The setting: a posh apartment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The cast: Twenty well-appointed New Yorkers from all over the world (and me) sitting around a long oval table.

The time: Thursday,  November 28  — 34 years ago.

The scene: A Thanksgiving celebration around a turkey and all its trimmings.

Yup, that’s how long I have been in the States and, more significantly, it is an exact anniversary of my realization that the country with which I was falling in love with did have rich food traditions, I just had to look for them. And look I did. I spent the next several months casually uncovering Thanksgiving and the whys and hows of its foods. Through the tales of friends I imagined myriad traditions and realized that starting from a common larder, each table and culture made Thanksgiving their own.

I have been shaping my own Thanksgiving since 1986, each year changing and fine-tuning dishes and always making way more food than can be consumed in one sitting, no matter how large the party. 

Hence my most cherished Thanksgiving tradition, the leftovers party. Every year I carefully eschew the puzzling Black Friday frenzy in favor of gathering whomever in my community is not traveling and asking them to bring a leftover from their own Thanksgiving table to share. I love this afternoon of laughter and music. I love the friendly competing over whose leftover is the best. With time it has become my favorite part of the holiday, and I  have even developed a dish for it, a sandwich I have relished for the past 20+ years. It is always the first meal after the excesses of the Thanksgiving table.

Viola’s Friday-after-Thanksgiving Sandwich

For 1 sandwich:

2 bread slices 
1 or 2 slices leftover turkey
½ an avocado, in slices
2 to 3 tablespoons cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
Optional: turkey chicharrones

Choose the bread you like best, I love noticeably crusty bread with some whole wheat flour, like ACME’s pain au levain or Jane’s sourdough, but any you love will do. Whichever bread you use, lift its spirits with quick toasting, as it is bound to be at least two days old.

The turkey will also reflect your preference. I personally abscond a turkey leg from my teenager so that I can use it for my sandwich, but if white meat is your thing, then use some slices of breast.

Arrange the avocado slices over one of the pieces of bread. Follow with the turkey, then spoon the cranberry sauce. Lastly, top with feta cheese. Seal your sandwich with the other piece of bread, put on a plate and head to the table, as it will be way too messy to eat while standing.

For an extra layer of crunch and yumminess, peel the skin off your leftover turkey and place it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 250˚F until it is golden and crackling. Crumble on your sandwich.

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A native Italian, US-based professional with 30 years of multifaceted experience in the field of Italian food, Viola transitioned to teaching 10 years ago, with the goal of getting home cooks to gather daily around the stove and table. She believes that from our kitchens, we can make the world a better place. By cooking good food at the intersection of Italian table culture and local agriculture, she teaches people to enjoy and value good food, and understand its critical role to the overall well being of our communities. For more details on registering for Viola’s classes and other food-related activities go to her website.
For more details on registering for Viola’s classes and other food-related activities click here.

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1 Comment

  1. Growing up in the Boston area, my Italian Grandmother used to make such a feast for Thanksgiving. Yet it was always the leftovers where my Grandmother would transend the holiday with her ways to not waste any part of the feast.

    From sandwiches to soups to limited dinners, nothing was wasted, little went into the garbage.

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