Turkeys get a bad rap. They emit enzymes that make you sleepy (a myth busted in 2013). Don't stuff them the night before or they can kill you. Beware the pan of sizzling grease as you remove it from the oven.
But a turkey is as mandatory for Thanksgiving as joining friends and family for dinner and having pie for dessert.
My only concern regarding turkeys has been what to do with the leftovers, a dilemma as American as Thanksgiving itself.
For many years, I bemoaned that large carcass crowding out the leftover pie in the fridge. Sure it's easy to reheat everything for a feast redux, and turkey sandwiches for a day or two are great. However the sturdy turkey shell continued to yield meat long after the smooth slices of breast were only a fond memory.
But over the years, two uses for leftover turkey have come to be post-Thanksgiving staples for me, recipes that otherwise do well with chicken.
A Chinese cooking class many years ago provided me with a wonderful recipe for shredded chicken salad. Drier turkey meat works well since the dressing provides moisture, and the sharp tang puts pizzazz into the grayest of days.
The second dish is turkey rice soup, a recipe I reverse-engineered soon after I began work at the Pleasanton Weekly in 2000. A deli next door to our original office on First Street called Me and My Friends cooked turkeys every day and made wonderful fresh soup that was especially enjoyable in the winter months. Some years I make broth out of the turkey bones but chicken or vegetable broth also work fine.
As this year's holiday approached, I asked others what they did with their turkey leftovers. My hair stylist said she sometimes makes a stew.
Pleasanton photographer Christina Gray, author of "Be Free Cooking: The Allergen-Aware Cook," said her family basically eats the leftovers the same as on Thanksgiving Day.
"But every now and then I like to go back to my British Irish roots and make a small pie dish full of shepherd's pie for myself," she emailed. "Oh how I love turkey, gravy, vegetables and a crust full of buttery mashed potatoes -- layer by layer of Thanksgiving goodness."
She added that shepherd's pie is traditionally made with beef or lamb so it is probably not common as a Thanksgiving dish.
"I used to have it all the time when I was a kid with the lamb leftovers from our Christmas meal," she remembered.
Now of course we have recipes at our fingertips and when I asked Siri what I could do with turkey leftovers, she responded with links to more than 35 tips including casseroles, pastry rings, crunch wraps and enchiladas. So the problem this year may be not enough leftovers.
When shopping for the Thanksgiving feast, I've always added fresh sandwich bread and lettuce to the cart, aware of the day after. This year, I specified: Really big turkey.
Chinese shredded turkey salad
About two cups of turkey, shredded
1 small head iceberg lettuce, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch green onions, cut lengthwise into slivers, each about 2 inches long
1/4 cup salted peanuts, crushed
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 small bunch of rice sticks, deep fried and drained
1 tablespoon dry mustard mixed with a little water to form a thin paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
* Mix the greens together. Add turkey meat. Toss with dressing and add topping. Serve at once.
Turkey rice soup
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped cooked turkey
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup rice
2-3 cups broth
Salt and pepper to taste
* Melt the butter in a large saucepan and brown the next five ingredients. Add broth and, when it almost boils, turn the heat down and simmer for a half hour (or longer if using brown rice). Top with chopped cilantro.