Leftovers, Bless Them

We had leftovers last night.

Each plate had a bit of lasagna, a bit of chilli hamburger and potato hash, and a bit of salad. There was the last half of a bottle of wine to drink. I am grateful for this because:

a. there was enough on each plate to feed us well.

b. It tasted great.

c. The fact that it was left over was because we had more than enough on two other nights as well.

d. We have a good refrigerator that kept it cold and safe for three days.

e. We were all home to eat it.

f. The new oven heated it up without me having to turn things over and shift them around.

g. Australia makes great wine. It can be surprisingly inexpensive.

h. We were all hungry. We’d been doing things all day and worked up an appetite.

When I was a kid I used to think leftovers was a punishment. Why couldn’t we have new food every night? I never realised how lucky I was. I never realised how much my taste was being shaped by the careful re-serving that my mother did. Of course she was being frugal in this – just as I am now. And she knew what I now know as well – some foods improve overnight or over several days in storage. Spaghetti, lasagna, chili beans, some casseroles, etc.

Some things not so much, but I have been encouraged by experimentation to find out how one can re-prepare the leftovers that come our way. Most casseroles respond to gentle re-heating and even soups can be fine if you run them through the microwave. Potatoes soften in storage, and you cannot expect French Fries or chips to be as good the second time as the first…or can you?

We always seem to over-estimate the amount of chips when we get fish and chips and end up with a big packet of them after the meal is finished. Up until now we’ve put them in the paper wrapping into the icebox and tried to heat them up next day in the microwave. They’ve been soggy, tasteless, and sad.

But this last time the penny dropped – the microwave was the culprit. Whatever it can do for stews it was also doing for chips. So this time I used the new oven at a hot setting, spread the chips out on a shallow tray, and left them in there long enough to get through the wet stage and to start cooking again. If you are watchful and swoop at just the right moment you can get them when they are crisp and crunchy without being dead and dry. I also found that sprinkling savoury salt or steak seasoning added to the flavour in a good way.

No more dumping the chips – hello to savoury fries.

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