My husband and I took over hosting Christmas for my family about five years ago, which has been an absolute joy. Cooking and hosting family and friends is one of my favorite things to do – and the idea of not traveling on holidays, given how much I travel for work, is an added delight.
After the first year of hosting a Christmas feast, we woke up the next morning with a serious hangover. Not from wine (well, maybe a little bit…), but from all the leftover food we had, both cooked and uncooked! We’re two people with hearty appetites, but knew that would only take us so far. I was bummed at the idea that so much of this delicious food was likely going to spoil. And it wasn’t of the non-perisable sort that we could easily donate or store.
So, I started getting creative to extend the life and use of our Christmas leftovers. Here are a few of my go-tos:
Rib Roast Hash
I make a rib roast each year, which is simple and delicious in its original form, but it doesn’t reheat all that well. Instead of eating it cold or super well done, I’ve started making a hash out of it for a weekend brunch treat. Cut up the meat into bite size pieces, throw it in the skillet with a little grapeseed oil (which is better for meats than EVOO) or butter, onions, and diced potatoes (you can use left over mashed potatoes here, too). Delicately place a fried egg on top and sprinkle it with some fresh herbs. NOM. You can do this with any type of meat you’ve made for the holiday, including poultry.
We’re always left with a stack of various breads, rolls and baguettes. You can make breadcrumbs out of nearly any type of leftover bread you have. If you don’t have the energy to do it right after the holiday (food coma, anyone?), slice it up, dry it out (it doesn’t need to be stale) and throw it in the freezer for up to 2 months (we hope your food coma doesn’t last that long). Once you’re ready to roll, lay slices of bread out on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes on each side. Once cooled, throw the slices in a food processor with the dried herbs that make you happy. A couple of pulses later and you’ve got yourself homemade breadcrumbs. They’re a lot yummier than the boxed kind, and usually contain a lot less preservatives depending on what type of bread you used. You can use them fresh, or put them into an airtight container and freeze them for up to three months.
I’m a bit of a sucker for fresh herbs. I tend to overbuy bushels of these little delights, especially during the holidays. I can’t stop myself – they just smell so good and make everything so yummy! I am especially sad when I see these little guys go to waste, so I’ve started processing them the morning after so they stick around a little longer. For rosemary, thyme and other drier herbs, you can simply dry them, throw them in a spice / bean grinder and keep them as dry herbs. I have a harder time doing that with the herbs that have higher water content (basil, mint, sage…oh, sage…). With those herbs, I wash them, lay them flat out on a cookie sheet and freeze them for a day or so. Once they’re completely frozen, I put them in separate Ziploc bags, push all the air out and put them back in the freezer. I try to use them within three months, but they will last up to six.
I, uh, don’t usually have all that much trouble figuring out how to consume those half-empty bottles of red wine in their original form before they sour. I’ll sometimes throw it into the pan to brighten up a broth or sauce in the week following the holiday — but I just don’t think that my meals appreciate a good Bordeaux the way my palate does. For those who are less excited to partake of leftovers of the red wine variety, here’s some advice from a few of our favorites at Real Simple and Recipe Girl.
What do you do with your holiday leftovers? Tell us how you make the most of your holiday goodies the morning after!