A leftover of reasonable gastronomic merit, it seems to me, can be rather like a variation in a symphonic piece — in other words, you can recognize the original easily, or maybe you can’t. I’ve had some fun lately ringing as much change as I could on what the refrigerator was offering free of charge Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday: Exhibit A would be a risotto transformed as if by some Franz Liszt of the kitchen into croquettes!
I’d made a risotto with nectarines, salami, peas and fresh tarragon, it made a tasty dinner all right, and when it chanced that a lot was left in the skillet, and I didn’t feel like eating another dinner of risotto in its familiar nuggety form I thought, well, let’s go for croquettes, if, that is, I can hold ’em together.
So, just scoop up a large spoonful of your lingering risotto and form it into a ball, and keeping a firm grip on said sphere — with spatula, your left hand and a bit of praying — roll it in a mixture of beaten egg, olive oil and breadcrumbs, then gingerly place it in a frying pan, then repeat the process until you’ve used up the leftover rice, and fry the lot until the croquettes are a bit crisp on the outside and cooked through.
My next variation galore was inspired by a surfeit of dense pasta sauce that had outlasted the quickly consumed tagliarini nestled underneath. A sauce, this, of ground pork sausage, Portobello mushroom, cream, lemon, marsala, garlic, nutmeg. Well, why not stuff the begging sauce into a red bell pepper and bake it for 20 minutes in a medium oven with a little olive oil and grated cheese on top. Aha: un succes fou.
And when I chanced to have enough rib steak left over from a hefty comfort food dinner I sliced it into strips — gougonettes, I think the French call them — and worked them into the recipe from this volume titled Second Day Bollito. Just follow the script using this leftover steak instead of the boiled beef from the Second Day recipe, a homey prescription I stole more or less from good ol’ Tante Marie, who was a sort of Fannie Farmer of France.
Doggie-bags-full of grilled halibut as left over from my exhilarating Friday lunches at that vastly underrated hangout the U.S. Restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach can also be creatively recycled. Cut up the fish and combine it with boiled pasta, olive oil, pressed garlic, grated cheese and bread crumbs — and don’t forget the fresh tarragon! — and bake the lot for 20 minutes. That takes care of Saturday dinner.
Or if the weekend is warm snizzle leftover halibut and use it as a courtly replacement for tinned tuna in a Nicoise salad.