Christmas Leftovers Planner
However carefully you shop, however good you are at portion control, however many unexpected extra mouths suddenly turn up at your Christmas table, you are sure to have food leftover after the Christmas feasting – probably quite a lot of it. Some of it will of course be used up in the days following, with cold-cuts and sandwiches galore. But cold-cuts and sandwiches get boring after a few days, so rather than throw good food away, plan now how it can be stored for later use. There are many tasty meals to be made from leftovers, particularly Christmas leftovers with their overtones of luxury and once-a-year flavours, and it is economical to do so too.
Make sure you have plenty of freezer-proof containers in stock, preferably the re-usable type, and/or freezer bags, foil, clingfilm/kitchen wrap etc. Make sure also that you have a pen and some labels handy – you may know what you’re putting in the freezer now, but you won’t remember in a month or two when you’re rummaging through the cold depths trying to identify anonymous frosty packages.
- Turkey Leftovers: remove the meat from the bones as soon as practical. Leave as much meat in the refrigerator as you are likely to use in the next couple of days. Slice, dice and cube the rest of the meat for various future recipes, and freeze in appropriate portions. Use the turkey carcase to make a stock, and freeze the stock in useful quantities – larger amounts for soups, gravies and adding to casseroles etc, and some into ice cube trays so that you can add one or two cubes to enrich a sauce or similar. If it’s not convenient to make the stock within a few days, break down the carcase and freeze the bones for later use.
- Other Meat Leftovers: as turkey, and using any bones for stock as above.
- Leftover Roast Potatoes: Some like cold roast potatoes, with perhaps a little relish, mayonnaise or tomato ketchup with their cold-cuts. I don’t think they successfully reheat as roast potatoes, but roughly chopped or sliced and fried in a little oil, they do make very good sauté potatoes. Otherwise, chop and mash any leftovers and mix with leftover greens and other root vegetables to make “bubble and squeak.”
- Leftover Cooked Root Vegetables: Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips etc could go to make a very quick and tasty casserole with some leftover turkey and gravy. If they are reasonably firm there is no reason why you couldn’t microwave them for a minute or two for a quick vegetable side dish the next day. Or chop them and use them in a soup, perhaps made with some of your lovely freshly-made turkey stock. Otherwise, mash them into your bubble and squeak.
- Leftover Green Vegetables: far better to cook some fresh green veggies when you need them, so chop and mash down any leftover greens (cabbage, peas, broccoli etc) to add to your potatoes for bubble and squeak.
- Leftover Gravy: of course, I’m talking about proper turkey-giblet gravy here, of course, not the kind you make from granules. Frankly, there probably won’t be any leftover gravy in my house, certainly after a day or two. If, however, you have made a vast amount then either add it to any soup or casserole you are making, or freeze it down in suitable quantities.
- Leftover Christmas Cake: a well made Christmas Cake, moist and fruity, should keep well enough until you’ve eaten the last morsel, as long as kept in a cool place in an airtight tin or box.
- Leftover Christmas Pudding: probably best refrigerated and eaten within a week or so, either eaten cold, or reheating portions in the microwave or gently fried in butter. If you have a lot left over, freeze into portions, defrosting and reheating as needed.
- Leftover Cheese: cheese keeps well in the ‘fridge, and, as I love cheese, I’m probably going to munch my way through it, or use it in cooking, well before it is in any danger or going “off.” Cheese does freeze well, though, if you are left with a large amount and are not as much of a cheese-hog as me. Grate some of the hard cheeses into suitable portions, and they can be added to sauces straight from the freezer.
- Leftover Bread: sliced bread can go into the freezer, and used for toast as required, or perhaps used in a Bread and Butter Pudding. You can also blitz leftover bread down into breadcrumbs in the food processor; leave to dry thoroughly, then store in an airtight container.
Remember to be safe: if you have had leftover food hanging around for a while that you are not sure of, especially if it has not been refrigerated, better to dispose of it rather than try to save it for later; the freezer will only make bugs dormant, not kill them. Don’t re-freeze food that has already been frozen, unless you have subsequently cooked it.
Don’t forget to search this blog for delicious and economical leftover recipes, and I shall be adding as many as I can during the next week or so, particularly geared to Christmas Leftovers. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all.