The Jane Butel Southwestern Cooking School offers weekend and week long participation classes focusing on Southwestern cuisine. The school was rate...
Growing up in the country meant a lot of things for me. I spent my springs in the woods making fresh maple syrup, my summers splashing through the nearby stream, my autumns in the woods again collecting mushrooms and firewood, and my winters curled up in front of the wood-burning stove. It meant spending hours in the garden in the spring, summer, and autumn -- planting and cultivating and harvesting -- and having the taste of summer in the middle of frigid winter. But, perhaps one of the most important lessons I took away from my childhood was that of the art of using leftovers. My mother would toil away on Sunday afternoon -- with the kids "helping" -- making a huge dinner. We rarely finished what was on the table, much less the extra helpings hidden away on the stove. However, during the week, that pot roast or baked chicken or ham or whatever would show up again. But, this time, it would be different. We might be enjoying a barbecued pork sandwich or a smoked turkey and bean soup or a spicy beef salad with horseradish dressing that had graced our table in a different form just days ago. I kept my eyes and my ears open and brought my mother's talent to my table -- and I've added some new tricks of my own through the years.
This column is all about sharing the art of using leftovers. Every month, a new way to use the same old thing will be introduced. Along the way, we'll take some detours to investigate how to stretch one or two ingredients into creative meals too. I encourage you to share your ideas about using leftovers too. I'd like this to be a learning experience for all of us. And now, without further ado, let's talk about one of the biggest producers of leftovers: ham.
I remember family dinners in which the star of the show was a beautiful marinated smoked ham. Now, however, with just two mouths to feed at Sunday dinner, ham can seem like a never-ending rerun. Don't despair! If your family can't finish that first meal -- and few can -- you don't need to worry about monotony taking over. All you need are a few ideas to dress up your leftovers.
One of the keys to making your leftovers different is adding extra texture and color to them by including new ingredients such as rice, red peppers, carrots, pasta, or peas. It can also be helpful if you opt to present what had been a main course dish as a first course dish or appetizer. If what had been presented on a large serving platter several days ago revisits your table on a salad plate, soup bowl, or appetizer platter, you might not hear groans of boredom coming to you from across the table.
I'm including five recipes in this month's column that take the fullest advantage of that leftover ham in your refrigerator. However, if you don't plan to use it all within a week -- and most of us choose not to -- repackage it in smaller containers and freeze it. If you want to save yourself time later, you can store some of it in slices, some cubed, and some in strips. Make sure you label your containers! Frozen ham doesn't always reveal much about itself. Another tip is to prepare extra amounts of your leftover dishes and either freeze them or make a point of having them for lunch. You'll beam when people stop by and ask what smells so good! Now, here's our line-up of leftover recipes: