Foodie Tuesday: When in Doubt, Bring Leftovers Out

Non-chef that I am, I’m not really all that often full of impressive inspiration when headed into the kitchen. Lack of super-skills aside, my more impressive store of laziness usually wins the day, and if there’s nothing spectacular lurking in fridge or pantry that simply cries out to be doctored up and consumed, what’s much more likely to occur is that I’m faced with a modest selection of bits, bites and bobs that require a small amount of creative re-combination or even disguise to avoid boring us all to starvation.

And there are those items best made in large quantities anyway, or at least larger amounts than needed for a single meal for our household-of-two. You’ll never catch me making chili or lasagna or any other labor-intensive concoction in a two-serving batch when most of them taste better with the passing days for their fridge lifespan and the rest can be frozen in smaller packets for time beyond that.photo

So the pulled pork lying in wait in the refrigerator might dress up as crispy-edged carnitas redolent with cumin one day, to be served with an array of good Mexican side dishes, and then appear as a chopped topping with cheese and vegetables and hard boiled eggs for a big chef’s salad, and finally, become glistening barbecue pork, sauced with a sweet and spicy Memphis-style stickiness and served up with buttery roasted sweet potatoes and creamy coleslaw. Yesterday’s leftover fried chicken gets broken down into chopped meat and chopped crispy skin; the meat gets tossed together with an equal amount of leftover rice and stirred up with salsa and cream, topped with shredded cheese and then the skin ‘cracklings’, and it all gets baked up into a simple Tex-Mex fried chicken casserole that’s hearty and heartwarming enough nobody even complains that it’s YMCA (my Oz compatriot John’s loving title for leftovers as Yesterday’s Muck Cooked Again).photoAnd of course, roasts and chops and steaks are easy as, well, Steak-and-Guinness Pie to deal with any old time. Besides the infinite variations on a casserole possible, there are the omelets, quiches and frittatas, the sandwiches and salads, and the curries and stir-fries. So many ways to spell deliciousness without excessive slavery over the hot cooker. As witness, a quick variant of teriyaki beef that goes neatly atop a cold sesame noodle salad, steaming fried rice, or on a marvelous glossy heap of citrusy wok-fried snow peas, yellow capiscum, celery, carrot flowers–when you cut 5 or 6 v-shaped grooves lengthwise down the sides of whole peeled carrots and then slice them across, you get nice little folk-arty orange flowers to throw in the pan–and finely julienned fresh ginger.photoJust hot up the sliced leftover steak in a hot skillet or wok with a mixture of appropriate Asian flavors that suits your mood and the occasion and blends the sweet, the sour, the spicy and the salty to your taste, and there you have it. The solution to your empty-stomach problem in the blink of an eye. The steak here was glazed with a mixture of soy sauce, raw honey, ginger juice, lime juice, and a couple of drops of toasted sesame oil for mellowness, and finished with sesame seeds for a little delicate crunch. A little hot oil or hot sauce at the table for those who like a hit of zing on top. No fuss. Lots of flavor. If you ask me, the only thing to add is your chopsticks, then your teeth.photo

24 thoughts on “Foodie Tuesday: When in Doubt, Bring Leftovers Out

    • Yes, I guess this is the edible equivalent of the recently popularized term Upcycling–making the leftovers better with each iteration, where possible. πŸ˜‰

  1. Never have left-overs looked as good as those you photographed for this pose, Kathryn.

    Recently, on one of those ubiquitous cooking contests pitting chefs against each other, one of the contestants proudly stated that she never cooked left-overs when faced with the challenge of making an entree from a few left-overs. Unsurprisingly, she was shown the door. How odd! A trained chef that has not and cannot cook left-overs? I always have some left-overs in my fridge and they’re the basis of many a lunch or evening meal side dish. And when all else fails, add a couple eggs and make a frittata. Silly chef!

    • Really! Seems to me if you can’t make something good out of what’s on hand you’re doomed to starvation or at least severe boredom. Silly chef indeed! Sometimes I just want to reach through the TV and shake some sense into people. It happens a lot when Househunters International are lounging their way through million-dollar island homes and whimpering plaintively, ‘but the walk-in closets are so SMALL!’, as if one needs to have more than four articles of clothing for swanning around one’s tropical villa . . .

    • Thank you, my friend! Food photography is not something that comes naturally to me–I just want to eat it immediately, for one thing–so I’m trying to improve gradually. πŸ™‚

    • Now, I do have to admit that if it wasn’t good the first time around, no amount of doctoring is likely to rescue it as leftovers, but that’s why I try to rein in my monkeying obsessions *just enough* that things can’t usually be messed up too horribly and *can* be re-interpreted after the fact. πŸ™‚

  2. Like your ideas,my tip is to make double portions of casserole,so next day is left-over day by default

    • My dear Madame, you made my day! I struggle with food-shooting (see my note to Drive Thru Guy above), so I’m greatly relieved when people find them acceptable. πŸ™‚

      Almost every photo on this blog is shot with the same point-and-shoot camera, which compensates nicely for my lack of technique: a Canon PowerShot SD1000 (from their ELPH series, 7.1 mp). It shoots cleanly under a wider range of conditions by far than my expensive DSLR ever did, and weighs a tenth of the tonnage, so it just lives in my pocket or purse constantly. I am going to sell off the ‘fancy’ camera, because it ends up just living in storage since I haven’t the technical skills to make good use of it. What I can’t figure out how to make the little camera do, I make up for with my beginner skills in Photoshop! πŸ™‚

      Best to you,
      Kathryn

    • Hope you’ve had a chance to try this . . . I’m such a fan of ginger in all forms that I tend to have a number of them around at any time Just in Case! πŸ™‚

    • As I say, if it’s good enough the first time around, it should be good at another go, and another, as long as it’s not messed about too much in the meantime!

    • . . . and it’s a good thing I ate my lunch a little bit ago, because I decided that since it’s laundry day and the house was already going to be too warm I might as well do a little baking, and now I’m smelling the spicy crackers and the ‘Margarita’ bars both baking, and I would definitely be in trouble if I hadn’t already eaten! πŸ™‚

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