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Nigella Lawson Loves Leftovers And Knows How To Use Them


With the only question worth considering this morning after Thanksgiving, are you having turkey for breakfast or waiting for lunch? OK plus, is the stuffing too dry for a second-day helping? Leftovers, they're both a delight and a challenge, which is why we turned author and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson for her suggestions. Our colleague, David Greene, reached her in London.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Nigella, thank you for coming on the show as always. Good to talk to you.

NIGELLA LAWSON: It's nice to be here.

GREENE: I just want to clear something up very briefly. You are British?


GREENE: You are, though, qualified to guide us through what to do with leftovers on this very American holiday?

LAWSON: Well, actually the holiday of Thanksgiving is not dissimilar in essence to the way we celebrate Christmas Day. You know, with all big feasts, I love the leftovers. I feel that you only really feel you're at home when you have leftovers. And there are so many leftovers after Thanksgiving and so many different sorts that really the heart leaps.

GREENE: My heart always leaps, but one of the problems I always find is that I am so exhausted after Thanksgiving dinner. I don't really know where to put all the leftovers. I mean, there have to be some tips you can give us on how to store - I mean, where should we put these things to make sure we can actually use them and they don't go bad?

LAWSON: I certainly think that as much as possible, you want to separate all the different foods unless you eat it altogether. I have to say one should never ever disparage a sandwich of cold turkey, cranberry sauce and cold stuffing.

GREENE: OK, so sandwiches are one way to repurpose leftover turkey. What are some other ideas?

LAWSON: Well, actually, I like going slightly less trad because I think one's had this fantastic, traditional ritual of a feast. So when I use up my leftovers, I will make one of those wonderful Vietnamese dipping sauces, which is really minced garlic, chilies, some of the nam pla, the Vietnamese fish sauce, some lime, a bit of water, a teeny bit of sugar. And I whisk that together, and then I just shred some turkey. I might add some sugar snaps, but the crucial thing for me are those glass or cellophane noodles. So you're making something that feels so light and so different from the feast you've had before that it feels really not like you're using up leftovers, but something entirely different.

GREENE: Glass noodles - turkey Southeast Asian style. I never would've thought of that.

LAWSON: A lot of cilantro. It's a really great way of using up turkey for the same reason. When I was younger, so many fashionable restaurants had something called bang bang chicken on the menu, which was basically a chicken salad with an awful lot of Chinese-style peanut sauce - so smooth peanut butter with some Chinese chili sauce and black vinegar and coated it quite thickly. I do bang bang turkey. I always feel like that's exactly how you feel after you've had your family gathered. So it could be as an appetizer, or it could be great if you had a baked jacket potato. But basically, it's the same thing that you're pairing the turkey with ingredients you don't customarily think would go with the turkey. Otherwise, it is just cold cuts again and people moan.

GREENE: (Laughter) Not everyone moans though. Some people want to go more traditional - trad - that's the word you used, right?

LAWSON: Yes, and I use that a lot because my children love pies. So if I have a ham and turkey leftovers, I make a rather rich white sauce, a bechamel. I use turkey gravy if I've got some leftover - mix it with some whole milk. I have been known to add cream, and I make a pie. You know, you can put peas. You could even do some leftover vegetables, but there's something so gorgeous about that buttery, flaky crust and the rich white sauce, velvety interior. And actually, you don't really have to eat it all now. You can make the sauce and put the turkey in it, and you can just put that in the freezer. And at some later date, you can thrill everyone with a turkey pot pie.

GREENE: Nigella, you said something very, very pretty, and I'm not going to phrase it very perfectly, but you said something like there's nothing like leftovers to make you feel like you're home. What do you mean by that?

LAWSON: Well, I think that a fridge that has just little bowls of leftovers - you feel this is a home, people live here, and there's always the wherewithal to eat, whether it's standing up by the refrigerator or by some alchemy of turning these leftovers into another meal. And I love that feeling. I like - I hate waste, and I think using up leftovers makes me feel that I cook, whereas, cooking with ingredients from scratch sometimes doesn't give quite the same satisfaction.

GREENE: Leftovers have never sounded so good. Nigella, thanks so much for coming on. It's great to talk to you.

LAWSON: And you.

MONTAGNE: That's cookbook author Nigella Lawson talking to David Greene. She returns to TV next week as one of the judges on the new season of ABC's "The Taste." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.