It’s that time of year again: my annual tribute to Thanksgiving leftovers that don’t taste like leftovers!
If you’ve been reading my posts for a few years, you might already know that I’m big on finding tasty, imaginative ways to repurpose that Thanksgiving bird beyond the traditional reheated dinner or turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and mayo.
Now don’t get me wrong—I’d honestly be satisfied with either of the above. In fact, I may even enjoy a quick meal of “Thanksgiving with all the trimmings” leftovers more than the big feast itself. Few things beat a turkey-mayo sandwich (though these days I’m more likely to wrap it in lettuce). Still, it can taste a wee bit stale and boring after a while.
And who says leftovers must be boring?!
There are also times when I my big bird is just too big deal with, and I simply cannot use it all up in a timely manner before it goes bad. Rather then allow that to happen, I freeze some of the meat for later use. No matter how I choose to enjoy it later, I love having a repertoire of delicious, inventive options that will help my leftovers reach their full potential.
Many of the recipes for turkey leftovers that I come across seem similar in taste to a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Pot pie, turkey soup, and casseroles are all great, but sometimes I’m looking for something really different. Using big, bold spices and ethnic flavors provides the greatest shift away from the customary tastes of Thanksgiving and breathes new life into the dinner routine.
Enchiladas are a quick, flavorful, family-friendly, and ethnically inspired (yet familiar) option. You can easily make them for just one serving or use a large baking dish for a sizeable crowd. Though tradition calls for corn tortillas, you can prepare them with any manner of wrapper. I recommend these yummy sprouted corn tortillas for their great flavor and texture. Sprouting the grain before milling aids digestibility, reduces enzyme inhibitors like phytic acid, and increases nutrient bioavailability.
Whether you prefer good-quality flour, or sprouted, gluten-free, or grain-free tortillas, you have lots of flavorsome options to choose from. I’ve even successfully prepared delicious enchiladas using cabbage leaves and collard greens, so consider those options should you need an alternative for a lower carb lifestyle.
The American Southwest is quite well known for its green chili—a thick, deeply flavored concoction served as a soup, stew, or savory topping for everything from breakfast to burritos (and, at least in Colorado, even burgers). Though the focal point is roasted Anaheim or Hatch peppers, the stew is traditionally prepared with pork shoulder, tomatoes, and fragrant spices, then simmered all day until the meat is falling apart tender.
For this recipe, I celebrate the basic principles and flavors of a traditional green chili, but it’s far more functional for use in enchiladas. And considering they already have turkey in them, I don’t think they need more meat. (Though if you happen to have a meaty green chili available to use, got for it!)
Rather than simmering all day, this sauce comes together in under 30 minutes, but it still has an incredible depth of flavor. If you’d like to emphasize the taste of the pork, use lard or bacon fat for sautéing your veggies. If you live anywhere where Anaheim or Hatch chilis are available, purchase them fresh and roast them yourself. You can also see if there’s any roasted and peeled chilis in the frozen section at the grocery store. Poblano peppers have an extraordinary flavor and would also work in a pinch. If all else fails, or if you’re short on time, check the ethnic section of your grocery store for canned green chilis or an already-prepared green chili sauce. There are quite a few reputable, good-quality brands where I live.
Either way, these enchiladas will certainly make you forget that you’re eating leftovers.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!
Creamy Colorado Green Chile-Turkey Enchiladas
Makes 6 enchiladas (2–3 servings) using standard 6-inch corn tortillas. (If you use an alternative tortilla, adjust the recipe to suit your needs.)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 75–90 minutes (if making your own green chili sauce)
For the green chili (makes about 3 cups):
½ cup chopped roasted green chilis (you’ll need about 1 lb. fresh Anaheims), or use a quality jarred green chili for added convenience
2 tablespoons bacon fat, lard, or olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper
2 Roma tomatoes, diced, or 1 small can diced tomatoes, drained (fire-roasted is extra yummy)
¼ cup chopped cilantro, leaves and stems
1½–2 cups chicken stock
For the enchiladas:
2¼ cups homemade or prepared green chili sauce, divided
¾ cup sour cream
2–3 cups leftover shredded turkey meat
6 oz. shredded cheese of your choice (cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack would all work well), divided
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Optional garnish: sliced avocado, sour cream, shredded lettuce, lime wedges, salsa, or other garnishes of your choice.
- Prepare homemade green chili, if using: For fresh peppers, preheat the grill to high or oven to 450°F. (If you have a gas stove, you can roast directly over the flame of the stovetop.) Roast whole peppers until charred, then transfer to a bowl and cover with a plate to allow peppers to steam off their skins for easy removal. Set aside. (Use any leftover green chili to top eggs, burritos, burgers, and more.)
- Meanwhile, heat fat in a small pot until hot. Sauté onions for 5 minutes, then add garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add spices, salt, and pepper and cook until fragrant. Add diced peppers, tomato, chopped cilantro, and stock to pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until onions are tender. Pour everything into a blender. Covering lid with a towel and holding down with one hand for safety, pulse on low speed until half pureed. It should have the consistency of a thick sauce, but still be a little chunky.
- Make enchiladas: Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour a small amount of the green chili into the base of a baking dish that’s large enough to fit 6 enchiladas (I used a rectangle dish approximately 7×10 inches).
- Combine ¾ cup of the green chili with ¾ cup sour cream. Set aside. Toss turkey and about half the cheese together in a medium sized bowl. Add remaining 1½ cups green chili to turkey mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Divide mixture evenly between 6 tortillas and roll each up snugly, but not too tight. Place seam side down in prepared dish. Spread the green chili-sour cream mixture evenly over the enchiladas. Top with remaining shredded cheese and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
- Bake until bubbly and golden-brown, about 45–55 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Image from Briana Goodall.