One of the great pleasures of Thanksgiving is eating the leftovers. Sometimes the leftovers taste better to me than during the original meal itself. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not feeling as wound up or the food has aged a bit. Maybe I’ve aged a bit too. One way to savor leftovers is to simply reheat them and relive the meal. Another approach is to transform the leftovers into something else.
Cue the post-Thanksgiving sandwich. A turkey Club sandwich used to be my go-to, but this year, I thought of a Thanksgiving leftovers banh mi. National Public Radio reporter Karen Bates prompted me because she had taped a banh mi story with me earlier this year and our Viet sandwich session will air this Saturday on NPR’s All Things Considered. (Tune in because I think it’ll be a fun story!)
As a follow-up, Karen asked me: “How would you make a post-Thanksgiving banh mi?” That was easy since roast chicken is a natural for banh mi. In fact, she and I had made the rotisserie chicken and cracklings banh mi as part of the segment.
My answer to Karen was that I’d just sub turkey in the recipe (for details, see page 65 of The Banh Mi Handbook, or head to NPR.) On the other hand, my family often roasts chicken for our alternative VietThanksgiving feast. In an event, there would be lots of leftover fowl around.
But how could you put an extra Thanksgiving imprint on banh mi? I went into my kitchen and came up with a few ideas for your considering:
Assess your leftovers for salty, slightly sweet, tangy elements. Banh mi isn’t an overly sweet affair so the sweet potato and marshmallow casserole would be hard to incorporate. I prepare my vegetables simply for Thanksgiving. For example, chunks of butternut or kabocha squash get roasted with salt or soy sauce, pepper and a little oil, green beans are boiled in lots of salted water, and Brussels sprouts get wokked or roasted (the ones below are the ones I wrote about earlier). Then there’s the chicken (in my case) or your turkey.
Mushy dishes like mashed potatoes and stuffing would weigh down banh mi. I’d keep them out of the sandwich. However, as a relish, cranberry sauce is good for a touch of color and tangy-sweetness. Too much of the stuff and it makes banh mi overly sweet.
For a Thanksgiving pickle, use leftover vegetables by combining them with banh mi pickles that you have in the fridge. Er, admittedly, my banh mi pickle supply was low since I didn’t get to replenishing it after a banh mi session with the Williams Sonoma test kitchen staff. It was the perfect excuse to make a super fast pickle by (1) tossing leftover cooked vegetables with pickling brine and whatever leftover pickle bits were around, and (2) marinating the cooked vegetable with some of the brine and pickle.
Match vegetable shape and flavor to a friendly pickle. I combined the Brussels sprouts with the pickled shallot. Likewise, the green beans got combined with the citrusy red cabbage and the daikon and carrot pickles. In both cases, I cut the leftover vegetable so that they’d lay nicely in the sandwich: green beans were prepped on a steep diagonal (think horse ears) and the sprouts were reduced to small bite-size pieces.
Then I made sandwiches, layering mayonnaise, Maggi, cranberry sauce, the bird, pickle, chile, sometimes cucumber and cilantro and parsley (which I had around). Parsley alone was a little drab. What I came up with:
I ate the green beans and daikon and carrot combo on the side as a salad. It would have been fine in the sandwich but the colors reminded me of the Italian flag. Not quite evocative of the Thanksgiving holiday.
If you’ve been making banh mi, you know the importance of maintaining a loose framework. Within that, you can tinker. I found that keeping the slightly sweet ingredients – cranberry sauce and roasted squash — to a minimum made for a nice banh mi. On the other hand, it would not be Thanksgiving without the interplay between savory and sweet. I think I’ll have to make a few more to see.
Share any suggestions for post-Thanksgiving sandwiches — whether you’re going with banh mi or not!
More banh mi recipes and tips: