It’s what comes After Thanksgiving that I love best of all! I wrote this piece as a recipe eight years ago when I used to publish a food blog called A Moderate Life, which was about living life in the middle of the road, or eating and living in a balanced way.
The blog is long gone and this is one of the only pieces that remain, sharing my joy of traditions, giving thanks for family and one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. Enjoy!
I am not exactly sure why Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday, but hands down, it is.
I guess upon thinking on it, it is a bit strange, considering both of my parents did not come to America until they were adults as immigrants seeking occupation in the medical field.
My dad’s journey, as a Greek boy who grew up in China, becoming a doctor in his travels through Japan, Okinawa, Hong Kong, North and South Vietnam and France, was longer than my mother’s who simply hopped over the pond from England with all her hopes and dreams and a degree in nursing and midwifery.
I distinctly remember, even at a very young age, my parents embracing their new country with great joy and expectation. They made every effort to assimilate, and even if my mother continued to cook the old fashioned traditional recipes of her country (think steak and kidney pie and tripe), the Thanksgiving holiday was one of the places she made a huge effort to do as the Jones’s were doing.
One of my strongest memories of Thanksgiving was the fact that my dad, as an orthopedic surgeon, second in line at a practice, always had to work on the holiday, no questions asked. We would eat much later than most families because of this, and my father, in his always magnanimous and generous nature, would invite any intern or resident who was on call in the emergency room to come and sit at our family table for the meal.
I loved meeting new people and hearing their stories, which were highly encouraged to be shared, as we all knew these young doctors were tender and a bit sad from missing their families on the holiday. We all did our best to lighten the atmosphere and share our gratitude, as the lively, powerful and boisterous family that we were.
One year, my mother got a huge turkey, as we were expecting our cousins as well as the possibility of extras at the big dining room table and the over flowing kiddy table in the breakfast room. When she finally got it prepped, in the wee hours of the morning, she tried to slide it in the oven, but even with all but the lowest rack removed, the turkey was too big.
She had a moment of tears and then, using her medical training and advice from my bone doctor father (who never EVER carved any meat in our house, his rational? He only carved live meat!), she broke the back of the turkey and used a kitchen chair to wedge the oven door closed. Always resourceful, my parents taught me to be so as well.
Every year, my mother and sister would pick the turkey carcass clean and slip it into the stock pot to begin the process of the after Thanksgiving turkey soup. My mother was a child of the depression and lived through WWII in England, so nothing ever went to waste. For years, we ate turkey variations for days after the holiday, until one day, my father finally put his foot down and said no more. My mother hasn’t made turkey soup in years!
Even with all the turkey soup, reheated turkey in gravy, turkey hash, stuffing balls and Scotch Eggs made from hard boiled eggs wrapped in stuffing and deep fried, there is one thing we never had.
It is the one thing that I now crave ALL year, and it is the one thing that I never even knew existed until I met my husband and became part of his huge family.
That my parents didn’t know about it, does not surprise me, as they did not grow up here, and never went to their friends’ homes the day after Thanksgiving as kids or teens to share in the leftover feast.
Yes, my friends, I am speaking about the most beloved thing on the planet, that comes around only once a year and is more anticipated than Christmas by me.
That is, the Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich!
A Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich is one of the most personal and highly customizeable edibles. Some families have a strict recipe, others, like my own clan, are more flexible.
To say that I cook FAR too much food on Thanksgiving is an understatement, and I know I am blessed to be able to do that. I cook probably twice as much as we need, so we can roll with Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwiches for at least a week.
When I sit down, after pondering my ingredients, painstakingly preparing this most beloved of all repasts, and taking my first bite, the joy of the holiday, the gratitude for those I shared it with, the feeling of accomplishment for a family gathering completed and done right, all wash over me.
I am at peace. I am complete. I am in Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich heaven. My family knows not to bother me at all in this moment of complete immersion of all things Thanksgiving. It is rather zen!
Day After Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwiches
I can’t tell you how much this serves, because it is all based on what you have left over. If you love this as much as I do, you will make tons of extras on Thanksgiving.
Sliced or shredded light and dark meat turkey.
Stuffing according to your own family recipe. The in-turkey stuffing works best in these sandwiches because it is moist, so this always goes first, but pan stuffing can work too, if you moisten it before storing with a bit of turkey or chicken stock.
Cranberry Relish or Cranberry Sauce according to your own family recipe
Mashed Potatoes or other mashed vegetables. This is optional. Purists include it. I don’t.
Warmed turkey gravy according to your own family recipe. Also optional. Again, this is a purist thing for dipping the sandwich in. Some folks are very particular about this ritual.
Good whole grain bread. We like Amish whole wheat potato bread, but Deli Kaiser rolls work well here. Use whatever bread is going to bring you the most satisfaction and joy. This is all about feeding your soul!
Mayonnaise or butter, according to your preference.
On your kitchen counter, lay out all the leftover plates and bowls from your Thanksgiving feast. Put bread by the toaster for those who like their bread toasted. Put out serving spoons, utensils for the condiments and a serrated knife for cutting the sandwiches in half.
I also put out paper plates, napkins and cups, because who needs to do more dishes the day after Thanksgiving? Ask everyone to come into the kitchen and fix their sandwich the way they want to, honoring their personal sovereignty and free will choice. Plus, you worked so hard the day before fixing food for your family, they can take care of themselves today.
My personal favorite is as follows:
Kaiser or Bulky Roll sliced in half with a bit of the bread taken out, so I can fit more stuff into my sandwich!
First comes a slather of mayonnaise on both sides of the bread and then a heaping pile of mixed turkey meat. I used to stick to all white meat, but have discovered the tenderness and flavor of dark meat. Its always good to experiment and evolve, as it leads us to some delicious surprises. I would also suggest not heating the turkey up as it changes it’s flavor slightly and anything that decreases the enjoyment of this ritual is strictly prohibited.
I form a patty out of the traditional sausage and chestnut stuffing that has been in my family since the beginning (circa 1963) and place that on top of the turkey, followed by a generous dollop of my mother’s cranberry orange relish. I order her to make extra relish and she knows she better, or she won’t go home with any leftovers.
I then liberally sprinkle on the sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
I heat up some gravy and put it in a bowl, and then I am in heaven for about 20 minutes as I dip each bite in the gravy and savor it as long as I can. I bless each bite with gratitude, and think of all the things that had to come together over the history of the earth in order for this turkey sandwich to come into existence and feed me with such joy.
Now, as I said earlier, this is a once in a year experience, but I have been known to crave it in the middle of the summer, and you guessed it, I grab a turkey breast to cook and make the fixings and we enjoy a little bit of Thanksgiving in July!
The national chain D’Angelo’s sandwich shops also offers a Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich which I have tried. I like it just fine, but it doesn’t make me FEEL the same way as I do when I make my own. It isn’t just the taste of the sandwich that brings such joy. It is the gratitude that comes with Thanksgiving, for being supported and loved by friends and family and this blessed universe that makes it so special.
So, this year my friends, when cooking up a storm for Thanksgiving, consider the day after and how much joy it could bring you, and I am not talking about Christmas shopping and college football. All the best from our family to yours on this Blessed Thanksgiving!
Updated and republished on Gaia Scenics’ View
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