Giving thanks for turkey cheesesteak

Turkey and stuffing and cranberry, oh my!

Read Time: 8 minutes

This year, like the past two years, I have decided to make Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks before the actual day of Thanksgiving to have leftovers for planning out my yearly leftover Thanksgiving sandwich. This year I decided to make turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce a couple of weeks ago and this is the sandwich that I ended up making.

Here are the sandwiches I made with leftover Thanksgiving ingredients for the past two years. Bookmark them out if you want but keep scrolling to read more about this year’s version.

Day-After-Thanksgiving melt

I hope you have a melty Black Friday!

The Yesterday-was-Thanksgiving sandwich

Welcome to gravy season!

The point of these sandwiches has never been to create a new sandwich from raw ingredients like I do with the other sandwiches I write about so I have to change my way of sandwiching to figure out what to do with leftovers from Thanksgiving.

I was inspired to tackle this leftover Thanksgiving sub by an Instagram reel from a restaurant chain named Capriotti’s. They make a sandwich named “The Bobbie” which is mayonnaise, slow-roasted turkey, handmade stuffing, and cranberry sauce in a soft submarine roll.

Capriotti’s sells both a normal (or cold) version as well as a Hot version which is the same sandwich except the turkey and stuffing have been crisped up on a flattop griddle. I decided to make their cold version, their hot version and then I also got the great idea to make a version with cheese.

The two Bobbie entries on Capriotti’s menu.

First, we need the best soft roll I can make for a comforting sub sandwich.

Soft submarine sandwich roll

I think this roll is probably the first or second most consistent sandwich roll that I have created a recipe for. It’s an easy dough to work with and when I want a 10 to 12-inch soft, sub or hoagie roll, this recipe produces an extra consistent roll. Some recipes will require you to do a little guesswork when mixing the dough to add small amounts of water or flour depending on the humidity of your kitchen, but for me, this recipe is perfect every time (as long as you use the gram weights to measure ingredients).

These are fully-proofed rolls ready for the oven.
Fresh out of the oven the rolls have all shaped into similar shapes.

For this sort of long roll that you might find sandwiching an American-style sub at your local deli or sandwich shop, I use a silicone sub roll mold to help shape the rolls for consistency reasons. I have made this recipe several times with and several times without this mold and I find myself grabbing it often since I purchased it. It’s less than 20 bucks on Amazon but you can probably find similar versions elsewhere.

Don’t slice your rolls until they have time to cool. They are still cooking for at least an hour after they come out of the oven.
These rolls have no extra egg wash or butter painted on after, this is straight beauty.

You don’t have to use the sub roll mold if you don’t have one, this recipe works just fine without it, but the mold just helps your rolls expand in the right directions and keep much more similar and consistent shapes. Plus, the mold rolls up and comes with what is effectively a snap bracelet that your friends had in middle school to keep it tightly rolled up for storage.

Below is my sub roll recipe that you should try if you’re a beginning baker or an intermediate baker. If you’re one of those super experienced, almost professional bakers I bet you’ve already got a favorite sub roll recipe in your back pocket.

Three eleven-inch rolls ready for sandwiching.
3 hours
Sub sandwich rolls

This is a great recipe to use when you need a sub sandwich roll. These sub rolls are not too crusty with a soft interior and pleasant chew for a sub sandwich, cheese steak, or po-boy.

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Cranberry sauce

I didn’t find cranberry sauce as something I enjoyed at Thanksgiving until recently. I usually just passed over it, but it really does bring a lot to a plate full of fatty, rich foods that might or might not be covered in gravy. The tang of the cranberries and the sweetness from sugar really go a long way in complementing all the brown food we serve at holiday time.

This recipe is super easy as well, it just takes 20 minutes or so on the stove and you can make cranberry sauce well in advance so that it’s not a hassle to make it when you’re cooking for the big day. Cranberry sauce also freezes very well so you can make a batch at Thanksgiving and save half in the freezer for Christmas if you want.

