Re-Seasoning: How To Never Be Bored With Leftovers

Here's a cooking hack you can use to prevent "leftover boredom." I call it re-seasoning.

Essentially, you take a previously-made meal and add new spices and/or new ingredients to change the dish into something totally new. This transforms your leftovers into a new and different meal with negligible effort.

Here's an easy example: Let's say you fire up a batch of my easy Split Pea Soup, one of the least expensive recipes in all of Casual Kitchen. But wait: this time, make a double batch. It's the same amount of work, but you'll produce twice as much food.

Then, feed your family with this central dish tonight and tomorrow (if your household is like mine, people start complaining if they get served the same thing more than two days in a row). For the third night, then, make some other easy and laughably cheap recipe: Black Beans and Rice for example.

Here's where it gets interesting. On the night after you serve the Black Beans and Rice, reheat the leftover Split Pea Soup, but add a twist: Briefly saute four or five links of Italian sausage, and add them plus two generous tablespoons of Tabasco sauce to the soup. Then, for an intriguing mix of sweet and hot flavors, add in two peeled and cubed sweet potatoes.

In just five minutes of prep work and 15 minutes of simmer time, you've "re-seasoned" your Split Pea Soup into a something completely different: Fiery Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup.

Voila! A totally new, healthy meal for your family for two more nights, made with minimal cost and effort. Most importantly, you're not serving leftovers. Technically.

Here's a few more re-seasoning ideas using recipes from CK's archives.

1) Starting to get sick of that big pot of laughably cheap Black Beans and Rice you made a couple of days ago? Add the juice of a lime--and a couple of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce--to give it an entirely different flavor profile.

2) Make a double batch of my Chicken Mole Sauce, and then for your re-seasoned meal, crack two or three eggs into the sauce to make a Mexican Shakshouka.

3) Take an extra large batch of leftover Savory Moroccan Chickpeas, and puree the leftovers in a food processor for a nuanced and unusually flavorful Hummus.

4) Take my Shrimp in Tomato Sauce recipe, except this time make a double batch just of the sauce. After you've enjoyed the shrimp and sauce for your first meal, briefly fry up four or five bone-in chicken thighs and add them to the leftover sauce. You've now got a delicious Chicken In Tomato Sauce recipe, but with an interesting middle eastern twist.

Look: on one level, this cooking hack is simple, almost to the point of obviousness. It's also not always a perfect solution. For example, some re-seasoned meals will still closely resemble their predecessor dish. After all, you can try to change the flavor profile of black beans all you like... but you're still eating black beans.

And some re-seasoning transformations simply don't work well: I'm not sure what you could do to re-season CK's Corn Pone Pie recipe, and I'm also drawing a blank on Laughably Cheap Carrot and Fresh Cabbage Curry. In other words, this hack may not work well with certain recipes. However, it does work quite well on simple, basic recipes that feature simple and mild flavors.

Readers, can you think of any re-seasoning ideas of your own? Share them--with links to recipes on your blog if you like--in the comments below!

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Anonymous said...

Bake your chicken (or chicken parts) plainly - serve as is with veggies.

you can shred & mix with BBQ sauce for pulled chicken sandwiches

slice the breasts for deli style sandwiches

cube & add to salad

boil the carcass with carrot/onion/celery/turnip & make a brothy soup - to which you can add leftover chicken pieces

Luckily, I am able to get away with serving plain chicken over & over. (I don't own a restaurant, you eat what you are served that goes for the 4 year old & the 43 year old.)

Jen Blacker said...

Hell just put the black beans and rice in a soft taco shell. Add sour cream and salsa and you just made a tasty taco. I do this all the time, I just love black bean tacos while I serve beef tacos to my husband. Just two cups of the black beans and and another cup or so of rice lasts me at least 3 meals.

Sally said...

When I make something (a roast or a sauce) that I intend to re-season or repurpose, I keep the original seasoning pretty basic. Salt, pepper, garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, parsley, and cilantro show up in a lot of cuisines and aren't often out of place when you repurpose a dish. Things like chilies in adobo or curry are more difficult to work around.

Some things aren't meant to be re-seasoned (corn pone pie), but I think fresh carrot and cabbage curry might be able to be turned into soup. Put the curry and rice into a pot with water or broth and add lentils. It's not something I'd like (I don't like curry), but it would probably work.

Sally said...

I meant to include this in my previous comment.

While this isn't re-seasoning, during the winter I often make beef or chicken stew. I usually do not add a starch to the stew. The stew can be served with potatoes, rice or biscuits. Alternatively, I can make chicken or beef and dumplings, chicken or beef and noodles, or chicken or beef potpie.

Daniel said...

Great ideas and comments.

Anonymous, that is a great way to get a ton of mileage out of chicken.

Jen, thank you: I never thought about repurposing the black beans into burritos or tacos, that's a spectacular re-seasoning idea!

Sally, totally agreed, it's easier to add seasoning to something mild or not seasoned, and it's impossible (practically) to take seasoning away. And thank you so much for the idea for the Fresh Carrot and Cabbage Curry, that's a great one.


Ronda said...

I do this ALL the time. I'm a big believer in the double (or triple!) batch, and I often plan to use the main ingredient for several meals. Whenever we have baked or grilled chicken or a beef roast or steak, the leftovers are often transformed into a stir fry of some sort, and when I brown burger or sausage, I generally do enough for two or three different recipes at once, putting the extra browned meat in small batches in the freezer. Cuts the prep time and cleanup by half!

I also do this with recipes that don't go over well. We tried Baked Avocado Fries last week, and no one was particularly thrilled with them. A couple days ago we stuck those leftovers inside the tortillas with our Baked Fajita and it was a big success!