- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My family oohs and aahs over the golden roasted Thanksgiving turkey, but they are equally rhapsodic about the dishes made with the leftovers.

Some even look forward to the post-Thanksgiving creations as much as they do to the original feast. And no wonder. Roast turkey is a magical ingredient that can easily be turned into a host of interesting dishes, a blessing for the cook who is entertaining family and friends during the holiday weekend.

Turkey and vegetable pot pies topped with flaky pastry domes are always winners at our house, as are warm open-faced turkey sandwiches napped with rich brown gravy or mile-high turkey clubs.

Burritos filled with sliced turkey, cranberry chutney and watercress, and grilled quesadillas stuffed with thin slivers of turkey and bits of Brie have also proved to be irresistibly good.

This year I plan to use my leftover cache to make a delectable turkey salad. Cubes of turkey, toasted pecans, dried cranberries and diced celery will be tossed in an orange-scented mayonnaise.

The refreshing citrus dressing — a quick assembly of purchased mayonnaise, orange juice and zest, plus a splash of balsamic vinegar — pairs admirably with the crunchy nuts and celery, the sweet berries and the tender morsels of cooked turkey.

For a light lunch or supper, mound this delicious salad atop lettuce greens and serve it with a platter of cheeses, some fruit and crusty country bread. Or fill pita pockets with the salad and add some crisp lettuce greens for a quick day-after snack.

Thanksgiving turkey salad

DRESSING:

1 cup regular or reduced-fat (not nonfat) mayonnaise (see note)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

SALAD:

1 cup pecan halves

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 pinches cayenne pepper

2 cups diced (½-inch cubes) cooked turkey

½ cup diced (1/4-inch cubes) celery

½ cup dried cranberries (see note)

Lettuce greens for garnish

For dressing, whisk mayonnaise, orange juice and zest, and vinegar until blended in a medium nonreactive bowl. Set aside.

Spread nuts on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and toss with butter, salt and cayenne pepper. Roast in preheated 350-degree oven until nuts are browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove and cool. Chop coarsely.

Add nuts, turkey, celery and cranberries to bowl with mayonnaise dressing. Toss gently to blend. Taste and season with more salt and cayenne pepper, if needed.

To serve, arrange several lettuce leaves on each of four salad plates. Divide salad evenly and mound some onto each plate.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: If you use a reduced-fat mayonnaise, which is often sweeter than regular mayo, you can stir a few additional drops of balsamic vinegar into the chicken salad to counter the sweetness.

If the cranberries are very dry, place them in a bowl, cover with hot water and soak 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Pat dry and then use.

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