Welcome to the week for giving thanks! Or at least it’s Thanksgiving week where I live. It’s time for Turkey and gravy and ham, bread rolls and all the side dishes and more gravy.
Today, I’m not writing about how to cook a turkey. I’m going to assume that you or someone else you are celebrating with already know how to do that. But, if you’ve never cooked a turkey before, here’s a turkey brining and cooking recipe that we’ve used many times from the Home Brew Chef.
What I want to do is show you the game plan I most often use to turn the year’s best leftovers into sandwiches.
The beer and Thanksgiving pairings
Before we jump into making leftover sandwiches, you should check out this fun infographic that my friend Em, from Pints and Panels®, created and illustrated. If you’re a beer drinker, hopefully this can give you some ideas about what beers to serve with your Turkey and gravy!
The soft dinner rolls
For my personal leftover sandwich plan, everything starts with the bread. The titular buns in which our ingredients are bounded.
I think bread and all the starchy parts of Thanksgiving are my favorite part of the meal. Just hand me a plate of all the starch and gravy and I could be happy. Maybe I wouldn’t be in the best of health, but I’d be happy until nap time. Anyway, check out these rolls.
Here’s a slideshow of the rising/proofing action that goes into soft roll production. It’s not magic, but sometimes it feels that way.
Below is my roll recipe. These aren’t just for Thanksgiving, bookmark the recipe for other holidays and gatherings or baking for slider sandwich making.
The three heroes of leftover Thanksgiving sandwiching
Now we need to talk about the other stars of a leftover Thanksgiving sandwich. You’re not just putting turkey and cheese on sliced white bread, are you? Don’t be basic when you have other leftovers at your disposal.
There are a lot of Thanksgiving sides that work well in a leftover sandwich. Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and even green bean casserole could be used. But the following three Thanksgiving sides/accompaniments are my favorite for adding to sandwiches.
The cranberry sauce
Cranberry sauce might be one of the most underrated sandwich ingredients. I think almost any savory sandwich could be updated with a spoonful and a spread of a tart and tangy sauce made from cranberries.
Cranberry sauce and ham or turkey is fantastic, and you should be making this recipe year round for sandwiching. Or just buy it from the can. But this recipe has better flavor and texture than the canned stuff.
There was a long time that I neglected to make homemade turkey gravy at Thanksgiving. I knew that my wife and I would be juggling the Turkey cooking time alongside all the other side dishes, and I figured gravy would be an extra distraction that would take a lot of time. So, we’d buy a jar of gravy and that was one less thing we had to worry about.
I was wrong. Gravy is easy to make!
You basically need an equal amount of fat and flour to make a paste and then you add stock/liquid which brings the liquidity that the butter and flour paste will thicken. You can easily mess up gravy by not stirring it and leaving it lumpy, but if you just pay it a little bit of attention, it’s easy make consistent, tasty gravy.
Even if you used up all of your gravy on Thanksgiving Day and there is none leftover, you should be able to grab the three ingredients you need and within 15 or 20 minutes have a suitable gravy to help lubricate your sandwich moistmaker (did I just type that?).
Turkey dressing or stuffing
My family always makes dressing at Thanksgiving and Christmas, not stuffing. But the base ingredients of any stuffing and dressing are similar.
Whether you made stuffing or dressing for your holiday meal, you can turn it into a sandwich layer very easily. When the dressing is cold or at least room temperature, smash and shape a portion into a patty and then fry the patty in a skillet with just a tiny bit of oil. If your skillet is large enough you can also use it to warm the other ingredients for your sandwich at the same time.
Searing your dressing or stuffing in a pan is not just to heat it up, the secondary point is to add crispness which will add more texture to your final sandwich.
This is the dressing recipe that my Mom gave me that my wife and I have scaled down to be a smaller batch.
You can also add your stuffing/dressing to a searing hot waffle iron to crisp up. But that’s another sandwich blog post on its own.
Assemble these sandwiches
Let’s gather what we can and make some leftover sandwiches!
- Grab two adjoining rolls to make a larger sandwich, but you can make small slider sized ones too.
- Slice and toast your rolls.
- Start your dressing/stuffing searing in a pan.
- Heat up your gravy and leftover turkey/ham/protein.
- Slather the cranberry sauce on one side of your rolls.
- Stack everything together in a coherent way between rolls, step back and enjoy.
Hopefully you have something to be thankful for this season. I’m thankful for the fact that people are taking the time to read the things I’m writing about sandwiches.
Here’s to more sandwiches and people to share them with!