Leftovers is a dreaded word in some households, but not in ours. Granted, there are good leftovers, and there are, shall we say, boring leftovers. However, my husband, Clif, and I are very keen on using and eating the various tidbits that lurk in the refrigerator. There is the usual reason—a dislike of wasting food, which seems both morally wrong and financially stupid. Too many people go hungry in this world, and it feels, well, obscene to throw away food that could have been eaten. It also throwing away money, something both Clif and I have an aversion to.
But there is also the challenge of creatively using leftovers, of making something really tasty using the odd “this and that” tucked in small bowls in the refrigerator.
After the birthday meal—a tempura—we made for our son-in-law Mike, we had quite a few odds and ends leftover. A tiny bit of cut-up chicken breast. Some chopped red peppers, some button mushrooms, and some sweet potato sliced thin. Also, a little sweet and sour sauce that we had used for dipping. A fair amount of white rice.
All this cried out for a stir-fry, and the only question was whether I should make up another batch of sweet and sour sauce. Clif and I considered the leftover sauce. There wasn’t much, but we decided that rather than add it directly into the stir-fry, we could instead drizzle what we had on top of the food when it was on our plates, thereby using what we had rather than making extra.
My original plan had been to use the sweet potatoes in the stir-fry, but Clif and I love roasted sweet potatoes, and we decided to have them as a side instead. I heated the oven to 425°, oiled a cookie sheet, tossed some oil into the bowl of leftover sweet potatoes, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. I spread the sweet potatoes on the cookie sheet and put them into the oven.
About fifteen or twenty minutes after I put the sweet potatoes in the oven, I started stir-frying. I heated oil in a small frying pan, and I stir-fried the chicken pieces. When the chicken was all white but not cooked through, I heated some oil in a bigger frying pan and added the mushrooms and red peppers. When they were pretty much done, I added a large clove of chopped garlic, the only “extra” ingredient I had to use beside oil and salt and pepper. By then the chicken was done, and I put it, along with its juices, into the vegetables.
While all this had been cooking, the rice was microwaved, and the sweet and sour sauce had been simmering in a little pan on the stove.
Voila! The meal was ready, and what a tasty one, too. On our plates we had a bed of rice, topped with the chicken and vegetable stir-fry and a drizzle of sweet and sour sauce. The meal was so good, in fact, that it would have been worthwhile to cook it with food that wasn’t leftover. But what a cheap thrill it was to use bits of what we had to make a meal that we ate with gusto and pleasure. As an added bonus, the drizzled sweet and sour sauce was perfect.
We didn’t need any more.