Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New leftovers.. not so oxymoronic

I know that not everyone is a leftover lover. I, however, am a big fan of leftovers. They're right there, already prepared, make a fast and easy sidedish, or even a whole meal. You already know what they taste like, whether or not they will be satisfying, and if you finish them off, you don't even have to dirty a dish. But that can get boring after the 3rd or 4th re-heat.

In light of this trying-something-new attitude, I have begun spicing up my leftovers with more than just spices. Just because your leftovers were originally prepared one way, doesn't mean that's how you have to eat them the next time around.

We all have those comfort foods that have been in our families for years that we love coming home to. On occassion. When mom makes a huge pot of something and expects us to eat it 4 times in 3 days, then take some home with us, it gets to be a little redundant. One of these meals for my family is Galushka (pronounced gul-ish-ga). It is a hungarian dish made with wide egg noodles, cottage cheese, and butter. Growing up we ate it all the time with peas, a cheap and easy meal for our busy mom. For those of you who have never had it, or even heard of it, I know that the combination can sound strange and unappealing. In fact, I had no idea what was in it until I was 18, and I'm glad. Fear not, though, it is actually quite delicious! And here I have added one extra, popular and more mainstream ingredient that brings it over the top.

Gulushka tastes unlike anything else I've ever tasted. The egg noodles taste like egg noodles; if you've never had them, they taste very similar to regular pasta. The butter of course just makes the egg noodles taste.. buttered. Then there's the cottage cheese, the one ingredient that always seems to freak people out the most. I'm not a huge fan of cottage cheese in it's natural state, but that strange, almost bitter or sour cottage cheese taste disappears when it is served warm. The meal tastes like pasta, butter, and a mild cheese. A mild, Hungarian mac and cheese is what my brother and I were told it was when we were kids. And we believed it, because that's really just what it tastes like.

You don't have to change up the entire meal or go to a completely new restaurant to try something new, to have a new food experience. Sometimes leftovers and one new ingredient or two is all you need.

So, after Thanksgiving it was time to break out the Christmas decorations and deck the halls. In the midst of all of the cleaning, rearranging and decorating, my mom and I totally forgot to eat, something that always happens when we're on the go. Once we finally sat down our bodies had time to realize that we hadn't eaten a damn thing all day. So, we opened the fridge, grabbed some butter, happened to have some cottage cheese, and mom always has egg noodles in the house. We whipped up a batch of cottage cheese. The next day it was time for me to head home, and as a parting gift my mom sent me on my way with a tuperware full of gulushka. Two days later I'm still eating the leftovers, and feeling it needs an extra kick. In thinking about what to add, the dish doesn't have any meat in it, and it requires a good amount of salt after being reheated, so I come up with a salty meat: bacon.

That's right, I added bacon, and I bet it would be even BETTER with prosciutto or pancetta. I didn't have any bacon in the house since I don't eat it much, but I did have a small packet of bacon pieces. Now, don't confuse this with bacon bits, they are not hard or nearly as crunchy. The bacon pieces are significantly different. Imagine taking several strips of bacon, removing the fatty pieces, then chopping them up in to small pieces, and that's what I used.

I took the remaining gulushka, added a little bit of Olivo Light margarine (pasta is always dry and difficult to re-heat), and some bacon pieces. Then, a little trick my mom taught me when I was little that I swear by to this day: I took a paper towel, ran water over it, rang it out, and covered the bowl with it. The wet paper towel creates steam in the microwave, leaving whatever you're heating up more moist* than usual. This trick works great for mac and cheese, potatoes, and especially rice!

After heating I stirred the contents of my "new" gulushka, added a little black pepper, and dove in. Awesome. The salty bacon added a whole new flavor, uped the salt and protein, and added a new texture. The pasta, butter and cheese are all soft, and the bacon is more firm, making it distinguishable amungst the other ingredients with every mouthful. It was still the same ol' gulushka I've always known and loved, but even better.

Despite my desire to try something new, this one I'll repeat.

So, with this rapidly approaching holiday season I encourage you to add a little this or that before re-heating your leftovers. Let me know how it goes :)

* Those of you who hate the word "moist" - I apologize, but get used to it if you're going to follow my blog. In my opinion it is one of the most important words when it comes to food. Good bread, chicken and cupcakes are all way better when they're moist. :)

1 comment:

  1. waiting for something new. Love reading this!