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The Second Time Around 

Ideas for making those leftovers disappear

click to enlarge Pair your leftover ham with asparagus for sinful crepes.
  • Pair your leftover ham with asparagus for sinful crepes.

Life is not a box of chocolates. Life, especially this time of year, is a fridge full of leftovers. And the mystery of life: What to do with them?


Roast Beef

I went right to the source -- a chef pal of mine. "Make sandwiches," he said. Not quite as inventive as I had hoped, but he did pull out a sauce from an old Gourmet Magazine that will make roast beef sing.

Roasted Onion, Caper and Tarragon Sauce for Roast Beef Sandwiches

2 large onions, unpeeled and untrimmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cups dry white wine
3 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives or green onions

In a baking pan roast the onions in a preheated 475-degree oven for 2 hours. While the onions bake, melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan, whisk in the flour, and cook the roux, whisking for about 3 minutes. Slowly add the cream and wine, whisking. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking, then simmer, whisking for another minute. Remove from heat and stir in capers, vinegar, tarragon, parsley and chives.

Let the onions cool until they can be handled; discard the tough outer layers, stems and root ends. Puree the onions in a food processor until smooth. Transfer onion puree to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until it is thickened and excess liquid is evaporated. Stir in cream sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve sauce warm or at room temperature. This is particularly nice when the sandwich is made on a crusty baguette.


Lamb

Lamb is a tougher leftover to disguise for a second round of eating. James Beard had the temerity to publish The Casserole Cookbook, leaving entire generations casserole-averse. He suggested combining sauted onions with a minced clove of garlic, leftover diced lamb, leftover gravy and cooked rice. A generous amount of chopped parsley was intended to fool the unsuspecting.

A far better use of lamb would be in Shepherd's Pie. Mix minced lamb with a chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper, moisten with leftover gravy or stock, and put in a baking dish. Add any leftover vegetables -- carrots, peas and green beans work well. Top with mashed potatoes. Cook in a 375-degree oven for about 45 minutes. This works with leftover beef as well.

Or mix chopped lamb with some couscous, basil, parsley, sauted onion and garlic, moisten with a little beef broth and make lamb-stuffed peppers. Use a combination of red, green and yellow bell peppers.


Ham

Take a cue from the French and make crepes. Try ham and asparagus in a cream sherry sauce, or ham paired with broccoli in a Bchamel sauce. Or take a cue from the '50s and consult an older edition of The Joy of Cooking or the Good Housekeeping cookbooks. Mine feature such un-Nouvelle ideas as Ham and Mushroom Puffs and Ham with Creamed Potatoes. Be wary of those recipes that have "Supreme" in their title. There are a few harmless ideas that June Cleaver would have embraced like ham with cauliflower mixed into cream of chicken soup diluted with milk and topped with cheddar cheese. Kids might eat this one.


Turkey

Turkey, of course, is the easiest to transform -- turkey enchiladas, turkey curry, turkey potpie, turkey Florentine, endless possibilities. This is one of my favorites:

Turkey Tetrazzini

6 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Madeira
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 cups leftover cooked turkey, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1/2 pound linguine cooked to al dente stage
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese mixed with 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet. When the foaming subsides, add the mushrooms and saut over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until the mushrooms have absorbed the butter and are tender. Stir in the Madeira and evaporate over high heat.

In another saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of butter. When foaming subsides, stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove sauce from heat and stir in the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in the mushrooms and turkey.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Layer half of pasta, half of mushroom and turkey mixture and repeat with pasta and turkey mushroom mix. Scatter Parmesan and bread crumbs over the top and dot with remaining tablespoon of butter. Heat for 45 minutes or until heated through, sauce is bubbling and top is browning. If you wish, slide casserole under the broiler for a moment to brown the top.

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