Chef offers holiday leftover tips

Veranda chef and owner Jay Yates serves up a cup of gumbo in his kitchen. Yates recommends making gumbo with leftover turkey carcasses in the days following holiday meals. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)
Staff Writer

Christmas has passed, and the dinner guests have eaten their fill.

The turkey and ham were great, but what to do with the bones, carcasses and other leftovers? Fear not, for if handled correctly, these remains can provide great meals for the days to come.

Jay Yates, owner and chef of The Veranda, said his go-to use for a ham bone is making a ham stew. He said he grew up eating ham stew in the days following holiday meals.

“You just take the whole bone with the meat on it, and you put some chicken broth on it, then boil it until you get all the flavor out of the bone and the meat starts falling apart,” Yates said.

Next, he removes the bone and adds onions, potatoes, green beans, corn and other vegetables

“Whatever you have that’s like a bean or a pea, just put it in there and let that kind of slow cook,” Yates said. “I put tomato paste in there and some Ro-Tel diced tomatoes as well, so it’s tomatoey soup, but it’s got all the veg and then that ham in it."

He also suggested making red beans and rice with ham bones, again starting out by stewing the bone in chicken broth, but adding red beans and smoked or andouille sausage.

For turkey carcasses, Yates suggests making turkey gumbo by boiling the carcass in chicken broth and adding okra, spices, dark roux and andouille sausage.

He also recommended making turkey hash for breakfast with leftover turkey meat.

“Pull all those pieces of that meat off, and then put it in a skillet with some onions and potatoes and fry it and make it into a turkey hash,” Yates said. “Cook that for breakfast with some fried eggs on top if it. That’s really good. That’s a good breakfast item.”

Yates also suggested cooking leftover turkey into a dressing, making a stock from the carcass and adding the remaining meat into the cornbread mixture.

“When you actually cook the meat of the turkey into the dressing, it makes it pretty awesome,” Yates said.

Turkey and ham bones can also be cooked into stocks to serve as the base of other dishes.

Yates also warned cooks to be careful about holding leftovers at temperature for long periods of time.

“When the oven’s sitting there at like 100 degrees, it seems like it’s hot, but it’s actually the perfect breeding ground for bacteria,” Yates said. “After everybody’s been touching on the food and eating off of it, they stick it back in that 100 degree or 110 degree oven, they think they’re keeping it warm, but actually, the bacteria breeds in that.”

He recommended refrigerating anything not eaten within a few hours.

The National Restaurant Association ServSafe certification program guidelines lists anywhere between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees Fahrenheit as the “danger zone” for bacteria growth and recommends hot foods be held at 135 degrees or above and cold foods held at 41 degrees or below.

Yates said leftover turkey carcasses and ham bones can be frozen, if done properly. He said to freeze them with water in gallon Ziploc bags before freezing them to keep the meat from getting freezer burned.

“If you don’t have time to mess with it, like if you’re going on vacation or something after, just pot some water in the Ziploc with the ham or turkey if you’re going to make something with it later and put it in the freezer.”