With the Day after Thanksgiving fast approaching, people, most often total strangers, have been stopping me on the street and asking me how to make the perfect Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich.
And it’s good that they ask, because there are a million ways to ruin a Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich, and many of these ways involve hummus as a substitute for mayonnaise. That’s not what hummus is for; it’s a substitute for bean dip, and no one is suggesting you put bean dip on a Thanksgiving sandwich.
So, we’ve agreed on mayonnaise (though don’t go the extra mile and use aioli; we haven’t agreed on aioli. Why do you keep insisting on tarting everything up?).
Now, get a couple slices of white bread. Wonder Bread is fine; this isn’t about bread. You only need bread to prevent everything from slipping through your fingers and onto the floor, which is what our dogs are praying for.
OK, now pay attention. Put some mayo on each slice of bread. This will help moisten up your turkey which, I’m guessing, you’ve overcooked, keeping your Thanksgiving streak alive. Next, you grab a few nice, sliced white breast meat from its Tupperware container and slap them on one slice of bread. Don’t be stingy with the turkey. I’d better not see any trace of bread between the slices.
Here’s where it gets tricky and the whole thing could fall apart on you: Salt and pepper to taste. No idea what that means, as you can only taste the sandwich by taking a bite out of it, and we’re too early in the process for that. Just put on a little bit of salt, and more than a little bit of pepper.
We’ve seen sandwich recipes that give the maker too much leeway, like throw whatever leftovers you want on the sandwich at this point. Corn, we’ve seen mentioned. Candied yams. Those crispy onion bits you use in string-bean casserole. One recipe said avocado might be good. And, while avocado is good on your day-to-day turkey sandwich, it has no place on your Thanksgiving one, unless you’re marketing it as a Cali-Thanksgiving Sandwich, at which point you might as well go with the hummus, too.
By now the other slice of bread is looking abandoned and lonely. Cheer it up by slapping a handful of stuffing on it. You might want to squish it into the shape of a patty, though that sounds a bit too much like you’re playing with your food. Just place it gently on the bread and then smooch it down with your bare knuckles.
Here’s the Gravy Quandary part. Gravy or not gravy? This topic can fuel an hours-long Talmudic discussion, which will end with the answer to the existential question, “Am I making a hot sandwich or a cold one?” Most experts agree that you’re making a cold one. Hot sandwiches are dinner, cold sandwiches are lunch. And you’re making lunch — perhaps even a late breakfast. So, skip the gravy and go straight to your last ingredient: cranberry sauce.
Here, I have to make a confession: I grew up poor, not in a big mansion on the hill like you did. As a result of an impoverished childhood and its attendant low-falutin’ culinary habits, we prefer canned cranberry sauce, which obviously isn’t a sauce at all, but rather a close cousin to Jell-O.
Canned cranberry sauce is perfect for a sandwich, because you can slice it like bologna You can use your own fancy sauce if you’d like, but don’t come crying to me when it’s dripping down your arms.
Slice your sandwich — on the diagonal; you’re not a wild animal.
Now, enjoy your creation.
Clean up and put everything back where it belongs.
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