My dad always said that the best part of the Thanksgiving turkey was nibbling the crisp bits of skin that fell off his knife as he carved. The turkey sandwiches made with the leftovers were the second best part.
Those quiet minutes standing in front of the bird — either carving it while it was still hot and glistening, or picking cold meat off the carcass to nestle between slices of bread — were some of the moments he treasured most.
His sandwiches were straightforward affairs: bread (his homemade anadama, a traditional New England wheat bread), mayo, cranberry sauce, turkey. Maybe a little mustard or sliced onion, but never stuffing, which he said diluted the pungency of the bird that he’d slathered in garlic and rosemary before roasting.
Now that I’m the Thanksgiving cook, I agree with him about the joys of crisp bits of turkey skin. But when it comes to the sandwiches, I go my own way, mixing it up year after year.
The only thing that remains constant in my turkey sandwiches — other than the turkey — is using some kind of pickle to perk things up. Turkey can often be gentle and appreciates that hit of salty acid.
So it’s no surprise that pickles feature prominently in these sandwich recipes.
In the first, a take on a Cubano, dill pickles are mixed with spicy pickled pepperoncini before being layered with cheese, ham and turkey, then pressed and toasted in the oven. (A couple of sheet pans stand in for a sandwich press.)
The second features shredded turkey mixed with barbecue sauce, crunchy slaw and sweet bread-and-butter pickles, all spooned into a soft burger bun.
But both sandwiches are just suggestions. You don’t really need a recipe for a turkey sandwich. Go with your gut, and use whatever combination of leftovers and condiments you love.
“The good thing about having your own kitchen,” my father was known to say, echoing Julia Child while dunking soft threads of turkey neck into the gravy pot, “is that no one can see what you’re doing.”
By Melissa Clark
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- Hot sauce or mustard, to taste
- 2 (12-inch) soft hero rolls or semolina loaves, split in half
- 3 to 4 ounces cooked turkey breast, thinly sliced
- 8 slices deli ham or prosciutto
- 8 slices Swiss cheese
- 1/3 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers or other pickled hot peppers (optional)
- 1 large dill pickle, sliced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Place a rack in center of oven and another rack directly below it. Place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack. Once the pans are in place, heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and stir in hot sauce or mustard to taste — it should have a kick. Spread mixture inside rolls, coating both top and bottom halves.
Layer rolls with turkey, ham, cheese, pepperoncini (if using) and pickle slices.
Using your hands, press sandwiches down and make sure nothing slides out. (If it does, poke it back in.) Then, use a brush to butter the top and bottom halves of the rolls.
Remove a hot baking sheet from the oven and place sandwiches on top. Layer other hot baking sheet on top of sandwiches. Place a small pot, cast-iron skillet or other heavy heatproof item on top of that second hot baking sheet to create a press.
Carefully return to oven and bake until sandwiches are warm, toasted and golden brown and the cheese is melted, 8 to 13 minutes. (You’ll have to lift off the second pan to check on the sandwiches.) Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately. Serves 2 to 4.
AND TO DRINK
Leftovers are a reward for all the hard work that went into the holiday. So you deserve something delicious and satisfying with this turkey Cubano.
If you have leftover wine, it will go great with the sandwich. Enjoy it.
If you are opening something new, I’d opt for a light and lively red. It could come from anywhere, including California, Beaujolais, the Canary Islands or Sicily. A vin de soif, or unpretentious, thirst- quenching wine, will always be satisfying.
You prefer a white? Why not? The same idea holds, whether the wine comes from Vouvray or Oregon, western Spain or southern Italy. Riesling would be delicious, either dry or moderately sweet. Maybe you have had enough wine? Drink a beer, and relax with the feeling of a job well done.
— Eric Asimov, New York Times
TURKEY BARBECUE SANDWICHES WITH PICKLES AND SLAW
By Melissa Clark
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, homemade or store-bought, plus more for serving
- Hot sauce and apple cider vinegar (optional, to taste)
- 12 ounces cooked shredded turkey, warmed (about 3 cups)
- Mayonnaise (optional, to taste)
- 4 sandwich or hamburger buns
- Bread-and-butter pickle slices, for serving
- >> Slaw:
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 cups sliced green cabbage (about 1/2 small head)
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, coarsely grated
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
>> To make slaw: In a small pot, combine vinegar, sugar and salt. Cover pot and heat just until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss together cabbage, shallot, carrot and jalapeno. Pour hot vinegar mixture over vegetables and toss to combine. Cover and let sit, tossing occasionally, while you prepare the sandwiches.
Pour barbecue sauce into a medium bowl and taste. If it’s too sweet, add a little vinegar and/or hot sauce. Toss in turkey and stir until evenly coated.
To assemble sandwiches, spread mayonnaise inside buns, if you like, then fill buns with slaw, pickles and turkey. Serve with more hot sauce on the side, if you like. Serves 4.
Nutritional information unavailable.