Leftovers. We’ve never had the chance to discuss them, have we? I know some of you who despise the idea of leftover food, almost as if you are above it. My life, maybe by design, often relies heavily on yesterday’s feast.
You see, I am a horrible judge of “how much is enough” when I’m in the kitchen. I have a fear of running out. This often leads to a refrigerator full of last night’s uneaten meals that never find their way into Tupperware for today’s lunch. Like a fool I usually come home and cook again.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out how this can build up over a course of three days. Luckily I was trained well in my formative years as on Mondays I would get creative with the microwave and the myriad Cool Whip containers full of Sunday dinner from my grandmother’s house. A little of this here, a little of that there, maybe a sprinkle of cheese, next thing you know I have a bowl full of something that resembles twice eaten dog food but tastes like a heavenly casserole. I felt like a 13-year-old Justin Wilson.
It wasn’t until later on in high school that I began to wonder, “How much Cool Whip can one woman buy? Does she have a problem?” To this day if I see the familiar white and blue container in my mom’s fridge or anyone else’s, the last thing I would dream of that container containing is Cool Whip.
I do have my favorite leftover rituals, but I asked around for some interesting ideas from friends. I’d like to hear of any weird (but delicious) leftover habits you may have and would gladly do a follow up column. Don’t be shy. I’ll change your name to protect your identity if you wish. I’m talking about you, “Sugar Plum Fairy.” Just come out, already. Nobody cares anymore.
Here are some of the things I came up with.
Leftover mashed potato pancakes: I have the inability to discern how many potatoes are enough for whatever amount of people. I always have leftovers. I failed at many glorious attempts at making the potato pancakes. The trick is to use very cold mashed potatoes. Mix in an egg and a little bit of flour. I usually add green onion, but some people despise that. The cast iron is my favorite skillet for this one. It doesn’t take much oil, but raise the temperature a little above medium. Make sure it’s hot before you put them in. Flatten it out with a spatula. It takes a little longer than you’d think. It’s not a real pancake, remember.
Some of you are thinking, “Andy, what about shepherd’s pie?” Well I’ll tell you why that won’t work. There are never enough leftover potatoes for shepherd’s pie, so while assembling the casserole I realize I have to (you guessed it) make more mashed potatoes. And the next day make potato pancakes.
Spaghetti: I know I am not the only one who accidentally makes enough spaghetti to feed the Green Bay Packers. Here are a couple of ways to dispose of it. Stuffed bell peppers are the simplest way. No point in making the meatloaf concoction. The other way is the growing trend of spaghetti tacos. Yes, put the spaghetti, sauce and all into a baked hard taco shell. Top with parmesan and let her rip.
Cornbread: I can happily put together a small portion of dressing, but my mom loves to make cornbread salad. Layer Romaine, peas, crumbled cornbread, cheese and creamy Italian dressing followed by another layer. Scoop and enjoy. Weirdly good.
Chocolate Easter bunny: In a double boiler melt the chocolate, butter, a little cream and a teaspoon or so of Grand Marnier. You’ll have a chocolate sauce you won’t believe. Serve this over ice cream or chocolate soufflés. Or your significant other.
Popcorn: The next time you have a bowl of soup don’t reach for the saltines. Go to that tin of leftover popcorn. Avoid the caramel. This also works well with gazpacho.
Moon pies: This one came from my sister. Coat two graham crackers with peanut butter and affix to a chocolate moon pie. Heat thoroughly in the oven and you’ll have one of the best s’mores ever.
Leftover bacon: Yeah, right.
Beer: I know you are thinking the same thing as bacon, but it happens. You crack open a cold one and leave it on the counter. Deep in conversation (or possibly drunk) you ask, “Where’s my beer?” then you head to the icebox to crack open another. Tomorrow you should take that lukewarm, flat beer and pour it into small lids placed by your garden. No more snails or slugs. Then say a couple of Hail Marys for wasting the beer.
Macaroni and cheese: While attending college I kept the Kraft Corporation in business. We called this creation “Macaroni and Gold.” Cold mac and cheese is horrible until you mix in diced ham, English peas, a tiny bit of yellow mustard, and crumbled Cheetos. When out of Cheetos, Cheese Nips will do fine.
Rotel dip: This is my favorite leftover dish ever. The day after the Super Bowl is usually my first one of the year. I make a flattened out grilled cheese with a generous portion of the dip replacing the usual single. It must be grilled in butter. It must be accompanied by a Coke. It must be consumed in solitude. No one needs to see you get that in your beard.
Send any odd submissions or creative ideas for leftovers my way. I don’t mean “here’s what to do with leftover rotisserie chicken.” You can do almost the same thing with it as you could a fresh, raw chicken. We already know that any protein or vegetable could become a quiche. I am looking for combinations that are unique. Maybe you have a crazy uncle with some habit. Maybe a hurricane forced you to discover something you’re proud of. Whatever the case, let’s clean out the fridge and eat!!
Spaghetti for Days