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Your Thanksgiving May Be Classic, but Your Leftovers Don’t Have to Be

My dad always said that the best part of the Thanksgiving turkey was nibbling the crisp, fatty bits of skin that fell off his knife as he carved. The turkey sandwiches the next day were the second best part.

Sure, he’d say, a plate of dark meat and gravy was all well and good. But those quiet minutes standing in front of the bird — either carving it while it was still hot and glistening, or picking cold meat off the carcass to nestle between slices of bread — were some of the moments he treasured most.

His sandwiches were straightforward affairs: bread (his homemade anadama), mayo, cranberry sauce, turkey. Maybe a little mustard or sliced onion, but never any stuffing, which he said diluted the pungency of the bird that he’d slathered in garlic and rosemary before roasting.

Now that I’m the Thanksgiving cook, I agree with him about the joys of crisp bits of turkey skin. But when it comes to the sandwiches, I go my own way, mixing it up year after year.

[For more on how our columnist celebrates the holiday, see Melissa Clark’s Thanksgiving.]

The only thing that remains constant in my turkey sandwiches — other than the turkey — is using some kind of pickle to perk things up. Turkey can often be gentle, and appreciates that hit of salty acid.

So it’s no surprise that pickles feature prominently in these three sandwich recipes.

In the first, a take on a Cubano, dill pickles are mixed with spicy pickled pepperoncini before being layered with cheese, ham and turkey, then pressed and toasted in the oven. (A couple of sheet pans stand in for a sandwich press.)

The second features shredded turkey mixed with barbecue sauce, crunchy slaw and sweet bread-and-butter pickles, all spooned into a soft burger bun.

In the last, red onions are quickly pickled with lemon juice and salt before being stuffed into pita halves with turkey, chickpeas, fresh tomato and cucumber, and topped with a garlicky tahini dressing.

But all these sandwiches are just suggestions. Because you don’t really need a recipe for a turkey sandwich. Go with your gut, and use whatever combination of leftovers and condiments you love.

“The good thing about having your own kitchen,” my father was known to say, echoing Julia Child while dunking soft threads of turkey neck into the gravy pot, “is that no one can see what you’re doing.”

Recipes: Turkey Cubano | Turkey Pitas With Cucumbers, Chickpeas and Tahini | Turkey Barbecue Sandwiches With Pickles and Slaw

Leftovers are a reward for all the hard work that went into the holiday. So you deserve something delicious and satisfying with this turkey Cubano. If you have leftover wine, it will go great with the sandwich. Enjoy it. If you are opening something new, I’d opt for a light and lively red. It could come from anywhere, including California, Beaujolais, the Canary Islands or Sicily. As long as it’s thirst quenching, a vin de soif, it will be satisfying. You prefer a white? Why not? The same idea holds, whether it comes from Vouvray or Oregon, western Spain or southern Italy. Riesling would be delicious, either dry or moderately sweet. Maybe you have had enough wine? Drink a beer, and relax with the feeling of a job well done. ERIC ASIMOV

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