Jeffrey Merlot
Mr. & Mrs. M.

Hold on to those holiday leftovers

By - Nov 26th, 2010 04:00 am
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Photo by OhDearBarb via Flickr

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and other major holidays always see major leftovers the next day, typically reincarnated as sandwiches and reheated plates that are a pale comparison to the real deal. Here are a few ideas for creative ways to reinvent the remnants of your holiday feast.

What to do with those leftover crescent rolls or last few slices of Challa?


Photo by Chris Campbell via Flickr

Home-Made Bread Crumbs

These are so much better than commercial brands of bread crumbs sold in the supermarkets –no preservatives or high fructose corn syrup!


Leftover bread and rolls from the holidays are perfect, but this is also a great recipe for using up that dried out half-loaf of French, Ciabatta or other artisan bread.


Preheat your over to 250° F. Cut the dry bread up into small chunks. Pulverize the chunks really well in a food processor. Spread the bread crumbs out on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet, then bake for 5 to 10 minutes (check the crumbs after a few minutes to ensure they’re not burning). Allow to thoroughly cool, then store in your refrigerator for up to one month. You can jazz the crumbs up by adding in a dash of Italian or French herbs after they’ve cooled.


The following recipe normally calls for day-old French, onion-rye or other bread, cut into 1” to 1½” cubes. Let the bread dry out, then get together the following other ingredients to taste:

olive oil
dried oregano flakes
dried parsley flakes
garlic powder
grated Parmesan cheese


Make sure the bread cubes are solidly dry – cut them and let them sit in a brown paper bag at room temperature in the cupboard or breadbox about a week so they are thoroughly dried out. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat the bread cubes with olive oil in a large bowl, then toss with the remaining ingredients with a large bowl. Spread out onto a lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes, until the croutons are dark golden brown. These will keep about three weeks if wrapped tightly in foil and stored at room temperature.


Caeser Salad Croutons

Dip white bread in melted butter. Make sure both sides are coated, but not too wet. Cut crusts off bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder/paprika on both sides. Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, turning 1 time.

Spicy Croutons

Remove crusts from bread and cut into small cubes. Warm oil in shallow oven-safe dish. Add chili sauce and flakes to oil, mix well. Add bread to mixture and coat all the cubes. Transfer to baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes, turning once, until golden brown.

Photo courtesy Southern Pixel via Flickr

Mr. M.’s Top-Secret Gumbo Recipe:

A delicious and savory way to use up leftover meats and vegetables!

½ cup peanut oil
1 cup white, all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken/ham broth (3 cups each) – we use Better Than Bouillon brand.
1 large yellow or white onion, finely chopped
5 cloves fresh garlic, crushed/minced
15 big pieces fresh okra, sliced
1 green, bell pepper, finely diced/chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced/chopped
12 – 14 oz. Carmelina or Cento brand canned Italian San Marzano tomatoes (with liquid), crushed by hand
12 oz. cooked chicken or turkey meat, diced
12 oz. Usinger’s brand andouille sausage, thinly sliced
4 – 6 oz. Nueske’s ham steak, finely diced
2 bay leaves
4 Tbs. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 Tbs. each of paprika, Worcestershire sauce and dried, ground thyme
1½ tsp. each of cayenne (red/hot) pepper and salt
Tabasco pepper sauce, to taste
cooked white rice


Start by making the classic Cajun/Creole roux. Mix  oil and flour together really well in a 6 quart pot on the stove. Turn heat to a medium-high setting. Cook about 15 – 20 minutes, until it is practically the color of chocolate pudding, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and removing the pot from the heat periodically, as needed, to prevent over-smoking (which means it’s burning). It will smoke a little bit, but you don’t want to see a lot of smoke during this process. It will start to get loose when it is too dark – that indicates that the roux is losing its thickening power, and you don’t want that! You also do not want to see any black specs appear in it. If you do, it’s burned and you have to throw it out and start all over (do not try to salvage it because it will end up making your gumbo taste bitter).

It’s perfectly acceptable to cook the roux until it is only a light brown color – that will render a reddish gumbo referred to as “City” gumbo for you (see our May 14, 2010 column about Maxie’s Southern Comfort restaurant for more on that).

Next, add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic any other vegetables you wish to add and the okra, if using it, to the roux; mix well. Cook the resulting mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally so as not to burn it, until the onions are soft and translucent and the mixture is reduced down a little. We cover the pot and “sweat” the vegetables in the roux so that their moisture is rendered in the pot.
Add the tomatoes and their liquid gradually with the broth. Add the rest of the ingredients (except rice); cover and simmer on very low heat (just so it “percolates” in the pot – you might have to cock the lid a little) at least 1 hour, but preferably up to 2½ hours, stirring occasionally. Don’t forget to take out the bay leaves before serving!

Serve in wide-rimmed bowls topped with about 1/3 cup of cooked white rice ladled in the center of it. We also traditionally sprinkle a little filé powder over the gumbo at the table.
Serves 6 – 8.

After the core components are sautéed and softened up in your pot, you may add whatever other vegetables you like to your gumbo. This is a great way to use up those left-over vegetables. Have fun and experiment a little! If you want seafood in your gumbo (shrimp, oysters, crab meat), then add it in towards the end and cook for only about five minutes (until shrimp turn pink).


Photo courtesy Vegan Feast via Flickr

Potato Pancakes

Take chilled leftover mashed potatoes (do not reheat) and form patties about 1″ thick and anywhere from four to six inches in diameter. Preheat a little oil in a wide skillet or just use non-stick cooking spray. Gently fry the patties over medium heat until golden brown on both sides. Heat up that leftover gravy and pour it all over the pancake patties and meat slices. Yum!

Or try making this English favorite out of leftover mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and/or cabbage:

Bubble & Squeak

leftover mashed potatoes
a few ounces of leftover cabbage and/or Brussels sprouts, cooked and finely chopped
a drop or two of cooking oil
finely-chopped onion, to taste

Heat enough oil in a skillet to cover the bottom. Add in the onion and sauté until caramelized. Mix the onion with the potatoes and cabbage/Brussels sprouts together well, then form them into small, square or oval patties about 4” x 4” – 5” in size. Gently slide the patties into the skillet and fry over medium heat for about 7 minutes on each side –get them as crispy as you can on the outside.

This is traditionally served by itself as a main course, or as a side dish with breakfast in England. We think it goes great as a side dish with dinner (actually, Mrs. M. doesn’t care for either cabbage or Brussels sprouts, so she won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole!).

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Categories: Dining, Mr. and Mrs. M.

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