The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a press release earlier this month advising Americans to eat their Thanksgiving leftovers. What the heck is the EPA doing in your fridge? Pleading with you to help reduce the 35 million tons of food waste that winds up in municipal landfills annually, that’s what. The sustainability advocacy group World Watch Institute has estimated that 5 million of those tons are generated between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

If we’re going to make a dent in that, we must consume (or compost) all leftovers, not just the perfect slices of turkey layered atop Nonna’s stuffing and Uncle Tony’s cranberry sauce in that nostalgic, Rockwellian Black Friday sandwich.

Leftovers the day after Thanksgiving are as enticing as the last piece of pumpkin pie, but what about days later when your stash has dwindled to a dozen Brussels sprouts, three pearl onions, half of a bowl of candied carrots and a few shards of turkey picked from the carcass before it went into the stockpot? Use them up, says the EPA in its release.

My go-to dish for Thanksgiving remnants has its roots in the New England boiled dinner. My mother made corned beef hash from cold cooked potatoes, carrots, cabbage and tiny bits of cured beef that by some miracle had not been eaten by my three growing brothers.

I use Mom’s basic four-to-one ratio of vegetables to meat, and employ her technique of cutting the vegetables in uniform shapes. I fry them first in a large, hot frying pan coated with a healthy sheen of flavorful fat (either butter or bacon grease), not stirring them at all, so they pick up a crispy bottom crust. The meat gets folded into the twice-cooked vegetables more as a flavoring than as the main event.

I veer from my mother’s basic recipe by venturing into my fridge for any leftovers that remain. I generally roast root vegetables – white, fingerling and sweet potatoes, squashes, turnips, carrots and parsnips, the first time around. The sweetness they pick up in that process holds up really well when making what I call Leftover Hash. I’ve been known to green things up with chopped kale, spinach or chard, and proteins have ranged from turkey and lamb to bacon and salmon.

If the meat is really scarce, I’ll serve the hash with fried or poached eggs to up the heartiness quotient. At breakfast, I serve it with maple syrup, at lunch with a strong mustard and at dinner with a good hot sauce.

On most days, my hash doesn’t taste like four-day-old leftovers. And in all cases, it’s a tasty argument for re-use.

THANKSGIVING LEFTOVER HASH

This is a versatile recipe that uses up leftovers and can work for breakfast (with maple syrup), for lunch (with strong mustard) or dinner (with good hot sauce).

Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter or bacon fat

6 cups of cooked vegetables (white, fingerling or sweet potatoes, squashes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, onions, broccoli, cauliflower)

1 cup shredded cooked turkey

2 cups chopped kale, spinach or chard

Salt and pepper

Melt butter or bacon fat in a large skillet over high heat. Add vegetables to the hot fat. Spread them evenly in the pan. Let them cook in the hot fat, undisturbed, until they develop a crisp crust, about 8 minutes.

Sprinkle shredded turkey and chopped greens on top and fold them into the crispy vegetables and continue cooking until the meat is warmed and the greens slightly wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer and tester, and cooking teacher in Brunswick. She writes about feeding her family Maine seafood at www.familyfish.net. Contact her at [email protected]