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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.


April 21, 2008


I know a man who never has to eat leftovers.

I grew up across the street from him. When he woke up in the morning, breakfast was waiting for his arrival to the table. In the middle of the day, he left work and drove home to enjoy a freshly prepared lunch. When he got home from work, dinner was on the table. Day in, day out, this was the routine, still is. He doesn’t eat leftovers.

He is a lucky man, indeed.

His wife is an excellent cook. Her leftovers are better than what a lot of us eat as first-round offerings.

I am not a very good leftover eater, either. It’s not that I have an aversion or dislike for leftovers, but I am so passionate about food, that I am usually thinking about what I am going to eat for the next meal while I am eating the current meal.

One of my favorite leftover foods is turkey. During Thanksgiving I usually prepare an extra turkey just in case all of the primary turkey is all gone after the main meal. The pure simplicity of a turkey sandwich on good-quality whole-grain bread with homemade mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and lettuce one of my holiday treats.

Meatloaf might be the universal— and best— leftover food of them all. Mashed potatoes, too.

Necessity might be the mother of invention, but a growling stomach is the father. I imagine there are many foods that started out as leftovers that became featured entrees later—Sheppard’s pie comes to mind.

In the Purple Parrot Café, we occasionally develop a “keeper” recipe while using leftovers. Recently, Chef Linda Nance created a fried potato salad. It’s like a potato cake except one uses the standard picnic-style, yellow-mustard potato salad, forms it into patty, rolls it in breadcrumbs, and fries it in a skillet. I have a friend in Jackson who has been raving for two months about The Purple Parrot’s Fried Potato Salad.

Some foods actually taste better as leftovers the next day—red beans and rice, chili, and gumbo are all better the second or third day.

Here are my Top 10 Leftover Foods

10.) Fried Rice— it’s a fence rider. Fried rice almost fits into the better-the-next-day-than-the-first-day category.
9.) Split Pea/White Bean Soup— using stock made from leftover/scrap smoked ham bones
8.) Cold Pizza for breakfast— my son’s favorite leftover food (and one his mom almost never lets him eat).
7.) Chicken Salad— made using last night’s roasted chicken or fried chicken (throw the skin in, too)
6.) Cornbread dressing and gravy— who needs turkey if you make a great dressing?
5.) Bread Pudding— made using yesterday’s croissants instead of stale French bread.
4.) Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches— using leftover bacon from breakfast and homemade mayonnaise.
3.) Meatloaf— the quintessential leftover. As a child I hated meatloaf. Today, I am one of its biggest proponents. I am ready for meatloaf to make a comeback in a big way.
2.) Turkey Sandwiches— Again, not only for the holidays
1.) Steak and Biscuits— Wrap leftover steak-dinner scraps in aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, slice the steak into strips, reheat in the oven, and serve inside buttered biscuits sprinkled with a little steak seasoning (this one’s worth cooking an extra steak the night before so you’ll have plenty the next morning). Ribeyes work best. Serve with scrambled eggs on the side and fresh fruit.

Honorable mention leftovers—Spaghetti, pot roast, and lasagna

The worst leftover of all time: Tuna Casserole. Hands down, no question. It’s as bad the second time around as it was the first.

Be careful with leftovers and always use proper food handling techniques. It’s a good idea to label and date leftovers. A good rule of thumb: If you can’t remember when you made the dish the first time, it’s too old to eat.

Three-Meat Meatloaf with Garlic-Tomato Glaze

1 pound Ground beef
1/2 pound Ground venison
1/2 pound Ground Pork
1 Tbl Canola oil
1 cup Onion, minced
3 /4 cup Celery, minced
3 /4 cup Bell pepper, minced
1 tsp Garlic, minced
1 /8 tsp Thyme, dry
1 /4 tsp Oregano, dry
2 tsp Steak Seasoning
1 Tbl Salt
1 cup Milk
1 /2 cup Ketchup
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
3 Eggs
1 1/2 cup Unseasoned Course Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the vegetables with salt and dry herbs until tender. Allow to cool.

Combine milk, eggs, Worcestershire and ketchup and mix well. Place ground beef, venison, pork, cooled vegetables and egg mixture into a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, squish the meatloaf until you have mixed everything together and all is well incorporated. Fold in the breadcrumbs last.

Shape the meat mixture into the form of a loaf on a baking sheet. Bake 40 minutes.

After 40 minutes of cooking, use a pastry brush and brush the garlic-tomato glaze over the entire meatloaf. Return to the oven and bake for 20 more minutes. Again, remove the meatloaf and brush another layer of the glaze over it. Return it once again to the oven and bake for 20 more minutes. Brush one final layer of the glaze on the meatloaf and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove the meatloaf and allow it to rest 15 minutes before serving.
Yield: 8-10 servings

Garlic-Tomato Glaze

1 tsp. Bacon fat
1 Tbl. Garlic, minced
1 Tbl. Onion, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbl Brown sugar
2Tbl Tomato paste
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
2 Tbl. Yellow mustard
1 Tbl. Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup Ketchup

Heat the bacon fat in a small skillet over a low heat. Cook the onions, garlic and salt for 2-3 minutes. Add the basil, black pepper and brown sugar cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir constantly tp prevent the sugar from burning. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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