Leftover Turkey? Make Turkey Shepherd’s Pie or Turkey Fajitas

By Carol J. Butler

The sight of my mother making turkey soup, separating leftover meat from the bone, is as much a Thanksgiving memory as the actual feast itself. She always looked forward to making the turkey soup, and my father always gave her the highest praise. Unfortunately, as a vegetarian, I share neither my mother’s fondness for picking over the bones nor my father’s appreciation for the soup. I do, however, have a turkey-eating family of my own now, as well as a few ideas about what to do with that leftover bird.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

The original pot-pie, hailing from England, Shepherd’s Pie is a catch-all hot dish that capitalizes on food found in the fridge. Though traditionally made with mutton or beef, making a turkey pie with thanksgiving leftovers is easy, and sure to comfort the carnivores in your family.

To make a turkey Shepherd’s Pie, save those mashed potatoes for the top crust, blending with a little milk if you need to stretch the spuds. Parsnips, rutabaga and turnips can also be boiled and mashed in with the potatoes, or try using the left-over sweet potatoes, mashed with a little butter, and leaving off those mini-marshmallows.

To make the meaty filling, start by sautéing onions, carrots, and celery in a bit of butter or oil. Add to that pieces of torn turkey meat, and any leftover gravy or sturdy vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or green beans. Soft vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower can get overcooked, so choose accordingly. To make your sauce, place 1 tablespoon of cornstarch or 2 tablespoons of flour into a lidded jar, along with some spices – onion powder, basil, salt, pepper – and about half a cup of turkey broth, milk or water. Shake, pour and stir into your meat and vegetables just until thickened. You may need to add more liquid if you don’t have much gravy; if you’re short on vegetables, a bag of frozen peas can fill in nicely. Pour the filling into a greased baking dish, top with the mashed potatoes and bake at 350 degrees F until hot and bubbly.

Turkey Fajitas

Traditionally made with strip steak served in tortillas with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream, the word Fajita means “little belt.” To substitute turkey or chicken for the steak, pull the meat from your bird in long strips, and slice your bell peppers and onions to length accordingly. You can marinate the meat in lime juice, olive oil and spices, but I usually skip this step in favor of a saucier fajita. Using the same jar-method, start with a tablespoon of corn flour to serve as your thickener, and blend with a more lively assortment of spices such as chili powder, garlic and cumin. A few tablespoons of turkey broth here capitalizes on all the poor bird has to offer. It’s easy to set the bones in water on a slow simmer, allowing the bullion to condense and then using it as a base for flavoring other sauces and gravies.

To finish your fajitas, sauté your strips of vegetables in a grill or sauté pan, add the cooked meat and pour your small jar of sauce over the mixture. Cook just until thickened, and serve in warm tortillas with your favorite accompaniments. 


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