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Ethnic flavors spice up leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner

To the victor go the spoils; to the host go the leftovers.

One of the great rewards of preparing a Thanksgiving feast is getting first dibs on the leftovers. But guests don’t have to resort to sneaking potatoes into their purses to extend the feast beyond the main meal.

Etiquette expert Lizzie Post says those who dine away from home for the holiday can boost their odds of scoring a doggie bag by bringing a side dish to share and helping their host clean up.

Then, as the host begins to put the food away, innocently inquire: “Oh! Do you want me to start packing this up for people to take home for leftovers?”

“Offer it as a suggestion rather than asking,” says Post, a greatgreat granddaughter of Emily Post who works at the Emily Post Institute in Vermont. “It gives them a chance to say what they were hoping to do with the leftovers without you just asking and putting them on the spot.”

Once the delicate task of securing leftovers is achieved, the options are nearly limitless.

Julie Grimes, associate food editor at Cooking Light magazine, says she likes to use leftovers in unexpected ways to make post-holiday meals feel fresh and exciting. The easiest way to accomplish that is to rely on ethnic flavors, she says.

“Since Thanksgiving is truly an American holiday and the fare typically reflects this fact, I like to spice up the leftovers with flavors from Asia, France or Latin America for a change of pace,” she says.

Some of her favorite recipes in recent years include turkeymushroom bread pudding, turkey fried rice and turkey pho, a take on Vietnamese noodle soup.

“Remember that many ethnic foods rely on ingredients with strong pungent flavors, such as spice pastes or fish sauce, and a little goes a long way,” she says. “Combine leftovers with just a few powerful ingredients for a fresh twist on yesterday’s meal.”

Kemp Minifie, executive food editor at Gourmet magazine, also recommends taking an international approach to leftovers. Turkey in particular lends itself to strong flavors and can stand in for chicken and even pork in many recipes.

“It’s a blank canvas,” she says. “It’s the white sheet of paper you can do all kinds of things to.”

Her magazine’s November issue includes a recipe for turkey jook, a Chinese rice porridge with turkey and ginger. Just throw the turkey carcass in with some rice, stock, ginger and scallions. Serve it drizzled with sesame oil, fresh scallions and shreds of ginger.

“It is so warming and satisfying,” Minifie says.

But recognizing the reality that most people won’t venture beyond sandwiches, the magazine also includes two turkey sandwich recipes, including one that adds cranberry sauce. A blue cheese butter offsets the sweetness of the sauce and gives the sandwich a more sophisticated taste.

Minifie says she’s crazy for smoked paprika, so she’ll probably find a way to incorporate the spice into her leftovers this year. And she always makes turkey tetrazzini because it reminds her of the casseroles her mother used to make.

But she also points out the obvious: simply piling a bunch of leftovers on a plate and replicating the original meal can taste as good if not better the next day.

“My favorite meal of the Thanksgiving weekend is the day after, when you reheat everything,” she says. “The turkey has had time to sit so it’s firmed up and it’s much easier to get thin slices of the breast meat. The gravy tastes better. … You’re getting all the good stuff without having to do any work.”

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