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March 14, 2012

Arancini

I love leftovers, and since I lack the ability to cook in small batches, it’s a good thing that I do. If it’s not something I can freeze, I’ll dutifully eat the same dish for alternating lunches and dinners for days on end. Sometimes I’ll jazz it up with a fried egg

That said, I also like to read cookbooks, cooking blogs, etc., and especially ones about cooking sustainably, frugally, and simply. Unfortunately, the advice always seems to come down to: “First, you buy a whole chicken and roast it for Sunday dinner. Then, you use the meat in chicken tacos on Monday, chicken salad on Tuesday…” and so forth until you get down to soup made with chicken stock.

I’ve always found this type of advice less-than-useful for a couple of reasons, the most noteworthy of which being that I very rarely eat meat.  I guess you could apply the same logic to beans, but I prefer to cook a big batch of dried beans and freeze most of it in smaller portions so that I always have a variety on hand. And when I do cook meat it’s not like I have any trouble using it up; it’s chicken–of course it can go in anything!

The leftovers that I need help using up are the odds and ends lurking in my fridge: the rice that outlived the curry, the half can of tomato paste, or the veggies on their way to to the compost pile.  In this regard, there’s been some exciting alchemy happening in my kitchen lately:

  • The French onion soup I posted about a few weeks ago left me with 3/4 of an increasingly stale baguette and a little bit of Gruyere. Obviously the cheese would have been delicious in anything, but the bread slowly turned to rock until one night I had the foresight to throw together this savory bread pudding from Macheesmo. It was perfect for a lazy weekend morning: Daniel popped it in the oven when he got up to let the chickens out, we continued to snooze* while it cooked, and within the hour our delicious breakfast was ready!
  • And speaking of Daniel, he has a few specialties in the kitchen: anything breakfast-related (especially eggs Benedict), steak, bread, and torta di pasta. This last one is a fantastic way to use up leftover spaghetti and a great reason to always have a jar of sun-dried tomatoes on hand. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool to room temperature before eating!
  • But the leftover transformation that I’m proudest of is that of leftover risotto to arancini. I’ve always known these fried rice balls were one of my dad’s favorite North End treats, but until we made them I had never tried one because the ones he likes have meat in them. We stuffed ours with mozzarella and dipped them in marinara sauce, but I can’t wait to try more variations in the future. A massaged kale salad on the side rounded out the meal nicely.

The only downside to turning leftovers into something even better than the original dish? You’re a lot less likely to have leftovers…

*Hi, dad! I’m sure this part about us sleeping while the oven was on screamed “fire hazard!” to you. So I should clarify that although I slept soundly during the entire process, Daniel was alert enough to make sure the house didn’t burn down.

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