I can taste the balancing tart flavors inside this photo.
Recipe Card
20 minutes
Cranberry sauce

Adding tartness and sweet elements to a regular turkey or ham sandwich can be life changing. Cranberry sauce is a staple at many Thanksgiving tables, but really, it's something we should have in our fridge all year round.

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Stuffing or dressing?

What is the difference between stuffing and dressing? If you go looking around the internet for the answer to this question you will find a lot of old articles from Food Network or Food & Wine, and they typically will say that stuffing is something that was stuffed and cooked inside the bird and dressing was served alongside the turkey. But I don’t really think that is what the difference is in 2023.

In this day and age, I don’t think most people are putting wet, seasoned bread inside of a raw turkey to bake. Doing this means that you must cook the turkey for a super long time or else you will give all of your Thanksgiving guests some sort of foodborne illness. This is anecdotal and I have no actual data to back it up, but I believe most people are cooking stuffing in a pan when Thanksgiving rolls around.

In my experience from my own childhood eating dressing and from scouring the internet for dressing recipes vs stuffing recipes, a dressing is typically packed much denser in the casserole/baking dish to form a bit of a soft brownie consistency. Stuffing on the other hand seems to be packed into its baking dish much looser so you can see the individual pieces of bread and the top of the stuffing has more nooks and crannies because of the loose packing. Either way, they both use almost the same ingredients and are both great side dishes if gravy is on the table. You can’t go wrong with either one in my opinion.

Stuffing science

The formula for good stuffing or dressing requires a balance between the bread and the liquid. I have read (somewhere a while back that I can’t source) that you can think of the bread and the liquid being equal by weight. Grab your scale and get to work.

The main issue with this method is that it gets difficult to write an exact recipe, so if you’re not weighing your bread and liquid, you will just have to learn how to judge the balance by how the stuffing mixture looks and feels.

For my recipe, I go with 1 pound or 16 ounces of bread and 1 pound of low-sodium chicken broth which translates to 2 cups. This mixture seems to work great for my stuffing recipe, and you can size it up or down depending on the size of your baking dish.

Just a bit more than a pound of bread. This was ten slices. Your mileage may vary.

One pound of bread to one pound of liquid = stuffing/dressing.

A good thing about using a 1-to-1 bread-to-liquid in the base of your stuffing is that you can make a small amount or scale it up for a bigger event. Once the stuffing ingredients are all combined and mixed well you can bake it in pretty much any oven-safe dish if you cook it covered with foil for the first 45 minutes and uncover it for the last 15 minutes to allow the stuffing to brown.

Butter your casserole dish to make sure nothing sticks and also add a bit of extra flavor.
My recipe calls for a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

My stuffing recipe below is meant to be baked in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish until it reaches 165 degrees F. As you can see below the method I use cooks the stuffing much higher than the required temperature but that doesn’t mean it’s overcooked like it would be if you overshot your meat temperature.

When you finally get all the uncooked stuffing in the pan, don’t pack it in. Keep it loose and keep the top a bit fluffy so that some parts will brown more than others.
Stuffing is safe to eat after the center reaches 165 F (74 C). But to achieve some crispy browning on the exterior, you will go above that temperature. Don’t worry, the center will still be soft.
Crunchy and soft stuffing is great beside turkey or ham especially if you have gravy!

Here’s my stuffing recipe that you can use for this sandwich, or you can use whatever stuffing that your aunt made for Thanksgiving. Bring your own Tupperware.

2 hours and 25 minutes
Homemade stuffing

A crispy top and a soft, flavorful center make stuffing a perfect side for turkey and gravy.

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Roasted turkey

I only cooked a boneless skinless turkey breast for this sandwich because I didn’t have the time or stomach capacity to eat a whole turkey by myself two weeks before Thanksgiving. I used my Cajun roast turkey recipe that you can find below which is basically perfect for quite a few sandwich applications.

