I once wrote a post here where I compared leftovers to clothes on the sale rack. Of course I then went on to explain how to turn the bits and pieces in assorted tupperware from lame-o mark-downs to haute couture.
All that may apply 363 days of the year. But on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving’s big giant American feast, leftovers take center stage. I think they sometimes are even better than what’s served on Thursday itself–some food, like turkey stored in its gravy, only gets better with time. Other stuff, like sweet potatoes, just tastes better on a (relatively) empty stomach, not one that’s been stuffed with biscuits, mashed potatoes, and of course turkey.
But by today, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that we may have all just had enough. Enough rich food. Enough sage, thyme, and rosemary. Enough squash, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes.
Out with the old! And in with…what? I sometimes get so overwhelmed by the leftovers in my fridge (or in my tummy), that it’s hard to think outside the box.
What usually refreshes my palate during the holiday season is food with a bit of spice. Extra garlic starts to do the trick, but what I’m really talking about is ginger, red pepper flakes, cumin, cayenne, garam masala. Last year, my mom and I went out for Indian food right after Thanksgiving. If you’re Jewish, and a New Yorker, like us, you probably are used to Chinese food on Christmas.
This simple stir fry follows a formula I make frequently, especially during these holiday weeks when Alex and I want to dine on food that’s warming but not necessarily decadent. I like to do all the prep work before Alex gets home; it’s meditative, and I listen to the radio. Then I can throw it together whenever we are ready to eat. Though I normally don’t mind washing dishes (it’s putting them away in the cabinets that I abhor for some reason), when I make stir fry, I usually take Alex up on his offer to help–all that prep work unfortunately dirties a lot of bowls.
Start by sautéing your favorite cut of meat or tofu, using much less poundage than if you were just grilling a serving of it plain. Add as many vegetable and tablespoons of ginger as you can stand to cut. Then sauce it all in something salty, pungent, and spicy. Serve over rice. Repeat weekly from now til Christmas.
From my kitchen, giving up on my leftovers, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Pork and String Bean Stir Fry
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin (or white wine)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3/4 pound pork loin cutlets, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
about 3 tablespoons oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece ginger, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
1 red or yellow pepper, trimmed and cut thinly
2 large handfuls green or wax beans, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
Scallions, for garnish
In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, mirin (or white wine), sugar, a pinch of salt, the sesame oil, cornstarch cornstarch, and 1/4 cup water. Set aside.
Combine the sliced pork with the flour and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat all the slices, then set aside.
In a large saucepan or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over very high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the pork and cook, stirring constantly, until the pork is slightly golden and nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove to a plate with a rim to catch all the juices.
Immediately add another 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, then add the onions. Cook, stirring constantly; when the onions are soft, add the ginger and garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook about 1 minute, stirring the whole time, then add the pepper and green beans. Toss to mix everything together, then add about 1/4 cup water, bring to a boil, and cover the pot. Cook 5-7 minutes, checking and tossing often, until the veggies are cooked but not too soft.
Add the pork back in with its juices and toss to combine. Add the sauce and cook, stirring constantly until the pork is cooked through and hot, and the sauce has thickened, about 4 minutes.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped scallion greens, on top of white rice.