Fancy Pants Leftover Makeover: Duck (or Turkey!) with Roasted Butternut Squash, Swiss Chard, and Creamy Polenta

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Around this time of year there always seems to be a lot of leftovers around. Maybe, you still have some leftovers hanging around from Thanksgiving weekend right now. If you do it’s probably bits and pieces of lots of different dishes. So, I thought I’d share this dish from a few weeks ago that came together from things I had hanging about and became something much fancier than the sum of its parts. It definitely did not feel like leftovers.

In this case, I had duck rillettes (from this dinner) and roasted butternut squash leftover in the fridge. I added some sautéed Swiss chard, some creamy polenta, and goat cheese crumbles. I might’ve had any of these things hanging about–adding one or two more components makes the dinner feel completely new. Reshuffling is easy and takes just a little extra time.

Moreover, this could be really any protein. I had duck hanging about, but chicken, pork, beef, or, yes, turkey would all be great. Use whatever you have. In this case, the rillettes were already shredded up, by virtue of being rillettes. However, if not already in little pieces, shred, slice or chop (take your pick) your protein. Heat a little oil in a skillet. Once it’s hot, lightly brown and crisp it up.  Since it’s already cooked, do this just before everything else is about to be ready.

The chard and the squash are both non-recipes, so no exact quantities needed. I generally just kind of loosely fill the pan.

Sautéed Chard 

(or Kale or Spinach)


A big bunch of chopped chard, kale, or spinach (really, most greens work here). If you’re using chard or kale, separate the leaves from the hardier part of the stems. Chop up the stem and keep them separate.
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
Lemon juice, white wine, water, or a combo
Olive oil (or cooking oil of your choice)
Feel free to get creative with other seasonings


1) Lightly heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan (ideally one with a lid) over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir in oil for about a minute. Raise heat to medium-high if using chard or kale, add in the stems and a splash of water or white wine. Toss well, then cover and allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the stems are starting to soften. Stir occasionally.

2) Add in the leaves and toss to combine. Add another splash of water or lemon juice if it’s looking dry, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the leaves are dark green, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and allow most of the liquid to evaporate. Leaves should be tender and cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.

(Note: spinach will cook more quickly than kale or chard. It will probably just require a few minute total and it’s ready as soon as it’s wilted.)

Roasted Butternut Squash

Most hardy veggies will also work relatively the same way. Use any leftovers if you have them–I did!


Butternut squash, cubed (I believe in this case, I saved myself some time and bought the pre-cut version.)
Olive oil (or other cooking oil)

Optional additional seasonings: Sage, thyme, chili pepper, za'atar, and curry are all great options. A squeeze of lemon juice at the end is also really good.


1.  Preheat oven to 425°F.

2.  Toss the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any additional seasonings. Spread them out on lightly greased baking sheet. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan.

3.  Place the squash in the oven and roast until tender, cooked through, and browned to your liking–about 25 to 35 minutes. Toss once halfway through.

(Note: I tend to like mine on the more toasty side, so I let them go longer than is technically needed. Feel free to adjust to your liking.

4.  Remove from oven, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.



Prepare polenta according to package instructions or use this great recipe for Creamy Polenta by Marcella Hazan. I often like to divide the water quantity with some stock. To make it extra decadent, stir in a little cream, goat cheese, Parmesan, or ricotta  off-heat at the very end.


Bonus Points: Crispy skin

If you happen to have skin leftover from your protein, crisp it up and use it as a garnish. There’s a few ways to do this. You can crisp it up in a lightly greased pan or by putting it in the oven. In this case, I believe I just ran it through the toaster oven a couple of times. Once it’s crispy, just break it up into pieces.


To Serve:

Spoon a little bit of polenta onto a plate. Top that with some of the greens, followed by the squash and the shredded protein. If you feel like a little extra garnish, sprinkle on some goat cheese or Parmesan. Sprinkle on some the crispy skin (if using) as garnish.



I wanted to give us an extra weeknight treat and decided to open a nice red Burgundy. Sadly, it was sadly corked. Wah wah. That said, I think Pinot Noir from quite a few regions would make a great match here, particularly if you’re having duck, chicken, turkey, or pork.  

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