Land of Leftovers

This month, I'm doing a little something different. Unlike most months in which I take the "what's-in-the-fridge" approach to leftovers, I'm going to be writing about the value that can be reaped in planning to make leftovers. Those that are used to sitting down at a table set for one or two probably know what I'm talking about. It's all about making those meals that you've been craving for days and taking advantage of the fact that they're just not meant for small crowds. With a little creativity and some extra storage space in your refrigerator, you'll find traditionally large meals finding their way into your kitchen ... and onto your table ... and into your refrigerator or freezer ... and onto your table again. I think you get the picture.

Imagine roasting a wonderful turkey for two people. Sound like the definition of eternity? Nonsense! Go ahead and make that turkey (try using Phil Gantt's recipe for Honey Turkey) and get ready to enjoy wonderful dishes like turkey tetrazzini, quesadillas stuffed with turkey and tomatoes and turkey veggi pitas. Find recipes that call for cooked turkey or chicken or duck and feel free to use those leftovers! If you freeze half of the leftovers in single size containers, you'll be able to enjoy that comfort food over the course of several months.

Another inspiring dish to tackle is simple corned beef. Enjoy the corned beef the first time around with boiled vegetables and your favorite mustards. Then, use some of the leftovers for corned beef hash for a hearty breakfast treat. If that's not enough to satisfy your cravings, thinly slice some more leftovers for a classic Reuben sandwich. Again, any "extras" can conveniently find themselves in single size containers to be enjoyed later.

Roast beef is another prime (excuse the pun, I couldn't resist!) example of a meal that lends itself well to planned leftovers. Enjoy lovely slices of roast beef with gravy and the fixings one night and get ready for your favorite sandwiches, soups and stir-fries later on. In fact, you could easily make a double batch of soup from leftover roast beef and freeze half of that for another day! Imagine the possibilities.

Even great vegetable classics like ratatouille can find new life as a great pita or soup filler. I've even made quiche that starred last night's ratatouille! And it freezes perfectly and tastes even better a day or two after it's made. What more can you ask for?

To help you on your way, I’m including some recipes that are meant to serve a large crowd. Don’t let that stop you! Take it as a challenge to find new and exciting ways to serve your favorites. Who knows? You might come up with a few new favorites!

Enjoy and make sure that you let me know what you do with your leftovers! I’m always looking for new ways to serve the same old thing!

Classic Corned Beef

  • 1 corned beef brisket weighing about 4 pounds
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 2 large bay leaves

Rinse the brisket under running water to remove any surface brine. Put the brisket into a large pot or Dutch oven and add enough water to cover it. Add the peppercorns and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, covered, until fork tender -- usually about 3 hours. Pass your favorite mustards or horseradish and serve with boiled vegetables, if desired.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 3 hours

Classic Beef Roast

  • 1 beef roast weighing about 4 pounds
  • 2-4 T. oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Weigh the beef roast and determine the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes per pound plus 15 minutes for rare meat, 20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes for medium meat, and 25-30 minutes per pound plus 25 minutes for well-done meat.

Heat the oil in a roasting pan in the oven. Place the meat on a rack, fat side up, then place the rack in the roasting pan. Baste the beef with the oil, season, and cook for the required time, basting occasionally. To serve, cut meat across the grain and serve with a little of the drippings drizzled over the meat.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 25 minutes, depending on desired meat doneness

Classic Ratatouille

  • 4 large eggplants, coarsely chopped
  • 8 small zucchini, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 4 medium onions, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 4 large yellow bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
  • 6 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 16 basil leaves, coarsely torn
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place the eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with salt and place a plate with a weight on top to extract any bitter juice. Leave for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion for about 6-7 minutes until just softened. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.

Rinse, drain and pat dry the eggplant with paper towels. Add to the pan with the peppers, increase the heat and sauté until the peppers are just turning brown.

Add the herbs and coriander seeds, then cover the pan and cook gently for about 40 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook gently for another 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft, but not too mushy. Remove the sprigs of herbs. Stir in the torn basil leaves and check the seasoning. Serve warm or cold.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes