Putting Life Back Into Leftovers

Flummoxed by what to do with the rest of that roast chicken you made the other night? What about the drawer full of vegetables that’s about to go bad? Well, WCNC’s Josh Starnes, the so-called “Leftover King,” Chef Peter Reinhart and local restaurateur Fran Scibelli joined Charlotte Talks host Mike Collins recently for a very (re)heated conversation about leftovers. Find out how to rejuvenate your days-old dinners. Listen to the show.

A few tips from the show:

  • Leftovers can be “planned overs” – plan ahead, make extra to eat later in the week. Or plan to turn it into something different.
  • With leftover vegetables – make a stew, ratatouille or Gazpacho
  • Not EVERYTHING should be doctored up. If you have a good piece of leftover steak – just slice it up, reheat in clarified butter and eat it in its purest form.
  • Condiments are huge. Explore the sauces at grocery stores and international markets. There are a number of simmer sauces you can get at the store now. Just throw leftover chicken in a simmer sauce to make it new again.
  • Turn leftover meat and veggies into a stir-fry with a zesty sauce.
  • The toaster oven can be your best friend – the results can be much better in the toaster oven than in the microwave, especially pizza, breads, etc.
  • Be creative! Not everything will turn out perfectly, but it can be a learning experience. Try new flavors together.
  • Turn mashed potatoes into potato latkes.

Read more tips from listeners and Josh’s Ten Commandments of Leftovers

The Ten Commandments of Leftovers:
(from Josh Starnes, to be featured in an upcoming cookbook)

1. Thou shalt never tell the table they are eating leftovers
2. Thou shalt never serve leftovers in the same dish twice
3. Thou shalt go from mild to spicy
4. Thou shalt change the texture before serving leftovers
5. Thou shalt change side dishes to entree dishes and vice versa
6. Thou shalt change from a main course to a dessert or salad course
7. Thou shalt change the color
8. Thou shalt change the moisture levels
9. Thou shalt consider the casserole dish in all matters
10. Thou shalt use the purest water from to make soup

Josh: my favorite leftover kitchen tools: casserole dish, eggs, emersion blender, fresh spices (especially mint, garlic, parsley, basil, lemon basil), frying pan.  Things I try to avoid: The Microwave, The Salt Shaker

Tips from listeners:

  • Try making refrigerator soups. My wife and I have been enjoying this for years where you concoct one-of-a-kind soups from the leftovers in the fridge.  A great meal and a great way to make room in the fridge.
  • If I have fresh vegetables such as a stalk of celery, I keep a dehydrator on hand and just chop it up and dry it. Good to add to soups when cooking.
  • Leftovers usually become quiche.
  • We don’t usually have leftovers, but I do make extra with two meals in mind. Cook a big pot of chickpeas – half becomes soup, half for hummus the next day.
  • The cold chicken and raw veggies salad gets reused as stir fry which then gets reused as soup or quiche. Variety over a few days.
  • I can turn 2 cups of cold mashed potatoes into the best gnocchi and for 4 people.
  • Place one flour tortilla on a plate. Smear with hummus or dressing of choice, add rice or quinoa, add salsa if available, top with mixture of any and all leftovers found in fridge. Add cheddar cheese on top. Slide into toaster oven, toast lightly, roll up, and chow!
  • We love topping a slice of warmed leftover homemade pizza with a fried egg the next morning.
  • Ketchup on all left overs make them MMM-MMMMM good.
  • We make chicken noodle soup with left over chicken, and the kicker is to reduce the onions and garlic with white wine. The better the white wine the better it taste 🙂
  • Two things: 1) Use the oven, not necessarily the microwave oven, to reheat the leftover food. It heats more thoroughly on all of the ingredients, not just those with water. 2) Your guests may scoff at using Kraft Mac & Cheese to begin with, but to resuscitate it the next day, use milk and powdered cheese. For about 1/4 of a standard box that’s been refrigerated, drizzle about 1 to 1.5 teaspoon of milk over the mac & cheese in a bowl. Then liberally sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top. Microwave. Not quite as good as the freshly made, but better than just microwaving the mac & cheese.
  • My tip for leftovers is to ditch the microwave and use a toaster oven. Leftover medium rare steak or lamb brought to room temperature, then wrapped in foil and heated at a lower temp, tastes great.
  • Lasagna is always better the next day. Scallops are NEVER better the next day.
  • You can put just about any leftovers into a steamed flour wrap that you toast on a non-stick electric griddle.
  • A leftover idea for pizza:  make an omelet! Scrape off the toppings (peppers, sausage, cheese, onions, etc) and add as a topping to a beaten egg and make an omelet! I have heard the wording:  planned overs – you are cooking once to make extra for another meal. A good Food Network program that highlights planned overs is Robin Miller.
  • Every Friday during high school in the 50’s, early 60’s we were served soup consisting of all the leftovers from the week.  We would spoon through our bowls of soup and pinpoint the previous day the ingredient had been served.  That was fun, the  soup was not.


Filed under Food

2 responses to “Putting Life Back Into Leftovers

  1. Roger Sarow

    Looking at the fridge photo full of odds and leftover ends–the mind boggles at what lurks under the foil on the bottom shelf, just above the crispers. Did this dish HAVE legs, or has it sprouted legs???

  2. thank you for saying “flummoxed.”

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