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Dishes for Using Up Small Amounts of Leftovers?


Chris Amirault
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Thanks to the Week without Shopping Klatsch, I've been noticing the small amounts of leftovers I usually have in the fridge after meals and just as usually throw out. I'm finding that harder and harder to do, so I'm looking for dishes that use the stuff up instead.

Pasta dishes have often been my go-to, but last night on a whim I noticed four grilled mushrooms and half a cup of grilled balsamic red onions from the night before, a cup of cooked spaghetti, an inch of pecorino romano, and a few Ts of roasted garlic and onion jam in the fridge: five containers with small amounts of stuff that would be headed for the pail most weeks. Last night, though, I decided to make a frittata with six really good eggs from the farmer's market. Diced and sauteed the mushrooms and onion, added the jam, beat the eggs... you get the idea. When my wife Andrea saw the finished frittata, she smiled and said, "That's great -- lunch all week."

Well, that got me thinking about other possibilities. What do you make when you have some of this and that in the fridge and want to clean it out?

Chris Amirault

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Although I happily use (and actually plan for) leftovers, I've never been a fan of trying to use everything in the fridge in one dish -- I find flavors get muddied and you end up with something that has no focus.

In your example, although I'm sure the fritatta was great, I would have used the grilled mushrooms and onions on a salad, (alone or with leftover steak if there was some), and saved the onion/garlic jam for another dish -- maybe pureed with some roasted red pepper into a sauce for the pasta. Or as an appetizer, spread on some crostini and topped with slivers of the pecorino.

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Yes, the frittata items proved a happy family, but that's rarely the case.

ETA: It was hardly everything in the fridge, either. I wish the leftovers totaled fewer than a dozen at any given moment!

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I make a lot of breakfast burritos. It enables me to use up small bits of leftovers quickly, i.e. the next morning, and I also try to vary it a bit with condiments and herbs (usually also leftover from another recipe).

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For me it's always soup. It's amazing how a bit of this and that in broth makes something good for lunch. I almost never throw anything out, although today I did toss a spoonful of escargots that I just couldn't figure on eating as leftovers.

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For most small quantities of leftover meat and some vegetable items, hash is probably my favorite. It's a leftover dish that often exceeds the original item. If I make brisket, short ribs or something like that for dinner, I often look forward to the next morning's hash more than I do to the dish itself. Sometimes I throw a small amount of something random-seeming into a hash and it really elevates the dish. Like Chris's grilled balsamic red onions -- those could be an inspired addition to a hash.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I find that a piece of meat, vegetables, etc. are pretty easy to use up. The challenge comes with dishes that are heavily sauced and/or spiced. Chinese and Indian food come to mind: they'll often have more assertive flavors or textures that don't play well with others.

One technique that I've picked up from percyn is to use a little bit of leftovers to top creamy scrambled eggs. Here's Percy's Szechuan chicken on eggs and toast:

3260020771_b3484feff2.jpg

The eggs aren't a neutral flavor, exactly, but they go well with lots of other flavors. It's a good way to use up a few tablespoons of whatever leftovers you have around.

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Okay, check this out. I did this a few mornings ago, and I was quite surprised at how good it was.

Leftover brown rice.

Leftover baked yam.

Aromatics and Vggies

Sauted minced garlic; chopped onion, bell pepper; diced carrot and celery.

Added salt, pepper, worchestershire, spritz of soy sauce, simmered a sec or two.

Added small chunks of the baked yam then some brown rice.

It was wonderful...AND no tortilla shell needed (which I am king about the house when it comes to making leftover fixins in tortilla shells).

Starkman

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It's interesting because I've noticed where I live in Italy, families make just enough so as not to have leftovers. Pasta is weighed out etc. I love leftovers and sometimes I have to argue with my husband about making extra of anything! He always wants to know the exact time and meal we will eat them! Iwas never so aware of the weight of my food before I married him! In any case, I make leftovers anyway, and we always eat them.

If on the off chance we have left over pasta or rice, it gets turned into an frittata style concoction. It sounds gross, but quite yummy! Other vegetables and lunch meats often get eaten but if not, since I like to make stuffed meats, chickens etc they often get thrown in there! Stuffing is always yummy!

For most small quantities of leftover meat and some vegetable items, hash is probably my favorite. It's a leftover dish that often exceeds the original item. If I make brisket, short ribs or something like that for dinner, I often look forward to the next morning's hash more than I do to the dish itself. Sometimes I throw a small amount of something random-seeming into a hash and it really elevates the dish. Like Chris's grilled balsamic red onions -- those could be an inspired addition to a hash.

I love Hash. I was just curious though. When you make it, do you grind up all the ingredients? How do you cut the potatoes and onions? I ask because recently I was looking up recipes on the internet and some suggested grinding. I don't want to eat mush.

I know it's OT, but was curious!

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No grinding here. I go with a rustic texture: roughly chopped potatoes, medium-diced onions and medium dice of everything else.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If the leftovers have many veggies then let the salad spinner do the job.

Also it is a nice idea to mix them all, add some noodles and pan fry them for a minute or two.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I often have bread dough in the fridge or freezer, which I roll out and fill. It's like how other people feel about fried rice - you wrap something in bread dough and bake it, it's gonna be good. I often make a pan of calzone type things, of a few different kinds, to use up bits of this and that. Biscuit dough also works great. It's simple to do but it makes the meal feel special.

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I'm often quite happy with a quick stir fry, working the leftover flavors into some fresh vegetables or noodles. touch up with the sauces at hand, and a meal is ready fairly quick.

And, if it's protein, you can always do up a quick curry.

Most of the time, though, I just pack out the leftovers with rice for my lunch at work.

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Not particularly gourmet but I've seen it done and enjoyed it many times: leftover pie!

The idea is simple, you place all your leftovers in a pie shell with plenty of spices and herbs if you feel like it. Potatoes, pasta, grains, meat, cold cuts, cheese and some vegetables are great... you can also add frozen peas or corn if you are short on vegetables. It is usually served with homemade ketchups or chutneys.

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I'm not so fond of egg dishes, although someone above wondered what to do with leftover curry. Cut up fairly small, curried veggies, especially cauliflower or peas, scrambled into eggs is pretty good. Leftover chicken and veg curry also makes a very nice pot pie.

For me the single most useful purchase that allows me to use up leftovers would be potatoes. As long as I have a couple of potatoes I can usually put together a blended soup from simple leftovers such as spinach, zukes, carrots, one fennel bulb, etc. And it helps to have some stock in the freezer.

I make hash too, especially if there is leftover meat that can be shredded or cubed: potatoes, green peppers, onions, lots of garlic. At the end of the week I get intense satisfaction if I can make "dinner from nothing."

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Last night, I used up cooked broccoli, from two nights ago, about a serving of pasta, some sauce, and some cooked sausage from three nights ago, in a stew sort of thing.

I made a bean stew, with the broccoli, the sausage, the sauce, and chicken broth, with two cans of white beans, cooked pasta mixed in at the end. It was kind of a patchy pasta e fagioli. Lots of parmesan, and hot peppers, garlic bread on the side, and it was amazingly good.

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