I'm just not ready to give up on Christmas yet, I guess. Though really, the lessons learned from our post-holiday leftover extravaganza do translate into your regular run of the mill overstocked fridge evenings. Repurposing the large quantities of leftovers into something a family would want to eat for oh, four days in a row, was a challenge, but one which the Boyfriend and I met head on. Okay, here's where I have to break it down. To be honest, I was worried about cooking the Christmas feast. Not because I thought the dishes were beyond us, but because really, the Boyfriend and I don't generally cook together. The main reason being our kitchen, which as you know, is the size of an airplane bathroom, making standing next to one another impossible, let alone bearing knives. As I see it, cooking with someone can be as treacherous as traveling together, or perhaps a more appropriate analogy for our line of work, like playing a scene together. Its all in the chemistry, the give and take, the compatibility of styles, and plenty of counter space (dressing room, or kitchen). The stage has got to be big enough for both of you, or someone's going to end up chewing the scenery. In Florida, the three kitchens available to us were spacious, granite countertopped, island-boasting affairs. Plenty of room to stretch out and stay out of each other's way. Too many cooks, you know. While we planned the menu together, we gracefully fell to our separate jobs, checking back on one another to taste, reseason, offer advice, or catch a drip. Overall it was a beautiful birth of a new partnership--or should I say, a new aspect of the current one. The success was evidenced by our a) not stabbing one another with a fork, and b) the fact that we continued to plan, shop, and cook together for the remainder of our stay. Quite tastily, I might add.
Boxing Day, December 26th: Pork sandwiches on leftover mini dinner rolls, topped with the leftover red cabbage and pickles. SO so tasty, it was almost better the second day around. Served of course with a side of...
The Boyfriend's fried yucca. The leftover yucca was sliced into wedges and fried in vegetable oil. I may have mentioned that yucca, like potato, is good for mashing or boiling. No suprise it's also, as our uncle would say, a KILLER when fried. We added a little Mouse/Boyfriend extra spice by serving it with chipotle mayonnaise and lime slices (recipe: buy a can of chipotles in adobo. Mix adobo and some of the chopped pepper with mayo to taste. Squeeze lime if you're crazy).
While the sandwiches and yucca were pretty much the tastiest things EVER, the award for best leftover makeover goes to our rice and beans, barely recognizable in the below pictures.
Here we have the beans, pureed in a food processor with a couple good chunks of onion, two chopped plum tomatoes, two cloves of fresh garlic, and a few jalapeno slices to create a delicious black bean dip. I topped it with a quick salad of deconstructed guacamole (if there'd been any guac left over from our late night xmas snacking I would have just used that): sliced avocado, diced onion and tomato, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and salt. SO good.
And here, though I can't say this picture does it justice, is the leftover white rice, gone cold and sticky in the fridge, transformed into a delectable arroz con leche, or rice pudding. I'd had the idea a while back to use leftover chinese/thai takeout rice in this manner, but never tried it. Personally, I love rice pudding, and the Boyfriend has rhapsodized before about the warm arroz con leche his mom used to make. Some experimenting and improvising later, I heard one sister say to another, "You have to taste this, even if you're full, if only because it'll remind you of mom." Am I kind of proud of this one? You could say that.
Needless to say, this meal kicked some post-holiday ass.
Sunday, December 27: Football at the Boyfriend's Brother's house. The Boyfriend's sister had hosted a Christmas Eve party from which there were, naturally, leftovers. One of those leftovers was a whole mess of roast turkey. I had mentioned making chicken salad from the leftover Old Bay chicken, and the Boyfriend suggested we use the turkey instead. As we were driving over to the house with a cooler full of leftovers, we brainstormed. What kind of turkey salad? Should we add craisins? More chipotle? Go traditional? Then it hit me--I'm always a fan of curried chicken salad which often involves grapes. Why not grapes and celery? Traditional enough to not offend the kids, but interesting enough to keep us cooks inspired. (Recipe: chop, slice, or tear up roast turkey. Toss with red seedless grapes, sliced in half, diced celery, and mayonnaise until the consistency is how you like it. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve on--leftover--potato rolls)
And, since no football watching is complete (or at all interesting to me) without chips and dip, we took the leftover-leftover black bean dip, topped it this time with shredded monterey jack and cheddar, and popped it in the microwave for a hot, cheesy, bean dip.
While I can't say there was nothing left idling in the fridge when we departed for New York, I'd say we did a valiant job of waving the waste not, want not flag. And getting creative juices flowing with the Boyfriend as we plotted and executed our spectacular reinventions is my new favorite way to work up an appetite. Well, second favorite. :)
Leftover Rice Pudding
2 cups cooked white rice (chinese takeout would work perfectly)
3 cups milk (I'd use whole, but a low-fat version would probably work too)
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice orange peel, minus the pith
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix first 4 ingredients together in a pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat and add cinnamon, orange, and vanilla. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes until most of the milk has been absorbed or evaporated and the consistency feels right. Serve hot or cold with cinnamon sprinkled on top.
**this should work with any amount of rice and milk as long as the ratio is about the same. We had 5 cups leftover white rice and the proportions worked just fine.