By Elizabeth SanFilippo

A Thanksgiving meal is synonymous with having a huge feast. And a huge feast usually means there will be leftovers the next day. Instead of slapping some turkey in between two pieces of bread, these Chicago chefs have recipes that repurpose some of the foods from the day before so absolutely nothing goes to waste.

Some of Nellcôte’s brunch offerings. (Credit: Nellcôte’s Facebook)

833 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 432-0500

Executive Chef Jared Van Camp’s passion and attention to detail in his food has led him to receiving a variety of honors, such as “Best New Chef in Chicago” by the 2010 Time Out Eat Out Reader awards and Restaurant Hospitality Magazine‘s “12 to Watch in 2012.” That passion is seen not only in his restaurant Old Town Social but also in his newest venture, Nellcôte, which opened in March 2012 and focuses on fresh ingredients from local farms. Like many of his restaurants, when it comes to Thanksgiving, he’s not quite traditional. His one must-have dish every year is oyster stuffing, one of his grandma’s recipes. And when it comes to repurposing turkey after the holiday has passed, he has a few ideas up his chef whites for another delectable feast.

Turkey Gumbo
Yield: 1.5 gallons

  • 4 cups canola oil
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups chopped onions
  • 6 cups chopped bell peppers
  • 4 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup minced garlic
  • 2 thick-sliced andouille sausages
  • 1 julienned tasso ham
  • 6 dried bay leaves
  • 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper
  • One-fourth cup worcestershire
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 gal chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp filé powder
  • 3-4 pieces of chopped leftover turkey meat
  • Cooked white rice
  • Sliced scallions, for garnish

1. Combine the oil and the flour over medium heat. Cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, until it reaches a dark brown color.
2. Add the onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic and cook, stirring, until wilted (four to five minutes). Add the reserved sausage, tasso, cayenne, thyme, worcestershire and bay leaves, stir and cook for two minutes. Slowly add the chicken stock and cook, stirring until well combined. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered while still stirring occasionally. Simmer for 2.5 hours, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface. Near the end of this time, stir in the filé powder and leftover turkey.
3. To serve, place a scoop of white rice in a bowl and then ladle the gumbo around the base. Top with sliced scallions. Add more filé powder if you wish.

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Smoked Turkey Leg (Credit:

The Peasantry
2723 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 868-4888

Following his graduation from the New England Culinary Institute, young Chef Joe Doren moved to Chicago and worked at such prestigious restaurants as Blackbird and Sixteen. In 2006, he decided to move away from the world of fine dining and spent the next two years working at Alexander Brunacci’s Franks N Dawgs. This past March, he left Franks N Dawgs to lead the kitchen at Brunacci’s new restaurant, The Peasantry. The menu there is full of elevated street food — which is exactly what Doren’s Thanksgiving leftover recipes are too. As it is for most chefs, Thanksgiving is one of Doren’s favorite holidays, since it is so devoted to cooking. “It’s my favorite way to impress my family in how to spin a meal that has been the same their entire lives into something new,” he says.

Turkey French Dip

  • Baguette
  • Leftover turkey
  • Gruyere cheese
  • Pureed cranberry sauce
  • Mayo
  • Leftover gravy
  • Stock
  • Crispy onions (optional)

1. Start with a nice baguette (possibly a leftover roll from Thanksgiving).
2. Shave your leftover turkey nice and thin and toast some Gruyere cheese on it.
3. Mix some pureed cranberry sauce with mayo, and use that as the spread on the sandwich.
4. Take some of your leftover gravy and thin it out with some stock to make a turkey gravy au jus.
5. If you have any crispy onions leftover, from the top of the green bean casserole, you can put that in the sandwich to give it a little crunch and a nice onion flavor.
6. Then just dip it in the makeshift turkey gravy au jus.

Turkey Ramen

Before making this dish, Doren likes to take most of the bones out of the turkey to get an even cook on the meat.

  • Turkey bones
  • Soy and/or miso and/or dashi
  • Cold water, bouquet garni and mirepoix (for turkey stock)
  • Ramen or soba noodles
  • Leftover turkey
  • Corn kernels
  • Green onion
  • Leftover stuffing
  • Poached egg

1. Make a nice turkey stock out of the turkey bones (using cold water, bouquet garni and mirepoix), and use that as a base for the broth of your ramen.
2. Flavor the broth with some soy and/or miso. You can try a bit of dashi as well but don’t go too strong on this as it might not mesh well with the turkey.
3. Finish with some ramen noodles or possibly some soba noodles, depending on your preference.
4. Flake in some of your leftover turkey, some corn kernels and a bit of fresh green onion.
5. You can make croutons out of leftover stuffing to garnish if you please, and top it all off with a poached egg.


Vie Restaurant
4471 Lawn Ave.
Western Springs, IL 60558
(708) 246-2082

After attending the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, Nathan Sears worked his way up the ranks in the world of Chicago cuisine, especially once he got to Chef Paul Virant’s restaurant Vie in Western Springs, where he found a home for his passion for food. Now the Chef de Cuisine at Vie, Nathan Sears focuses on Vie as a midwestern restaurant using local ingredients based on western and southern influences. Sears also has a German background, and that’s one of the reasons he’s working on opening a new German restaurant, Radler, next year. When it comes to Thanksgiving, he’s all about keeping it simple and delicious, and that means canned cranberry sauce and lots of turkey dishes. When it comes to leftovers, he gets creative just as he does at Vie.

Turkey Scrapple

  • 1.5 pounds leftover turkey
  • 1 onion
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme
  • Half-cup white wine
  • 1 cup polenta (not quick cook)
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp salt

1. In a medium pot, bring the stock and salt to a boil.
2. Add in polenta and whisk vigorously for about a minute. Turn the heat to low and cook over low heat stirring often for about 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed.
3. While the polenta is cooking, slice the onions and cook slowly. Add in the butter, thyme and bay leaves. Once the onion is translucent, add in the wine and reduce by half. Add in the turkey and cook until the liquid is gone, then remove the bay leaves.
4. Fold the turkey and onions into the polenta and pour into an 8×8-inch oiled pan. Let it sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
5. Cut the scrapple into 16 pieces and fry them off in a little oil. Serve for breakfast with some eggs and hot sauce.

Sweet Potato Soup

  • 1 quart leftover mashed sweet potatoes, hopefully without too much sugar
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 small onion
  • One-fourth pound butter
  • Half-cup white wine
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 fresh bay leaves or 12 dried

1. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add in the carrots, celery and onion with the bay leaves. Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes.
2. Add in the white wine and bring to a simmer. As soon as the wine is gone, add in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
3. Next, add in the potato puree and bring to a boil again. Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning.

For this soup, Nathan always like to represent the base flavor best. Without knowing how much sweetness is in people’s leftovers, he can recommend a few garnishes. If the puree was sweetened, go with a savory garnish such as grilled bread croutons, black truffle oil and chopped parsley. Or, if the puree wasn’t sweetened, you can add some sweetness in with grapes, chives and a drizzle of balsamic.

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Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at