Creative ideas for your July 4th picnic leftovers

By CHEF RENEE MORGAN

Okay. I’ll admit it. By some people’s standards, I may, or may not, depending on who you talk to, have overdone it just a tad on the Fourth of July goodies. In my defense, we were headed over to our friends, Rodney and Betti’s, who were cooking briskets, chickens, burgers and ribs and they asked me to bring sides. Sides, you say? I LOVE sides! There are so many options.

I’m enough of a traditionalist to start with the classics, I just like to jack them up a little. Corn on the cob roasted with butter, lime and cilantro, guacamole and chips, cowboy caviar, baked beans, and potato salad. But not just any potato salad. My special loaded baked potato-potato salad, loaded up with bacon, cheese, green onions, eggs and a yummy sour cream sauce. Watermelon. What is summer without watermelon? And just any old cut up fruit won’t do. Oh no! This was my chance to use my special V cutter to make a watermelon basket to hold the cut up fruit and I figured I might as well lace the fruit with some alcohol while I was at it. You’ll remember the deviled eggs we talked about a couple of weeks ago? Well, I couldn’t decide which kind to make and the chicken’s production has been high, so I made all three. Seems like no matter how many deviled eggs I make, it’s never enough.

Anywhooo, I can’t imagine how, but we did manage to end up with some leftovers. Of course, I love, love, love leftovers….the first day. If you’re anything like me, leftovers get kinda, pardon the pun, old after that. However, I’m also my grandmother’s granddaughter and a chef, which means I can’t stand for anything to go to waste. So, I set about to come up with some creative ways to use up those leftovers. Overall, I think we did pretty good and came up with several more meals in the process.

In case, you may be dealing with some leftovers of your own, here are some of the ideas I utilized:

- Run leftover hamburger buns through the food processor to make breadcrumbs. These can be stored in a zip type bag until needed for meatballs, breading chicken, etc.

- Cube leftover bread or hamburger buns to make croutons for salads. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Allow to cool completely. Store in a zip type bag in the freezer.

- Cube leftover bread or hamburger buns to make a strata or bread pudding.

- