both made with a little bit of instant yeast in the recipe, which made it so the sourdough didn’t really show everything that it had, but overall they were both really close in flavor. Enough so that I ended up continuing to feed Jimmy Starter since he was the one that I grew from scratch three years ago.
Note the glass jar in the photo below is WAY wider than the one pictured above. I finally bought a Weck Jar that I had been looking to buy for sourdough starters and it has worked out well. The jar is super wide at the top and allows you to be able to scrape down the sides and keep the insides of the jar easier to monitor. Dried sourdough starter gets all crunchy and crusty and the more you can keep it scraped down, the less mess you’ll have to work with.
I have made this same recipe in two different-sized bread loaf pans. These pans have considerably different volumes, but it works well here. Bread in the 4×8-inch standard loaf pan will billow up and out over the top of the pan, but dough in the 4×9 pullman pan will rise more straight up since the pan can contain more volume. Both will work.
This recipe will also work without a loaf pan, but I think for sandwiches, the results are best in a pan.
The 4×8-inch loaf pan
This is the default version of my sourdough sandwich loaf recipe that is shared down below. I made this the default because most people probably have this standard-sized loaf pan and it just makes it easier to write a recipe from one perspective. But it really does work in different-sized pans.
The Pullman 4×9-inch pan
I really like the small Pullman loaf pan that I wrote about a few weeks ago and think it’s certainly worth the 20 bucks I paid for it. It can hold more dough than the standard sized loaf pan and it is taller. I wrote a bit more about the comparisons between these two pans a few weeks back. Go read that if you are interested in learning more.
The no loaf pan version
You can bake this recipe without a loaf pan too!
I made this loaf without the extra 3 grams of instant yeast. So, this rise was all courtesy of Jimmy Starter Jr. It still has the sugar, butter, and dry milk powder that the other recipes have, so it will still be soft bread, instead of what you might know of as crusty sourdough that you might get at a bakery.
But the recipe still works great. This version does have a bigger sourdough flavor than the ones using instant yeast.
Here’s my sourdough sandwich loaf recipe. It’s a flavorful white sandwich bread that is great for all sorts of sandwiching situations.
This is a soft sandwich loaf with extra flavor from the sourdough starter. You must have a starter prior to starting this recipe and all of the measurements are in grams. There are resources and links about sourdough starters in the notes section at the bottom of this recipe.Get Recipe
If you don’t have a sourdough starter and just want to make a loaf of white sandwich bread, here’s almost the same soft loaf bread recipe without a sourdough starter. This recipe does require potato flour, but you can use instant mashed potato flakes if those are easier to find.
Starter discard recipes
You must discard a portion of the starter every time you feed your sourdough starter. Because of this, smart bakers will devise recipes that they can quickly add a little starter to so that it doesn’t just go straight into the trash. These are two of mine:
I love roasted turkey in a sandwich, but I know it’s not everyone’s favorite. You can make this recipe with ham or chicken or even sliced tofurkey if you want. Just make sure it’s sliced or chopped small enough to fit inside the sandwich.
This blog post is assuming that it’s Friday or Saturday (or even Thursday night) after Thanksgiving and someone has already roasted or fried a turkey and there are leftovers. But if you want to recreate this sandwich during another time of the year, you can use deli-sliced turkey (ask for thicker slices) or you can roast your own. I have an oven roasted black pepper turkey recipe that you can follow if you really need a turkey fix and can get your hands on a turkey breast.
If you are roasting your own turkey breast, make sure you use a digital thermometer and cook it properly! Don’t cook it at a specific time because you will end up with an overcooked and dry turkey.
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Roasted Brussels sprouts can be one of the easiest side dishes you can be responsible for at Thanksgiving or any other family gathering. I’m sharing my wife’s recipe which you can use on your own and then it’ll also be in the full sandwich recipe down below if you want to just make the sandwich with Brussels sprouts in them.
I only tried Brussels sprouts a few times growing up and I was not a fan. Times were different and vegetables were prepared differently in the 1980s and 90s. The Brussels sprouts I remember were boiled and they were like little cooked cabbages. I already wasn’t a big fan of cabbage at that time, so making it smaller didn’t help. In the past 20 or 30 years, with cooking shows on tv and social media, cooking has changed and popular techniques to prepare Brussels sprouts have switched from boiling to roasting, broiling, or even frying.
It turns out it wasn’t just the cooking process that changed and made Brussels sprouts better. This NPR article From Culinary Dud to Stud tells the story of how scientists in the Netherlands started breeding and cross-pollinating Brussels sprouts back in the 1990s which changed the vegetable, giving us a much less bitter variety of these sprouts.
Brussels sprouts are 🔥. And it’s not just because you took them out of the oven.
Here’s my wife’s Brussels sprouts recipe and it’s a good one. We do usually spread some balsamic reduction on top of our finished sprouts to lend some sweetness that balances out any bitterness if we are enjoying them as a stand-alone side dish. But I don’t use balsamic reduction in the sandwich recipe.
