In Praise of Leftovers

What you start withSo you had your holiday bash. You cooked your steaks; you made your fancy desserts. You even shopped at the local farmer's market for fresh salad fixings. But now you're left with a few odds and ends, not a lot of time, and a stomach that's growling like nostalgia for that delicious New York Strip. Don't settle for a glass of ice water and a handful of Cheeto's. Relive the magic with leftovers. They won't ever take the place of the first time around, but done right, and with a little inventiveness, you might even pass them off as French.

Ingredients: leftovers and a reasonably well stocked pantry

  • For example, a few hunks of grilled New York Strip
  • six ounces of heavy cream
  • half a large onion
  • a big handful of leftover mushrooms
  • 1 tbl flour
  • about half a cup of beef broth (from the fridge) and.....
  • a package of lo mein noodles

plus, salt, pepper and olive oil are always good to have around

Quick Hint: When reheating steak--when cooking steak, for that matter, but this is more important--make sure you let the steak come to room temperature first. You want to reheat the steak, not cook it further.

So what can be made with that hodgepodge of materials? A not-bad steak and pasta dish with mushroom cream sauce.


Cook the lo mein noodles according to the directions on the package (make sure you get a solid pasta pot; it should hold a couple quarts of water at least)

While the water's coming to a boil....

  • Set a good-sized skillet over medium-high heat
  • Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil (you've got olive oil, right? Nothing fancy, just the regular stuff)
  • Once it reaches temperature, add the onions and sweat them for about three minutes
  • Then add the mushrooms and sauté them with the onions for about another three minutes

Quick hint: Storing mushrooms can be problematic. They contain a rainy season's worth of moisture and can turn on you without a moment's notice. I've found the best way to store mushrooms is to take them out of their container, wrap them loosely in paper towels and then stow them in a brown paper bag. On the counter is fine for a couple days at least. Probably.

  • Once the mushrooms have given up some of their moisture, add the cream and some of the beef broth
  • stir slowly and add in the flour (make sure to sprinkle it slowly, stirring the whole time. If you just dump in the lot, it'll clump on you. Essentially, you're making a gravy, and no one likes lumpy gravy)
  • Use the remaining beef broth to get the sauce to a consistency you like and add salt and pepper to taste

In praise of leftoversAbout this time, the noodles should be done. Drain them, and go ahead and reduce the sauce's heat source to low. Slice the steak thin and go ahead and zap in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Again, we don't want to cook it further if we can at all avoid it. Plate along side the noodles and lightly drizzle (or drench) each with the mushroom sauce. Ta da! (nearly) Instant comfort food!

Don't be afraid to make additions. I think some diced roasted red peppers would have been a terrific complement, in both color and flavor, but I was dealing with pantry food. I had to settle for some olives and capers to give the dish a tepenadish zing.

What to pair it with?
Wine was made for this kind of meal. Seriously. Wine's tannins serve to cleanse the palate after each sumptuous mouthful, and each mouthful serves the prep the palate for wine's complex flavors. The dish I ended up with would stand up to all but the heaviest wines. But with leftovers, you don't often have the luxury of choosing what you'll end with, so you want versatility. Enter Rex Goliath's merlot.

I've talked on occasion about RG's pinot noir--arguably one of the best wine values on the shelf--and decided to give one of their other varietals a try. I wasn't disappointed.

From the wine maker:

We really love this wine. Soft, supple, and complex. There is a certain elegance to this wine that fits our vision of the perfect Merlot: Pretty and seductive with a decidedly spicy nose of black cherry, cassis and cedar. Very ripe and round, almost like a Jolly Rancher candy. Mouth-filling flavors of plums, cherries and wild red berries dominate from start to finish. Good seam of acidity paired with soft tannins make this a wonderful wine for game fowl such as pheasant or duck. Try a nicely roasted Rock Cornish Game Hen...yum!


Biby Cletus said...

Cool blog, i just randomly surfed in, but it sure was worth my time, will be back

Deep Regards from the other side of the Moon

Biby Cletus

Greg Turner said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am glad you like the blog :)