The one thing bad about Christmas time is that nobody can escape the weight gain. There’s just so much food all the time, it’s crazy. Especially during Christmas dinners and lunches, for some reason there’s always just way too much food on the table.
Multiplication of the loaves and fish in real life. Part of the Christmas miracle I guess. What takes more than miracle though is how you keep all the leftovers and consume it before it starts growing fuzzy things in the back of your fridge.
Recycling leftovers can be quite a challenge. Personally I don’t mind eating the same thing for five days straight, but that’s just me. If you have a family like mine, hardly anybody wants to eat the same thing twice no matter how good it was to begin with. You have to be creative and think of ways to use up what’s left otherwise you’ll hear stuff like “uhhh...what else is there,” and be accused of being a negligent mother. Now we wouldn’t want that, would we?
So behold, my Christmas gift to you, a list of some of the things you can do to bring new life to your tira. Wonderful.
Don’t toss out that carcass! Save the bones from your roast chicken (or beef ribs, pork crown roast, etc.) to make into a stock. A small onion, piece of carrot, and celery are all you need to make your own soup stock and it can be frozen for future use. Save the tiny bits of meat from it if you like for making macaroni soup aka chicken sopas.
If you have quite a bit more than just a carcass, slice up meat thinly and make into a sandwich, a Banh Mi, if you will. French bread + leftover meat + veggies = fancy sandwich. Don’t worry about what you’re putting in the sandwich, the Vietnamese even put things like Sardines in tomato sauce in it and minced pork reminiscent of lumpia filling and they’re all good. Just remember to call it by its cooler sounding name.
6. Beef Stroganoff
Sandwiches not their thing? Turn your roast beef into stroganoff by slicing meat into little strips and sautéing with thinly sliced onions, garlic, and fresh mushrooms in butter. Let simmer with a cup of beef stock, season with salt, pepper, a bit of Worcestershire sauce and slightly thicken with a little flour and water slurry. Add a cup of sour cream towards the end, half a minute before you turn off the heat. Serve on top of cooked egg noodles or rice.
5. Lettuce Soup
Yes I’m not making it up, there really is such a thing and it’s a great way to use up leftover salad greens and salvaging the really wilted ones. It’s like making cream of mushroom (or cream of anything) soup. Sauté onions, garlic, herbs of choice (usually tarragon or rosemary plus parsley and chives but use what you like) in olive oil, add torn up lettuce and cook till wilted. Add chicken stock (see why I told you to save carcass?) and boil. Blend with an immersion blender or process in a food processor in batches, return to pot and add evaporated milk. Season with salt and pepper and dish out and top with croutons.
4. Potato Soup
Have half a bowl of leftover mashed potatoes? Turn into soup! Sauté thinly sliced leeks in butter, add mashed potatoes and enough milk and cream to thin out to desired consistency, and season to taste. You can even add bits of ham if you wanna use that up, too. I just realized I have three soup entries here but it’s really a great way to conceal leftovers and pretend it’s something new.
3. Caldereta Rogan Josh
Caldereta is almost always present during Christmas dinners. I’ve had leftovers shredded and used as a pasta sauce but that’s basically the same thing, just with a different starch. To totally revamp your leftover caldereta, whizz 2 small red onions, 2 garlic cloves, 1” peeled ginger, 1Tbs garam masala, 1tsp turmeric, 1tsp paprika, 1tsp allspice, 1tsp cumin powder and a little water in a blender. Heat a heavy bottomed pot till almost smoking, add about 1/2c oil and fry spice mix till oil and spices separate. Add a cinnamon stick and fry till aromatic and add left over caldereta. Add a bit more water so it doesn’t dry out right away and allow to simmer till flavors come together.
Leftover vegetables sidings like carrots, potatoes, peas, mushrooms make great fritatas. Add that ham you’re trying to finish and it makes a filling breakfast along with toast. Beat a couple eggs with milk and add leftover quezo de bola plus your veggies and sautéed onions and seasonings and cook in a non-stick pan. Instead of trying my luck at flipping it over, I usually just cook it covered so the top sets from the built-up steam. Turn out onto a plate and voila!
1. Cheese Spread
Speaking of left over quezo de bola, I don’t understand how there could be any leftover in the first place. I can’t believe there are people who don’t eat as much of it as I do but apparently, I am the weird one here. The only thing stopping me from eating half a ball every day is its hefty price tag. I’m sure many of you are concerned about letting this glorious ball of salty goodness go to waste and dry out in the fridge so here’s a good way to make it last and also make it a little more convenient to stuff yourself with it when you feel like it.
Grate leftover quezo de bola (or you might want to do a whole ball’s worth, who knows?) and mix in with another glorious element: butter. It’s much like how you would make a cheese pimento spread. Actually, it’s exactly like that and you can go ahead and add the pimientos if you want. Spread on bread, toast. Mmmmm...cheeseheads of the world unite!
Do you have other Noche Buena-recycling ideas? Share them in the comments section below!