Kitchen & Pantry

On leftovers and kitchen disasters beef and potato soupA reader sent an e-mail that contains two questions both of which are interesting enough to spawn an entire article. First, what do I do with leftovers? Second, what do I do with kitchen disasters? Let me answer the part about leftovers first. Yes, we get leftovers at home. In fact, there is an entire section dedicated to recycling leftovers. Like how? There are several ways to make good use of leftovers. A stew is probably the easiest to deal with because stews actually taste better after reheating. So just reheat and serve.

Stir fries can be a little tricky because unless handled with care, the vegetables get soggy when reheated. A better way to serve leftover stir fried dishes is to toss them with cooked noodles. The added texture, plus the fact that the noodles divert the attention from the bits of meat and vegetables, can effectively mask the less than perfect condition of the reheated stir fry.

Fried and grilled meat are ideal for Chinese style fried rice. Grilled or whole fried fish can be made into omelets (yes, the ubiquitous torta) with the addition of vegetables. If you’re as bored with torta as my children are, try mixing the flaked cooked fish meat with mashed potatoes and a beaten egg, form into balls, fry the balls and toss with sweet and sour sauce. Or, mix the flaked cooked fish with chopped onions, carrots and mushrooms and use as spring roll (lumpia) filling. Use your imagination and you can come up with more ideas.

Now, about kitchen disasters which, based on the context in which the question was asked, I take to mean less than appetizing dishes which is, of course, the polite term for “dishes not fit for human consumption”? as my kids sometimes put it. Believe it or not, I’ve cooked dishes that have been labeled “kaning baboy”? and “kadiri”? and “yuck”? and everything in between. I love experimenting in the kitchen but, you know, sometimes experiments can go very, very wrong.

So what do I do with disasters like that? Have you seen our dogs? My goodness, they’re so fat and now you know why. You think I’m joking. I am. But only in part. Some kitchen disasters do go to the dogs. But there are dishes with ingredients that are no-no to pets so there are times when, yes, I throw them in the garbage bin. Not often, really, as we don’t like being wasteful.

As much as possible, I try to salvage what I can and recycle to minimize wastage. For instance, a few nights ago, I boiled some potatoes intending to make mashed potatoes to go with the Southern-style fried chicken that I was going to serve for dinner. Knowing that it takes half an hour for the potatoes to get cooked, I took a bath. It was a humid afternoon so I decided that instead of a quick shower, I would soak in the tub. It felt so good in the tub that by the time I went back to the kitchen, the potatoes had burst in the boiling water.

The solution, of course, was to add very little milk. But, to complicate matters even more, I put in too much salt and I was constrained to keep adding milk. By the time the saltiness was neutralized, I had a bowl of very thin mashed potatoes. And my daughters noticed at once. And commented. Naturally, there was a lot of leftover mashed potatoes after dinner which went into the refrigerator.

The following day, I couldn’t bear to serve it again. What I did was to boil some beef short ribs and, when the meat was only partially cooked, I separated them from the bones and cut them into one-inch cubes. I returned the beef “? meat and bones “? to the pot, added chopped onions, pepper, a little salt, cubed carrots and sweet peas and I let everything simmer until the meat was very tender.

When the beef was ready, I stirred in the mashed potatoes from the previous night’s disaster and continued to simmer until the soup was thick and bubbly. Were there any sneers and snide remarks from my daughters? No, of course not. The soup was fantastic.

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