Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things to Do with Leftovers that Create More Leftovers

As I have written before, I hate to serve leftovers by just heating them up and putting them on a plate. I know, that's the time saving way to do it, but I figure, they were left over because no one was too crazy about them in their original state. Of course, the fact that my husband cooks as if he were cooking for six people instead of two is a factor also, but one I prefer to ignore in the quest to make life harder for myself.

The problem is, re-imagining leftovers always seems to involve  a few fresh ingredients, thereby increasing the volume of the original leftovers, and creating - more leftovers.

Take hash, for instance. The basic ingredients, meat and potatoes, are usually already cooked because whenever hubby makes a steak or a roast, he bakes potatoes. He doesn't just bake two potatoes, he bakes four or five. So I have meat and potatoes on hand for the basics, but I have to add chopped, sauteed onions, celery, and bell peppers and then mushrooms if we have some that are looking peaked. Finally, I add Hungarian paprika cream for some color and flavor, and just before the final browning, a little sour cream. By this time, I have enough hash to feed four to six people easily.

Then there's my faux risotto. I make real risotto on occasion, but when we have leftover rice, I make my faux version. That involves dicing up onion and browning it, chopping and adding whatever leftover vegetables we have on hand, adding the cooked rice and enough chicken stock to cover the ingredients by half an inch or so. If I have white wine I use it for some of the liquid. Then I cook it down until it's still a little soupy and stir in Parmesan cheese to thicken it all up. By then, I've at least doubled the volume of the rice, but it tastes better than plain rice that's been drying out in the refrigerator for a week. Besides, this is the only way hubby will eat brown rice.

Of course, making soup is a wonderful way to make sure leftovers for two turn into leftovers for half a dozen. Whenever we have a chicken carcass, I try to get to it before hubby does, because I prefer my soup making methods to his. Hubby throws the carcass, skin and all in with onions, celery, carrots and bouillon, and when it's done, he removes the skin and bones and serves the rest, mushy celery and onions, chicken fat, and all. 

I remove as much of the skin as possible to keep the fat content down, and cook the chicken in canned broth with onions, celery, and whatever fresh herbs are around (and salt and pepper to taste). The last twenty minutes or so I squeeze in two small lemons ( a trick I learned from Anne Burrell's cooking show) and throw in the rinds. Twenty minutes later I strain the broth into a bowl, and pick the meat off the bones. I keep the chicken meat and broth, but everything else, celery, onion, herbs, bones etc, gets tossed out. I allow the broth to stand in the refrigerator until the fat rises and solidifies enough to be skimmed off. Then I cook some carrots in the broth, and add any leftover cooked vegetables that are appropriate when I add the chicken. If we have frozen peas I put them in, but if not I add canned garbanzo beans. I cook noodles or pasta separately to add to the individual soup bowls, so the broth doesn't get all starchy and the pasta doesn't get soggy and slimy.

My final recipe for wasting your time with leftovers is Sloppy Joes. Usually I make Sloppy Joes by taking my leftover homemade pasta sauce (which contains ground beef and bulk sausage), adding a little brown sugar and cider vinegar and cooking the sauce (which is already very meaty) down to Sloppy Joe consistency. Today, however, I used leftover meat loaf, which had become very crumbly, plus  the chopped up remains of a hamburger John brought back from a restaurant. To the sauteed onion and garlic, I added the last quarter cup of  Italian dressing John had made with tomato soup (great recipe), a small can of tomato sauce and the sauce can full of water, then let it cook down slowly while I dealt with the soup. The bread crumbs in the meat loaf thickened the sauce as the water evaporated, and the salad dressing gave it the appropriate tang. I froze the inevitable leftovers.

So there you have it. Why save yourself time with leftovers, a plate, and a microwave when with a little time and effort (okay, a lot of time and effort), you can make yourself even more leftovers?


  1. It never fails. First my mom did it, and now I do too. Add an ingrediant here, another one there and suddenly it's the Amazing Gigantic Leftovers! We never manage to eat it all in on emeal - wether a pasta dish, casserole, or soup.

  2. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one.

  3. Leftovers are the basis of some of my favourite meals. After all I have the core ingredients and I can just scrounge around the kitchen looking for more things to throw in. The whole is greater than the parts and no two creations ever taste quite the same.

    In fact your post has inspired me with some great ideas as to things to do with leftovers.

  4. I make leftovers on purpose so that I can bring them to work for lunch. One of the very, very few things I dislike about my husband's cooking - he does it professionally - is that it doesn't result in any leftovers. He's all about the precise placement of items on the plate, which doesn't translate well to "microwaving at work."

  5. @storiteller - We used to bring lunches to work, too, before we retired, which is why my husband cooks so much. It's hard for him to get out of the habit. I do batch cooking, too, but it's for things like chili, soup, and spaghetti sauce, which freeze well.

    @mmy - I hope you share your ideas for your leftovers.

    I have some leftover lentils and I'm thinking of making mujadara. My favorite restaurant makes it with lentils and bulgar wheat, but I've also had it with lentils and rice, which is what I'm going to make.

  6. In my own small way, I am the master of "Pasta con Frutti di Frigidaire."