Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What to do, what to do....With Leftovers

I bet you thought I was going to totally disappear again right?

You are not getting rid of me that easy.

Insert evil laugh here.

On to the food!

Everyone, throughout the holidays, makes too much food. We all end up with leftovers that usually end up getting thrown away because we don't know what to do with them. This bugs me in a big way. Don't get me wrong, I am the biggest culprit in this because I am so bacteria conscious that all I can think about when I see something in the fridge is how long has it been there and will it kill me if I eat it. This is why when I can stuff, I am UBER anal about "sterile field".

Now any of us that have any European roots knows about potato pancakes. The Polish have one, the Lithuanians have one, the Irish obviously have one and it goes on. Each is a little different but they all start with mashed potatoes.

My recipe is different. In this case I used Ham with it, but really you can use any meat left over from the large dinners. I have done beef from rib roast but made a gravy to go with it. I have done Turkey with this and added fresh asparagus and a turkey gravy. I have stuffed them with cheese for a vegetarian version, and I have made the loaded baked potato kind with bacon, cheese and sour cream.

Ham is more typically eaten in the Spring around the Equinox or Easter. I just happened to get ham on sale and had lots so I used it.

Fried Mashed Potato "OMG WTF am I going to do with these leftovers" Cakes

Start by adding your leftover mashed potatoes to a bowl. Chop up whatever is going into them. I wrote out some specific recipes on the bottom for ideas. Make this your own, and experiment. Isn't that what being a creative (okay, cheap is the truth) cook is all about?

In order to keep these things together you need a binder of sorts, and I ain't thinking about a Trapper Keeper. Yeah, that's right, the 80s are back.

To this I added 3 eggs and a half cup bread crumbs. If you go vegetarian with no eggs, just use bread crumbs but add a splash of heavy cream or whole milk to keep them from drying out. At this point it is totally up to you how you season it. I did garlic, and onion powder. If my kids hadn't been eating them I would have added green onions, sage and rosemary. But you know how kids are with green things in their food. Seriously, you can't find your backpack or shoes when they are right in front of you, but you can find that one microscopic piece of onion or herb.
Yes that is my thumb in a black nitrile glove, not some weird
thing on the side of the bowl. This shit had been in the fridge
and was COLD!
Then make palm sized balls.... (heehee balls!)

Flatten them out a little...

Then press into more bread crumbs, just to coat the outside. This is what creates the crust that holds them together. Be sure to roll the edges too.

In a pan, preferably with a lid and that is at least somewhat deeper than a standard frying pan, pour in enough olive oil to have an inch to an inch and a half deep. Yeah I said olive oil. It has a higher smoking point, so it gets hotter than a vegetable oil would. This is not all that fancy triple extra Mary of Nazareth virgin or anything. Plain.old.olive.oil. I know it says extra virgin here. It is actually incorrect, but I won't get into false labeling, and what the difference between olive oil, true cold press and extra virgin. Another time perhaps.

Yeah I know, I got this from Walmart. I know, they are the devil.
This gallon jug was 15 dollars. I couldn't say no. Call me weak,
but I just can't help it. My name is Red and I am a
Walmart addict.

Heat the oil until it just starts to smoke, and add no more than three in the large pan. You need the space for the heat to be distributed evenly.

Why am I making such a big freakin' deal about the frying? Well, this is not exactly a low fat item, and it only gets worse when it is not done correctly. Most restaurants do not have their oil to the proper temperature which the average consumer may not notice, but it significantly increases the number of calories in the food, lends a greasy texture and wrecks havoc on the digestive system. When frying oil isn't hot enough, the food just absorbs the oil. This is not a good thing.  You want it HOT. Just be careful please. I have scars to prove why you should be careful. I look like I have silvery white pox on my arms.

Here is what you are looking for; a nice brown crust.

Be sure to drain on paper towels, flipping to blot both sides. Then put on a pan in the oven at 200 degrees to keep warm.

 Warning about the inside however...it is like molten lava if you just try to eat it right away. Let it cool, your mouth will thank you because if you burn your mouth you won't be able to taste how amazeballs creativity with leftovers can taste. I always feel like an asshat when I do that, because I KNOW better. I apologize for these pictures. I used an older camera to try to save time, and it doesn't focus very well. Derp.

I threw on some mexican blend cheese. You can see the steam (sort of anyway) coming out of these.

Trust me, they were fantastic. Sorry about the pics, really wish you could have seen it. I have a friend that always takes pics of his food, and his always looks amazing. Maybe he should take my pics...christ on a cracker.

Here are some other options for your cakes. Same cooking process, and same binders are necessary.

Loaded Baked Potato

Leftover mashed taters
bacon, cooked and crumbled
sour cream
scallions, chopped
cheddar cheese

Add bacon, a "dollop" of sour cream, just don't over do that as it makes the mix too wet and it will fall apart in the frying pan. Add some of the shredded cheese and some of the scallions, then the bread crumb/egg binder mix. Be sure to coat in bread crumbs, and fry. Serve with Sour cream, top with cheese and more scallions on top

Beef Roast

Leftover mashed taters
Leftover beef roast, chopped
Leftover add ons from the meal (My family does mushrooms and onions sauteed in garlic butter, so those go in but anything that would compliment the beef could be added. The idea here is to use what is left.) Feel free to add any seasonings you wish. A little kitchen bouquet in the mix really makes this shine.
Beef Gravy
Slice of swiss or smoke provolone cheese
(These two things are optional but really add to it)

Add Taters, beef and add ons with the binders, coat in bread crumbs and fry. Serve with gravy and the cheese on top, if desired.

Turkey Dinner

Leftover mashed Taters
Leftover stuffing if you have it
Mix of dark and white meat turkey chopped or shredded
Turkey Gravy

Add taters, turkey meat, celery, scallions and some stuffing if you have it and it isn't too wet. Stuffing is optional but again, this is about using up the leftovers. Add binders, coat with bread crumbs and fry. Serve with gravy, and some scallions on top. You could also top with a slice of american cheese, as the creaminess seems to compliment this well.


In this, use your imagination. If you are Vegan, I really can't help you. If you don't eat eggs, just find another binder with some fat in it like heavy cream or whole milk, just be careful not to make the mix too wet. I know some veg people that eat a turkey substitute made of gluten. I do not advise using that in this recipe, it doesn't turn out right. However, very firm tofu, already chopped and browned and then put in this recipe is awesome. Add a mix of vegetables and make a butter and cream gravy with lots of garlic and onion. Cheese is good too. Seasoning could include anything you like but smoked paprika and a dash of turmeric really make this come alive.

Sausage Dinner 
(A lot of scandinavian descendants have sausage at holiday meals. My husband's family is Swedish and they do Korv. Polish/Eastern Europeans do Kielbasa, Scots do a sausage which I can't pronounce, and no it isn't Haggis, as that is served in the spring)

Follow the recipe for Beef roast, just use the sausage instead. You can serve with a white country gravy with mushrooms and carrots. Root vegetables are the pairing here. If there are things like squash and parsnips or carrots that was served with the regular meal, mash them up and add them in. They take on the same consistency as the potatoes so they work here.

Hope that gives you some use for all that leftover food. And you won't have a Mom freak out moment like I do when you can't remember how long something has been in the fridge (even if I put it there a couple days ago, because I am losing it) and end up throwing everything out for fear of some super bacteria taking over. Then you spend the afternoon scrubbing the fridge with bleach. I'm not the only one that does that right?

Word of advice, never take a microbiology course. You will never be able to relax around food ever again.

Cheers, and happy holidays!!