There isn’t a finer way to celebrate our nation’s independence than a booze-filled day of food gorging. We’d be better off taking the 5th of July as a day of rest and recovery. Once you snap out of your food coma and sober up, you realize your day of gluttony and excess left you with so many leftovers your refrigerator door won’t stay shut.
What’s a boy to do? You’ve got about three or four days of serious eating ahead, so let’s try to make this as interesting as we can.
I know you went overboard on the barbecue. It’s OK, we all want to show off from time to time, but your guests didn’t take home a doggy bag. You’re stuck with it, buddy. Pounds of meat you wouldn’t dare throw away will likely be the centerpiece of your next six meals and influence your upcoming shopping trip. Hopefully these tips will right the ship, so to speak.
Burgers and dogs are the most common 4th of July leftovers. I personally love hot dogs as breakfast meat. Don’t judge. Split down the middle and fried on the griddle next to an over-easy egg is sometimes better than bacon. Well, maybe not better than bacon, but sausage. Heck, it actually is sausage. Pierce that egg and hit it with some Louisiana Hot Sauce (the one with the red dot), then rub the wiener in the runny yolk. If you aren’t into the egg thing, dice them chunky and load your cheese grits.
For burgers, I like to crumble them up. I never reheat a full patty — it’s usually too dry. But crumbled-up cooked hamburger meat is versatile. It’s hot as all get out right now but I have an air conditioner that works well enough for me to enjoy soup all year round. Hamburger meat is great in a tomato-based vegetable soup or anything with pasta. Chili is a great use. A couple of cans of beans, tomatoes and onions and you’ll be in business. My boys love a Frito chili pie any time of year. Rotel dip is another use. There’s always a sporting event of some sort that requires Rotel.
That giant bowl of potato salad has your upper fridge shelf a little less feng shui than usual. You need to get rid of this first and redefine your Bagua energy map. Of course what to do with the contents of this vessel depends on what kind of potato salad you have, but they almost all go great with ham. Adding diced ham (a lot of it) to the bowl turns leftovers into a one-pot cold entrée. I love it. Another neglected trick to rid the icebox of potato salad is to put it on a sandwich. It’s oddly better than coleslaw, especially if it’s a ham sandwich.
Pulled pork is an easy one. If you had the Boston butt at your backyard party but couldn’t quite finish it off, you’ve probably already thought of sliders, big sandwiches, smothering the meat in barbecue sauce, etc. All of these are good ideas, but let’s shift focus on what best complements the other white meat. Whether you’re doing sandwiches or burritos, soup or Vietnamese noodles, there are certain things that elevate good ol’ Porky.
Pickles, apples and pineapple are some of my favorite additions to pork dishes, but not all at once. The right pickle makes or breaks a pork dish. Think about the Cuban sandwich. I love a good homemade pickle, not too sweet, with the greasiness of the meat and the crunch of the pressed bread. Pork and pineapple begs for onions and soy sauce. Get creative with the pig and apples of any kind. I sometimes make an applesauce with white onions that the kids won’t touch but I go wild for.
Condiment wise, pulled pork deserves mustard, and as much as I love sweet barbecue sauce on chicken it has to be vinegar-heavy for the pork.
A few of you with Texas roots may have taken a stab at brisket. If you have any left, my favorite suggestion is banh mi. These are Vietnamese sandwiches that knock your socks off, with French bread and pickled veggies. The bread is the most important part and it’s different from the traditional French baguette in that rice flour is used to to give it a light and airy crust. Find a Vietnamese place. Get the bread. Trust me.
For veggies, they usually use grated carrots and daikon in rice vinegar with sugar and salt. Kosher salt is best for pickling. And since you grate them, it doesn’t take days to pickle them. And hour or two will do. We still want that crunch from the carrot and radish.
Thinly slice the brisket and make a po’boy with the baguette. Add mayo, the vegetables and more cilantro than you think you need. The Vietnamese I know spice it up with a couple of raw jalapeno rings. Of course, everyone is still Sriracha crazy at the moment, and I encourage that behavior as well.
Chances are you cracked at least one watermelon. Once cut it spoils fast. I am a huge fan of watermelon with feta cheese, but any salty cheese will do. Sprigs of mint work well with this. Of course, you could make a million different cocktails, popsicles, purees and the like. Gazpacho is great with watermelon, tomatoes and roasted red pepper.
Melon balls in salads are pretty standard but watermelon is also excellent with chicken, bacon and boiled shrimp. Don’t forget the rind makes excellent preserves (and pickles).
I’m starving just thinking of all the things I’m going to cook this week. I have plans for every night. By Monday I’m sure I’ll be searching for a star to wish upon. More leftovers, please.
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