Cranberry chipotle mayonnaise
I didn’t grow up eating cranberry sauce with my Thanksgiving dinner. Undoubtedly there were some versions of cranberry items available, but I just never really wanted to try them. It wasn’t until later in life that I took a chance and added some cranberry to my plate alongside turkey and mashed potatoes and it blew me away.
After moving away from my family, my wife and I started cooking Thanksgiving for two—with lots of leftovers. It wasn’t until then that I started experimenting with cranberry sauce. And that first attempt where it clicks is a game changer. The sweetness and tanginess from the cranberries just really accentuate what is typically a super savory experience.
To make this mayo, you need some cranberry sauce. You can buy the canned variety that I bought for this version or if you’re in the preparation period for a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, it’s super easy to make your own cranberry sauce—that is better than the canned variety. Here’s my recipe for that. But just buy the canned variety if you are making this outside of the holiday gatherings because this recipe only requires a little bit.
That’s a good recipe for cranberry sauce if you have a day or two before your next gathering. It also freezes well, and I have kept some frozen for a couple of months and it thaws out just as good as when it was fresh.
Here’s my cranberry chipotle mayonnaise that will work in many different sandwiches, not just this one. Whip up a batch before your Thanksgiving meal and offer it to anyone later in the day making their leftover sandwich and they’ll assume you’re a genius. You’re welcome.
The sweetness from the cranberry and the smokiness from the chipotle come together in a great way with the mayonnaise in this one. It goes great with roasted turkey in a sandwich. Try it.
The cheese 🧀
Thanksgiving definitely needs more cheese. In these sandwiches I primarily used sliced Muenster cheese, but some of them did have a slice of provolone as well. Both of those cheeses work great in grilled cheese or a melty sandwich. You could use whatever sliced cheese available, but this is what I found works best with the flavors of this sandwich.
The Thanksgiving leftover melt recipe
Here’s my Thanksgiving leftover melt recipe and as I said before, it’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a long while and I eat a lot of sandwiches.
Here’s my day-after-Thanksgiving melt recipe:
A melty, cheesy sandwich experience balanced by the slight roasted bitterness of the Brussels sprouts and the sweet and smoky mayonnaise. This is a great sandwich to enjoy with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.
Ingredients:Cranberry chipotle mayonnaise
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1⁄4 cup cranberry sauce
- 2 teaspoons finely diced chipotles (in sauce)
- 2 teaspoons adobo sauce (from the can of chipotles)
- 1⁄3 pound Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt and ground black pepper
- turkey, sliced or chopped
- roasted Brussels sprouts (from above)
- 4 slices of sourdough sandwich bread or another type of hearty sandwich bread
- cranberry chipotle mayonnaise (from above)
- 2 to 4 slices of Muenster cheese (or provolone cheese)
Cranberry chipotle mayonnaise: combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine.
Add to a sealed container and keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Roasted Brussels sprouts: preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (205 C).
Trim the tough stems off of your Brussels sprouts and cut each one in half or quarters depending on size. Add the trimmed and cut sprouts to a large bowl.
Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to the bowl with the sprouts and toss to combine everything.
Place each Brussels sprout on a baking sheet, cut side down.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. There should be some browning, and some of the loose leaves should appear to have burned, but they will still be ok. The main thing to check for is the tenderness of the sprouts themselves. Poke with a fork to ensure they are soft but still have some texture. Remove the Brussels sprouts to a bowl to be ready for use in the sandwich. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Sandwich assembly: place a large skillet over medium heat. Add slices of turkey to warm.
Add Brussels sprouts to heat up as well. Chop the Brussels sprouts first if you want them to be a bit smaller for the sandwich
Once the turkey and the sprouts are warm, we can start building our sandwich. Remove the pan from the heat.
Spread cranberry chipotle mayonnaise on one slice of bread. Top with a slice of cheese. Top the slice of cheese with pieces of warm turkey and a small pile of warm Brussels sprouts.
Top with another slice of cheese (if using more than 1 per sandwich) and then top everything with another slice of bread that has been spread with more cranberry chipotle mayonnaise.
Wipe out the skillet/pan that you were using to heat up the turkey and Brussels sprouts. Add two tablespoons of butter to the pan and when the butter is melted and bubbly add your assembled sandwiches. Add/spread a little butter on the top slice of bread so that it will help when you flip the sandwich.
Cover the pan with a lid or a sheet pan to cause some steam to form inside the pan which will help to melt the cheese.
Cook on the first side for 2 or 3 minutes. Check to make sure you aren't browning the bread too quickly. Flip and cook the sandwich for another 2 minutes on the second side.
Once the sandwiches are browned to your liking, serve and enjoy.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving!
Or if you’re Canadian: eh, good luck waiting until next year!