22. Feeling good about leftovers

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.
--Calvin Trillin

I'm feeling a lot like Calvin Trillin's mother.

Yesterday's fare involved lunch with two friends. I served leftover lentil soup to which I had added sweet potato and turkey sausage and whatever else took my fancy back when I made it a couple of weeks ago. It keeps very well in the freezer.

We also had fresh-baked bread, though I varied the recipe by putting 1/2 c corn meal and 1/2 cup oatmeal flour in the scale before filling it up to the 1-lb level with white whole wheat flour. Cindy brought a lovely salad of spring greens, dried cranberries, feta cheese, and pecans. Vinita brought delightful date bars, and if I can get her to divulge the recipe, I'll post it here.

Last night Mr Neff and I had the final remains of the soup, more bread, and a salad made of leftover arugula, clementines, and almonds. It may sound creative, but really it was what I found in my refrigerator.

So here I am apologizing, and that makes Jacques Pépin unhappy--

It makes me feel uncomfortable when people are apologetic about serving leftovers, because if the cook is good there should be no reason to apologize. . . . Born to a family of restaurateurs and having worked all my life in the world of food, I find it’s second nature to be thrifty and avoid spoilage. I actually hurt when I see food rotting in the refrigerator or people throwing out things like bones which could be used for a flavorful base for dishes....

In the normal working of a professional kitchen, the chefs save food instinctively. The meat is trimmed, the trimmings are turned into ground meat and the bones go into a stock which may be turned into a sauce, and so on. Things move naturally in a logical progression, everything is used in an endless cycle, and practically nothing is discarded. By the same token, at home a good cook should be able to transform a dish and extend its use by making it into a fresh and different creation, rather than a second-rate version of the original.

The most common mistake made with leftovers is to try to preserve the food in its original form. Roast beef will never be a hot roast beef again because it doesn’t reheat well. However, cold roast beef served with condiments and a salad is excellent, while sliced and sautéed with onions, garlic, and beef broth, it makes a wonderful Beef Mironton. . . . Similarly, a perfectly roasted chicken will never taste as good reheated, but turned into a cold salad it tastes fresh again. On the other hand, stews, as well as most soups, often taste better after reheating.

--Jacques Pépin, Everyday Cooking

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