There is so much food made during the holidays that I always plan on re-purposing leftovers before the meal is ever set on the table. My family does not eat turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead we roast chickens, ducks, game hens, or pork and serve them with Vietnamese and American sides. There’s usually a sticky rice stuffing similar to this one. We roast sweet potatoes or winter squash. Green beans or Brussels sprouts are simply treated, boiled and quickly sauteed or stir-fried. There is a lot of prepping that goes on and the table groans with food.
In the days following the meal, leftovers are naturally the stars. Reheating and repeating the holiday meal can only happen so many times so I turn to creating holiday leftovers banh mi. Here’s how you can make the most of your holiday kitchen efforts.
Have a banh mi pickle or two in the fridge then use them to marinate leftover green vegetables such as green beans and Brussels sprouts. Add the pickle and the brine to the holiday leftover veggies to create a new, quick pickle!
For example, marinate the citrusy red cabbage pickle with the green beans (cut on steep bias to absorb the pickling brine) for about 30 minutes; keep the brine to a minimum or it’ll turn the beans a funky dark color. Green beans are fine with daikon carrot pickle too, though the color is a bit Italian-flag like. The taste is fine.
Roughly cut awkwardly shaped vegetables like Brussels sprouts so they won’t surprisingly pop out of the sandwich. Below are sprouts that had been wokked with garlic and soy with a splash of pickling brine. For banh mi, I tossed them with some of the pickling brine from the pickled shallot and the shallots themselves. Instant new pickle.
Use tangy-sweet relishes lightly. Cranberry sauce, mostarda, and chutneys may pair well with your roast turkeys and ham but in banh mi, they need to fall back a bit to allow other flavors to shine. For instance, put cranberry sauce only on the bottom of the sandwich so it may lightly kiss the protein.
Make a little space for sweet-savory sides like butternut squash and sweet potatoes. They’re pretty and can add a nice touch of sweetness to contrast with the pickle.
Thinly slice and cut the protein into pieces that will fit into the bread. Don’t forget to use pate or chopped liver that you may have set out. They’ll add nice earthiness to the sandwich, though they may not play well with cranberry sauce and the like.
Combine holiday herbs like parsley with cilantro to ensure zip in the banh mi. Parsley alone can be flat. It just doesn’t create the same kind of banh mi synergy unless it has a friend like cilantro (or try mint).
Keep the banh mi framework to make sure your sandwich says, “I’m a Vietnamese sandwich.” Light, crisp bread, rich mayonnaise, Maggi Seasoning sauce, and fresh herb should be part of your creation. Add chile and cucumber if you need heat and cooling crunch; the holiday leftovers may already bring enough to the banh mi party.
And, take advantage of fatty, crispy things like canned fried onions –- the purchased equivalent of Southeast Asian fried shallots. If there’s turkey, duck, or chicken skin around, turn them into cracklings (see the rotisserie chicken banh mi recipe on page 65 in The Banh Mi Handbook for the recipe).
Set up a banh mi bar if there are lots of people at your home for the holidays. Let guests go to town creating their own Vietnamese sandwiches. You can also make giant banh mi for a parade or football-watching crowd. More banh mi party tips are here.
Banh mi sandwiches are versatile so work them into your holiday leftovers plans. It’s smart, resourceful cooking that tastes good too.
What’s your favorite way to deal with leftovers?
P.S. Wherever you may be celebrating, eat well. Happy Holidays, everyone!