Solutions for Your Turkey Leftovers

Ask Chef Phyllis

I have this problem every year so I decided to call the turkey hotline for answers. They were helpful with the cooking of the bird, but with the leftovers not so much. I like leftover turkey with dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and mayonnaise on a sandwich. Most often, I slice the turkey breast thin (which falls apart), heat it in the gravy, place that on the bread, and then add all the fixings (cranberry sauce, salad dressing, etc.) It usually isn’t bad. But that doesn’t mean it’s good either. Help! What am I doing wrong?
—Maryilyn G. from Charleston

With family gatherings a bit smaller this year, Thanksgiving may not be quite the same for many of us. But at least I can help with your leftover question. I assume that you’re heating the gravy on the stovetop, then adding the turkey and bringing it to a boil. That could be the problem.

A better method is to place your gravy, turkey, and dressing in a buttered casserole and heat it up in the oven. It only takes a few minutes longer than the stovetop, but the results will be so much better. And it’s actually easier.

Why, you ask? First, oven-cooking is a gentler method of handling already roasted turkey breast that wants to shred. Secondly, you heat everything up in the order you wish to put on your sandwich. You add the cranberry sauce last, whether you like your sandwich warm or cold.

Make your life easier in these complicated times. Take a break from what is, in my opinion, a demanding meal with so many last-minute details. Pulling a Thanksgiving feast together requires timing that even the most seasoned chefs can find demanding. Ask anyone you know, and they’ll agree.

I’ve learned a few kitchen tricks over a career than has spanned more than 45 years—including the easy-breezy Thanksgiving leftover casserole. The first casserole makes the fixings for a delicious turkey sandwich, and the second uses drop biscuits (the kind you don’t have to roll out). It’s like Thanksgiving all over again. While these dishes heat up, put up your feet for 15 minutes and relax. I think you’re going to thank me!

Thanksgiving Casserole Sandwich


Gravy (or use turkey stock if short on gravy)
4–5 hearty slices of turkey breast per sandwich (this recipe makes 4 sandwiches, so adjust accordingly)
Cranberry sauce
Other fillings of your choice (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F Butter a 10×13-inch casserole.
  2. Pour gravy in the bottom. Add stuffing and turkey. (Or turkey and then stuffing—it’s up to you.) You want to make 4 individual portions in the casserole. Cover with a little more gravy (or turkey stock if you’re short on gravy).
  3. Heat until bubbly, about 15–20 minutes. (I like to warm the plates in the oven too.)
  4. To make the sandwiches, spread the mayonnaise on the bread.
  5. With a wide spatula, add one whole portion of casserole to the prepared bread. Top with cranberry sauce. You may serve open-faced or top with more bread, but either way the cranberry sauce will get warmed.

Turkey and Biscuits

Chef’s note: When the days are long and you want an easy meal, you may prepare this casserole in advance and either store it in the refrigerator or freeze it. Bring to room temperature in advance while you prepare the biscuits as the timing will be off if the casserole is frozen.


For the drop biscuits:

1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning (optional)
⅓ cup melted butter
⅓–½ cup whole milk

For the leftovers:

2–3 cups cooked turkey (chop the dark meat if using)
2 cups bread stuffing
1 cup gravy (or 2 cups stock if you don’t have enough gravy)
2 tablespoons butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and poultry seasoning. Pour in ⅓ cup of the melted butter. Add milk all at once and mix lightly with your hands until you have a stiff dough. Flatten dough on the counter and cut into 8 portions. (Don’t worry if the dough isn’t perfect.) Set aside.
  3. Butter the casserole dish. Add turkey, stuffing, and gravy. (If you don’t have enough gravy, reduce 2 cups stock down to 1 cup and use that instead.) Place the biscuits on top, using a spatula if necessary.
  4. Brush the tops with the softened butter. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately with a green salad.

Images from iStock/HHLtDave5 (main), monkeybusinessimages (post).

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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