If You Do One Thing With Your Leftover Turkey, Do This

The Mexican concept of el recalentado, or the reheating or rewarming of food, is similar the American fondness for Thanksgiving leftovers, but on a larger scale, referring not just to the dish but to a whole experience. The recalentado is sometimes thought to be more delicious than the meal itself, and it often gets its own celebration, particularly on the first day of the new year, with guests invited over after the holiday festivities to enjoy dishes that have gotten more flavorful with time.

We are joining the two traditions this holiday season, beginning with treatments for Thanksgiving leftovers like this delicious birria (and corresponding quesabirria tacos) made with shredded turkey. NYC-based cook Maximas Gomez created this dish for Masienda; we love that it's made in just one pot, comes together in less than an hour, and produces not one but two leftover treatments: eat the stew one day, and use anything remaining for the next day's red-stained quesabirria tacos.

Quesabirria tacos


"It is funny thinking about how the recalentado tradition usually occurs during Christmas and New Year's, but my family has also applied the tradition to Thanksgiving," Maximas says. "I am sure this is a result of being Mexican-American and my family having to embrace new traditions when they immigrated to the U.S. while still holding on to old traditions and combining the two. Every year for Dia de Gracias (Thanksgiving) my family comes together en la casa de mi abuelita, or Tita, as we refer to her. My family eats, drinks, and celebrates with a mixture of both Mexican and more traditional Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, tamales, tostadas, mashed potatoes, and pie,. The day after Thanksgiving, we have a recalentado tradition where the family reconvenes back at Tita’s to eat leftovers from the day before. Turkey tortas and turkey pozole are common dishes my family makes to revive the leftovers. This year I will be throwing my own recipe into the mix and will be making turkey birria for my family to enjoy."

What is Birria?

Birria is a Mexican soup or stew originating in the state of Jalisco, and typically made with goat or beef, cooked at a low heat in a broth of chiles and spices. There are many regional variations (Michoacán, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Colima, and Guadalajara are particularly known for their versions of birria) which can feature the traditional goat or beef, or mutton, lamb, chicken, or pork. Its recent popularity in the US, particularly in Los Angeles, may be thanks in part to the phenomenon of quesabirria tacos, which feature crispy, chile-oil kissed corn tortillas stuffed with melted cheese and birria with consommé for dipping served on the side.

Birria's foundation, a combination of delicately braised meat and mildly spicy, richly flavored broth, make it ripe for variation. Perhaps the most important point is that the consommé, or sauce that the meat gets braised in, is of a reddish color, thanks to lots of dried red chiles. Vinegar, in this case, helps to cut the richness of the meat, and cilantro and onion brighten the dish.

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