For many American families, the dinner on Thanksgiving is the star of the holiday. Now, don’t get me wrong. For months before Thanksgiving, I dream of my uncle’s fluffy mashed potatoes and juicy turkey, my cousin's crispy stuffing, and my grandmother's apple and pumpkin pie. However, to me and my family, the post-Thanksgiving leftover sandwich is just as exciting as the dinner we ate the night before.

But let me back up. For most of my childhood, I spent every Thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family on Long Island. It was a full house of about 30 people, all of whom loved to cook. My sister, three brothers, parents, and I caught up with my uncles, aunts, and cousins. Naturally, this always meant a lot of food — two turkeys and two different types of gravy, each made by an uncle of mine to see who cooked it “the right way,” days and days of preparation and crockpots of different side dishes sitting in the garage, a huge fold-out table in the middle of the living room that you had to squeeze behind just to get to the kitchen, and plates filled to the brim with mashed potato mountains, turkey drowned in gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cornbread. Then came the stacks of brownies, pumpkin bread, chocolate chip cookies, pies, and pastries that made me feel full just by looking at them.

But after all that chaos is done, it’s the meal that is made from the leftovers the next day that I look forward to most. Like most families, we use our leftover turkey, cranberries, stuffing, and anything else we want to create the ultimate leftover sandwiches. But one small addition — a secret ingredient we prepare specifically for this sandwich — is what makes it so good. It’s my aunt’s famous Gouton grilled cheese sandwiches. Gouton, also known as gorton or cretan, is a French Canadian meat dressing. It is made with chopped meat such as ground pork and pork fat, onions, water, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. We plan the second day sammy so far ahead that we stuff one of the turkeys with gouton, but we resist the urge to eat it on Thanksgiving. Once the turkey is done cooking and ready to eat, we take the gouton out and save it in a Tupperware for the next day.

The addition of this spread in my aunt’s grilled cheese, made with white bread, lots of butter, cheddar cheese, and, of course, gouton, is so much better than any other leftover Thanksgiving sandwich. It melts in your mouth and has the same crispy cheesy goodness as regular grilled cheese, with the bonus of perfectly seasoned meat. It is truly heaven and extra special because we all only eat them once a year.

The gouton grilled cheese always made me think of my uncle, who I always picture in the kitchen of his house whether it was for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or just a random summer day. As a young kid, I was afraid of trying new things, especially food. My uncle, however, wouldn’t have it. He refused to let me be afraid and urged me to try everything, including gouton. And, more importantly, he helped me understand that new can mean something amazing. Unfortunately, two summers ago, he passed away unexpectedly leaving me without a chance to say goodbye. It was a difficult loss for me, and I continued to look for ways to connect with his memory. So, while gouton is delicious, it has another special meaning to me because just thinking about it transports me back to the time spent with him and my family. It makes me feel connected to him even if we can’t truly be together.