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Planned Extra Meals: Never Say "Leftovers"

Many meal entrees can be built to last. Even better, making more leverages your effort. For a minimum of extra preparation time, the cook obtains extra meals that can take only as much time to heat as the oven or microwave require. Even so, a great many people are gun-shy when it comes to leftovers. Common reasons for this are concern that food will spoil, that leftovers are less appetizing than food prepared on the spot, that leftovers are somehow déclassé, and that people will turn up their noses at someone who eats leftovers. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Many dishes are just as good the next day, and some are even better the second time around.

Cook's Glossary

A leftover is extra food not eaten at a meal. “Leftovers” are also a frame of mind. To some people they are somehow lessened in value, like a new car the minute you drive it off the lot. To many others, leftovers are a time-saving opportunity to take prepared ingredients to explore a new way of serving.

Regarding spoilage, keep in mind that if a dish requires high heat to prepare, harmful organisms will be reduced or eliminated. Be sure, of course, to store prepared food properly, in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how long you want to keep it, and if refrigerated, consume food within a few days. Exceptions include some vegetable and seafood dishes where a critical attribute is fresh flavor and texture, qualities that will not be preserved in the fridge. (I did once try leftover grilled calamari as a sandwich the next day, but I'd rather not talk about it.) Regarding déclassé, well, if famous TV chefs can promote leftovers, so can us mere mortals. A lot of us were also brought up with a strong practical streak, and there is a lot of satisfaction from leftovers; they make the most of your time, and nothing is wasted.

Although most dishes will do fine the next day, here's a hot list of cool leftovers that a purist will insist taste even better the second time around:

  • Barbecued chicken
  • Lasagna and other pasta dishes
  • Stews and rich soups
  • Chili

A bit of extra time invested in one of these flavorsome dishes repays by enabling a 10-minute meal the next night. And the next night, too, if you want.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to 20-Minute Meals © 2003 by CWL Publishing Enterprises, Inc., John Woods, President. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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