Leftovers can make the greatest dinners

May 22, 1991|By Pat Dailey | Pat Dailey,Chicago Tribune

Like the glass of water that's half-empty or half-full, the matter of leftovers is one of attitude. For some, leftovers are the culinary equivalent of the untimely rerun of a grade-B movie. Others see them as an asset, a shortcut, a meal ticket and a feast of delicious possibilities.

Perfect Roasted Chicken

A simple roast chicken is a glorious meal, elegant in its simplicity and infinitely adaptable. This basic recipe yields tender, juicy flesh and a crisp, deep bronze skin. Be sure to use a roasting chicken or capon rather than fryers. It makes a lot of sense to cook two at a time because there are so many ways to use the leftover meat.

1 roasting chicken, about 6 pounds, room temperature

1 medium onion

Several sprigs of fresh herbs of your choice

2 to 3 tablespoons honey mustard

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Have ready a shallow roasting pan that is large enough to hold the chicken and a rack that fits inside.

Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry. Quarter the onion and place in the cavity along with some fresh herbs. With your hands, carefully separate the skin from the meat on the breast side of the bird, being careful not to tear it. Spoon the mustard into the space and carefully spread it under the skin. Arrange a sprig of herbs under the skin as well. Place on rack, breast side up. Tie legs together with kitchen twine.

Bake until the juice from the thigh runs clear instead of pink, about one hour. The internal temperature will be about 160 degrees. The top skin will be very brown and crisp. If it begins to burn toward the end of baking, cover it loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil. let stand ten minutes before carving. Serves six.

Chicken Salad


1/3 cup mixed fresh herbs, such as tarragon, basil, marjoram and/or cilantro

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup cider vinegar

3 tablespoons each: mayonnaise, sour cream

1 tablespoon honey mustard

1 teaspoon each: coarse cracked black pepper, sugar


8 ounces Savoy or Napa cabbage

1 small wedge red cabbage

1 large stalk celery, diced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 small red bell pepper, diced

1 tart, crisp, red apple, unpeeled, cored, diced

1/4 cup each: dried currants, chopped smoked almonds

1 1/4 cups diced, cooked chicken

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, optional

For the dressing, mince the herbs in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

For the salad, cut the Savoy cabbage into three-quarter-inch pieces. Cut the red cabbage into thin slivers. Combine both cabbages in a large bowl with celery, green onions, red pepper, apple, currants, almonds and chicken. Toss with dressing and sprinkle blue cheese ove top if using.

Serves four.

Mexican Chicken Saute

2 1/2 cups cilantro leaves

4 corn tortillas

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 dried pasilla chili, soaked in warm water for 1 hour

1 medium garlic clove

1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 small red onion, diced

1 Anaheim pepper or banana pepper, sliced into rings

1 small red bell pepper, diced

1 1/4 cups diced, cooked chicken

L 2/3 cup each: canned black beans, fresh or frozen corn kernels

Salt to taste

Arrange two cups cilantro leaves on paper toweling and pat dry. Let air-dry for 15 to 20 minutes so it is thoroughly dry. Cut the tortillas into thin slivers. Heat one-half-inch oil in a large saute pan. Add half of tortillas, stirring them so they separate into strands. Cook until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper toweling to drain and fry the remaining tortillas. Add the two cups cilantro leaves and fry until crisp, 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer to paper toweling. Discard all but two tablespoons oil from the pan and set aside off the heat.

Mince the remaining one-half cup cilantro and set aside. Drain the pasilla and pat dry. Put in a food processor with the garlic, serrano pepper and cumin. Process until all ingredients are minced. Return the pan to high heat and add the chili mixture. Cook and stir constantly for two minutes.

Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, two to three minutes. Add the Anaheim and red pepper and cook until they begin to soften, two to three minutes. Remove from the heat and add minced cilantro and salt to taste.

To serve, arrange a bed of fried torrillas strips on plate and top with chicken mixture. Sprinkle fried cilantro over top.

Mashed potatoes are one of the most vexing leftovers. Though people are reluctant to throw them out, they're even more reluctant to reheat them. Gunst offers this terrific solution to the gonundrum of what to do with leftover mashed spuds in her book. They're easy to make and exceedingly rich. You could, in fact, cut down on the amount of butter and still be quite satisfied.

Shaker Potatoes

5 tablespoons butter

2 cups mashed potatoes

1 cup cubed cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1 medium onion, minced

1/4 cup each: breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Use one tablepoon of the butter to butter a shallow, one-quart casserole.

Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the cubed cheese over the top and gently press them into the potatoes, then add the onions. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the onions, then the Parmesan cheese. Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and dot over the top.

Bake, uncovered, until heated through, 30 to 40 minutes.

Serves four.

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