Leftover ideas on leftovers


It was a Saturday morning, and I was warming up leftover wild rice and leftover asparagus to put into an omelet.

“You should write a column about that,” said my wife, who is more attuned to such things than I am. “You could tell people all the many different ways to use leftovers.”

Her idea struck home with me. Just the week before we had some shrimp fajitas left over after a birthday party at a popular Mexican restaurant. The next day — OK, it was really the next two days — I cut them up and used them for shrimp fajita omelets.

And I always look forward to leftover Chinese food, because I use it to make leftover Chinese omelets. And leftover Indian food? It goes right into leftover Indian omelets.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I recently had some leftover salmon, and I did not use it to make an omelet. Not at all. Instead, I added it to scrambled eggs.

Completely different thing.

Obviously, there are plenty of things to do with leftovers that do not involve eggs. A superabundance of them. So many that it would be a waste of my time and yours to list them.

Such as… Um…

Well, sandwiches are an obvious choice: But everyone knows that. Take some leftover meat, slap it between a couple of slices of bread, maybe add a bit of cheese, and slather on the condiment of your choice. Simple, right?

But you can always gussy it up a bit. You can add hot (or mild) salsa instead of ketchup, or mix together mayonnaise, mustard, and prepared horseradish. You can top the meat with roasted red peppers or slices of cucumber — thin slices of pickle go well with most meats, too. Use blue cheese instead of Swiss or cheddar, especially with red meats. Add mushrooms that have been sautéed with garlic and thyme in olive oil, or do the same thing with thin strips of zucchini.

You could even top your sandwich with a fried egg, but that would be an egg and we’re not talking about eggs.

Pretty much any meat can be turned into hash, when cooked with diced potatoes and onions (start cooking the potatoes and onions long before adding the meat, so they become fully cooked). When I say “pretty much any meat,” I mean it: I once had clam hash at a restaurant in Connecticut. I don’t recommend trying it. The restaurant that cooked it closed earlier this year, and although I will not claim it was the response to the clam hash that led to its demise (it was, after all, in business for 30 years), I imagine that lovers of clams and hash everywhere were glad to see it go.

Chicken doesn’t make particularly good hash either, but chicken does make excellent chicken pot pie and chicken a la king, which is basically the same thing without the crust. The richer the sauce, the better, and the farther you take the chicken from its original application as the previous night’s meal.

Leftover vegetables? Chop them up, mix them with eggs and milk (or cream), toss them in a pie crust, and bake yourself a quiche. Or make a vegetable sandwich. Leftover mashed potatoes can be pan-fried in butter to make potato cakes that are crisp on the outside and rich and gooey on the inside.

Most meats and vegetables can be turned into a stir-fry when diced and julienned. Add soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and hot peppers if you want. A bit of hoisin sauce or even peanut butter wouldn’t hurt. Bell peppers and onions add to the flavor and provide an extra crunch, and think about adding bean sprouts or water chestnuts.

And the day after you enjoy that nice, hearty, Chinese-style meal, then what do you do with the leftovers of that?

You could always put them in an omelet.

Contact Daniel Neman at dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.