You don’t have to season a turkey breast with Cajun seasoning if you think it will interfere with the other flavors, but it worked for this sandwich for sure. If you just want to use salt and pepper, that works well too, just make sure to be overly aggressive with the seasoning because there’s only a little bit of surface area on a turkey or turkey breast and way more internal meat that you can’t apply seasonings to.

For this sandwich, I went with a fairly thin cut on the turkey. But you can make the same sandwich with thicker pieces too.
A pile of thinly sliced turkey breast. Thicker-cut turkey will work for this sandwich as well.

I don’t list a time in my roast turkey breast recipe because it will vary from oven to oven, but in this case, it took me exactly one hour and twenty minutes to get my turkey breast to 155 F in a 375 F oven. In the past, my attempts have been around this and 1.5 hours in my oven.

Here’s my Cajun spiced roasted turkey breast that I make quite often to slice for sandwiches.

2 hours and 35 minutes
Oven roasted Cajun turkey

A little spicy and super seasoned moist turkey, ready for slicing. Sandwich turkey is at the next level right here.

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Giving thanks for this cheesesteak

This is a comforting sandwich that will use up some of the more expected items that you might have left over after Thanksgiving. At least, that’s the case in my house. There is always a little bit of turkey and some dressing/stuffing left over. And no one eats all the cranberry sauce. So, we can put them to work here with some cheese and turn leftovers into something magical.

Giving-thanks turkey cheesesteak process

I’ve written about several different cheesesteaks and cheesesteak-adjacent sandwiches for this blog and this one is pretty similar in the cooking process. I use a fairly inexpensive griddle when I’m making cheesesteak-style sandwiches because it has plenty of space for moving things around and since it is cast-iron, I can use metal flat-top spatulas without scratching anything.

You can make a cheesesteak in your mom’s non-stick skillet if you want, it just might be a tiny bit harder to move the ingredients around as easily.

Basically, we want to crisp up the stuffing, warm and crisp up the turkey, and then use these hot ingredients to help melt the provolone cheese. The whole process will only take ten minutes or so and things move quickly so get your ingredients ready before you start.

I start with a handful of stuffing on a medium-heat griddle tossed in a little vegetable oil.
Eventually, I will add turkey which needs less crisping time than the soft stuffing.
Once both the stuffing and turkey have started taking on some crisp and color, add provolone slices.
Keep everything in the shape of your bread roll.
If you can carefully get some stuffing or hot turkey on top of the cheese it will melt better.
Once the cheese looks melty, slice your roll, open it up like a book, and place it on top of everything for a minute to warm up.
I do not typically toast a roll like this, but a minute or so on top of the hot meat, stuffing, and cheese will do wonders to bring it back to life.
With confidence and conviction, get your spatula under everything and scoop it all up into your hand.
Now you have a melty and crispy turkey and stuffing cheesesteak. All we need is a smearing of tart cranberry sauce to complete the sandwich.

Now that we have our hot turkey, crispy stuffing, and melty cheese, we’re done and ready for the tart cranberry sauce to complete the whole package.

Cranberry sauce is something I only make once a year but around this time I really start to crave it.
I do pull out some of the internal sub roll to make everything fit in this turkey and stuffing cheesesteak.
The best version of this sandwich is the cheesesteak, but the second best is the hot “Bobbie.” Basically, the cheesesteak version but without cheese.
The crispy parts from the griddling process bring all these ingredients back to life.
You have to carefully pose this sandwich if you want to take a photo of it like this. This was my first cold sub where I did heat up the stuffing, but the cranberry and turkey were fresh out of the fridge.

Here’s my recipe for the Giving-thanks turkey cheesesteak that you can make with your Thanksgiving leftovers. Or you can be like me and make all the ingredients two weeks before the big day.

20 minutes
Giving-thanks turkey cheesesteak

This warm and comforting sandwich made from leftovers from your latest holiday gathering has melty cheese piled on top of crispy stuffing, warm turkey, and tart cranberry sauce.

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Check back next week

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