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Restaurant Leftovers using Leftovers


How many of you have taken home leftovers from a restaurant, stuck them in the fridge, and days later thrown them out because even the dog turned its nose up at the content of the “doggie” bag? Fear not, there are some easy ways to create snacks or meals using restaurant leftovers. Most importantly, this does not involve fancy ingredients or a lot of time.

The biggest challenge seems to be the soggy fries. It’s a mystery how something that smells and tastes so good while served fresh in the restaurant can turn into the most unappetizing limp tasteless mess within hours.

Here is a way to turn leftover fries into a good-smelling, appetizing concoction. This recipe works even if there are stray items such as chicken wings, chicken fingers, popcorn shrimp or even most appetizers mixed in. The ingredients needed for this recipe are:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese (any pre-packaged type will do)
1 chipotle pepper
seasonings (such as black pepper, red pepper, salt, or whatever you prefer)

Turn your oven on to 375 F and let it heat up nicely. Depending on your type of stove, probably around 15 20 minutes. It’s very important to let the oven heat up all the way. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with a non-stick cooking spray. Spread out the fries in a single layer. Now, turn the oven off. This is very important! Slide the cookie sheet on the center rack and close the oven door.

Melt the butter in a saucepan on low heat. Add the flour and whisk together briskly with a wire whisk. Pour in the milk carefully and heat until the mixture bubbles. Turn heat off and add the shredded cheese. While the mixture thickens, cut up your chipotle and mix it in. Add seasonings to taste.

Your fries will be ready once they start smelling nicely. Don’t open the oven door during the cooking process, or valuable heat will escape. Don’t worry, you can’t burn or overcook them as the heat is turned off. The actual time varies by your equipment, but just go by smell. This should take around ten minutes or so.

Once you remove the fries from the oven, transfer them to a plate. Top with the cheese sauce and you will have a delicious meal. The sauce should make enough for two servings. If you want to make more, just adjust the ingredients proportionally. If you want to make less, still use the two tablespoons butter to two tablespoons flour, any less may burn the pan.

Suggestion/modifications/substitutions: If you don’t have chipotles, you can use jalapenos. You can also omit all peppers. In that case, a sharp cheddar cheese works best with some red and black pepper, or the sauce will be rather bland.

The next recipe will be good for using up any type of leftover chicken or meat. You will need the following:

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
2 tablespoons chives

Spray a frying pan with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat until hot. Add the mushrooms, green pepper, and onion. Saute until tender, and remove from heat. Cut up your chicken or meat into bite size pieces and microwave until hot. Add mustard, and chicken stock to the sauted vegetables. Add your chicken or meat and mix in the parsley flakes and chives last. This recipe serves one person generally.

Suggestion/modifications/substitutions: You can omit the mushrooms and you can also substitute celery for the green peppers. This recipe generally serves one person; you can adjust the ingredients depending on how much chicken or meat you have left over.

When it comes to leftover vegetables, you could simply microwave or reheat them if you enjoy bland and mushy food. Leftover vegetables are tricky, but they can be used to mix in with other things such as rice or pasta. If you want to be a little more daring, how about making couscous? Here is what you will need:

1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
a splash of olive oil
1 1/2 cups couscous
3/4 cup green frozen peas
2 tablespoons chives
herbs/seasonings to taste

Bring the chicken stock with the butter and oil to a boil. Add couscous, frozen peas and the chives. Turn off the heat, stir, and cover. Let stand five minutes. Microwave the leftover vegetables and mix them in once the five minutes are up. Season to taste. It works best if fresh seasonings are used to take away from the bland taste of the leftover vegetables, but whatever you have on hand that you like will do.

Why even bother with the frozen peas instead of just adding the leftover vegetables at the end? The frozen peas will give a crunchy texture to the meal, so it’s important to not substitute for those. This makes enough for a side dish for about three people.

Even most leftover bread and rolls can be re-used. Depending on the type of bread or rolls, you could let them dry out and use in your next meatloaf or make breadcrumbs to use as topping for vegetables and salads. Make sure though that there was no butter on the bread when you took it home.

You can also make your own garlic toast with some leftover bread. Simply mix some softened unsalted butter with smashed and minced cloved garlic, along with some fresh parsley. Put this mixture in between to slices of bread. Wrap the bread in foil and heat in an oven for about 15 minutes at 350 F. Wrapping the bread in foil will keep it from drying out even more.

Variations of the cheese sauce, couscous, and garlic butter recipes can be found all over the Internet. It’s simply a matter of combining the restaurant leftovers with something fresh that makes them palatable. Of course you can use any of these recipes with your own home cooked leftovers as well.