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  • Writer's pictureEric Elkins

Ode: Leftovers at Home

Reworking leftovers into something delicious is one of my superpowers. Put it in the fridge for the night and I’ll find a way to rework into a new dish that emphasizes what you loved about the original but elevates it beyond reheated sludge. Adding eggs is almost always a win. Sautéing is generally preferable to microwaving. Bringing in new staple ingredients (potatoes, rice, bread) and some green vegetables can stretch a to-go box’s contents into a meal for two.

The days after Thanksgiving are like the Superbowl of leftovers, with multitudes of possibilities and divergent dishes that need to be eaten or composted relatively quickly.

Nothing wrong with just making a plate with all the fixings and heating it up, or raiding the fridge for a turkey sandwich on good bread, piled high with leftover salad and cranberry relish, or served open-faced and warm with mashed potatoes and hot gravy. Right now, my house is redolent of rich turkey stock after I simmered the Thanksgiving carcass with carrots and celery and onions and a few select herbs. Soup tonight with the rest in the freezer for winter.

But my absolute favorite way of reinventing leftovers — especially after Thanksgiving — is by doing up a giant skillet full o’ hash. I dice onions and whatever other aromatics I have around and get them nice and translucent before adding in each additional ingredient based on how much time it needs to cook. If I have leftover potatoes (mashed or smashed or even French fried), I chop them into uniform cubes that are ready for browning. Otherwise, I throw some new reds in the Instant Pot and get them soft before placing them in the fridge to cool enough to chop (or, fuck it, just drop them into the fried onions and chop them with my spatula until they’re spread around the pan, getting brown). Zucchini, sweet potatoes, cooked carrots… all of that can go in if it’s sitting around asking to be eaten before the week is out.

The kitchen fills with the smell of a breakfast diner — in a good way — the onions and garlic and veggies getting all caramelized and crisped up nicely.

At the very end, I fold in whatever protein source I have available. Diced turkey. St. Patrick’s Day corned beef. Browned ground beef. Leftover fried chicken. I flip and stir it all, often adding in a couple pats of butter to ensure everything is properly browned and flavorful. The spices come in next — cumin and paprika and smoked pepper or maybe cayenne — whatever flavor profile I’m in the mood for. I sprinkle in one of the 18 types of salt I always seem to have sitting on the counter. And then I stir and flip again. And again, flattening everything down into the bottom of the pan for extra crispy bits before giving it all another scrape and stir.

I’ll pile a few healthy scoops into a giant bowl and top it with hot sauce. Frank’s is ideal for poultry hashes, though sriracha or chili crisp can be equally tasty. I have a couple salsas picantes I brought back from Mexico that bring a nutty heat to everything they touch.

The best thing about a good dinner hash? You always end up making more than you thought. Which means, once the meal is done, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have… more leftovers.

My advice? Fry it up for breakfast the next day and drop a couple eggs on top.

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