Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday leftovers fuel the creative cook

There’s something about the challenge of a refrigerator filled with leftovers that sends my cooking brain cells into a dance marathon. Turkey, rolls, dressing, stewed tomatoes, sweet potato casserole—what’s a cook to do?

Experiment. It’s low-pressure because you’ve already put in the time to prepare these items so forming them into something else can’t be too complicated. Once you do that, you’ll be happy you were able to eat them before you had to dump them. And the second time around, they might be even better.

Here are two quick ideas and a third recipe that worked for me.

Sandwiches—everyone has probably turned leftover turkey and ham into sandwiches. Boost the taste a few notches by making a Gruyere cheese spread (garlic, Dijon mustard, butter). Spread it on homemade bread, layer with turkey then roasted red peppers and put it on your Panini maker, brushed with olive oil on the outside, to create a warm and luscious sandwich.

Casseroles—I sometimes make “casseroles” in ramekins so we can eat our servings for one meals but not harbor more leftovers. This time around I shredded some of the turkey then mixed it with stewed tomatoes. They fill half or so of the ramekins. Next I put on a layer of sweet potato casserole then topped with dressing and a drizzle of gravy then baked 30 minutes, finishing it off for a couple of minutes under the broiler. Jim said the more the layers melded together, the better he found the taste.

Breakfast bake

I’m a French toast fan but sometimes don’t want to take the extra few minutes to prepare it first thing in the morning. I cured that problem with a prepare-the-night-before recipe that mimics French toast and turns into a light, fluffy breakfast bake. Here’s a recipe for two servings.

Fill the ramekins to ½ to 2/3 with small pieces of leftovers rolls. Add handful of your favorite fresh or frozen berries. I used raspberries from our garden. Mix ½ cup milk, 1 TBSP maple syrup, ½ tsp. cinnamon, one large egg lightly beaten and pour over bread. The bread will absorb most of it, but not all. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, get the ramekins out of the refrigerator and turn on the oven to 375. Bake for 20 minutes. In the meantime, toast a handful of your favorite nuts.

When finished, loosen with butter knife then turn on to plate. Add two small pats of butter if you like. Pour on your favorite syrup (I used our homemade strawberry syrup) and top with nuts. Enjoy!

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