Making the most of leftovers may not be the most glamorous or sexy food topic we touch on this year, but with a bit of effort and a dash of creativity, there’s no reason that meals prepared using leftovers from holiday meals can’t deliver awesome flavours and eating pleasure. Sometimes using leftovers is all about making some odd bits go a long way, but often times we’re left with some really great ingredients that can play a starring role in a future meal. Today I want to share three key tips I always keep in mind as I contemplate ideas for leftovers that will make the next dish as impressive as the meal where these ingredients originated.
Especially when looking at meat, the manner in which we carve, breakdown and store the meat and bones from roasts of all manner can make a huge difference in our ability to make something great from the leftovers. Breaking down a roast and removing meat from the bones is a critical step in maintaining quality in the materials you’ll have to work with over the days to come. It is best to remove meat from the bones as soon as possible, but to try and keep pieces of meat in the largest possible portions. I’ve found that keeping meat in larger pieces helps keep it from drying out – and also offers the greatest number of options in terms of further portioning it down, whether you want it diced, sliced or cut into strips. Giving yourself flexibility in choosing the shape and size of the portions for future meals will definitely make your meat seem less like a leftover and more like a fabulous and delicious ingredient.
And don’t let those bones, meat scraps or vegetable trimmings disappear either – keep these items refrigerated and toss them into a pot the day following your big meal. This little bit of work will give you a great stock to us in preparing anything from soups and stews to risotto or pasta sauces. Great broth definitely elevates any dish its used in, and I’ve always found the best results are achieved when using broth made from the same base as the meat you’re using in a given dish. Whether we’re talking turkey, pork, beef or fish, even if you don’t have imminent plans to use this stock, it can easily be frozen in a Tupperware container – or better yet in ice cube trays, giving you small portions of stock to use at your convenience over the weeks and months to come.
From pizza to sandwiches and spring rolls to burritos, it’s amazing the impact that a fresh set of duds can offer ingredients from a previous meal. Whether we’re talking leftover roasted vegetables, meats, fish or even bean salads and rice, there are very few leftovers than can’t be spruced up when featured in a wrap, between a couple pieces of bread, or perhaps best of all, atop a pizza. Sure, not everything you’ll have left in the fridge after a big holiday meal will go together in a single taco or sandwich – but pick one or two items from your bounty and add some fresh/new ingredients to the mix, and you’ll be surprised just how transformative this process can be. Leftover turkey? Pull it apart and shred it by hand, add a bit of BBQ sauce and you’ve got pulled turkey for sandwiches. Leftover black beans? Add half a can of tomatoes and some Mexican spices and you’ve got a perfect filling for tacos, burrito, taquitos or enchiladas. If you’re completely stumped, why not use some of your leftovers in a panini or sandwich melt? I mean seriously – what food doesn’t taste better between crunchy toasted bread and melted cheese?!
Enter Witness Protection
Today we’ve left the best for last. One of the problems I’ve encountered with leftovers is a phenomenon I’ve dubbed “ingredient fatigue”. After gorging – as I’m apt to do around the holidays – on a particular feast, I come to a place where I don’t want to look at the culprit again for awhile. Unfortunately, the items upon which I gorge also tend to be the items of which there is the most left over. To get around this #FirstWorldProblem, I introduce the ingredient in question to the Culinary Witness Protection Program. In other words, I look for ways to completely transform this item to a point where even the most detailed oriented foodie couldn’t recognize a common thread between consecutive meals. I find curry dishes and risottos to be awesome ways to promote this utter transformation – but the most effective of all is “meal-shifting” items that might’ve been served at dinner yesterday to lunch, brunch or breakfast today. Omelettes, hashes and frittatas are delicious examples of breakfast/brunch items that offer welcoming homes for a wide assortment of flavourful ingredients. If lunch is more your pace, salads also offer a perfect opportunity to incorporate a leftover ingredient or two, and I find a bright acidic dressing or the addition of fresh fruit offers a brightness which revitalizes these leftovers in a delicious way.
[ Recipes ]
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad w/ Mint + Pistachios: RECIPE
Wine Match: Off-Dry Riesling from Mosel Valley or Clare Valley
Leftover Bread Stuffing Breakfast Strata: RECIPE
Wine Match: Sparkling Wine like Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy
Turkey, Pomegranate + Watercress w/ Clementine Dressing: RECIPE
Wine Match: Dry Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, Saumur or Savennieres
Hearty Winter Soup w/ Ham, White Beans + Thyme: RECIPE
Wine Match: Barrel-Aged Chardonnay or Pinot Noir from Burgundy
Vietnamese Style Cold Roast Beef Sandwich: RECIPE
Wine Match: Young Mid-weight Tempranillo or Garnacha from Spain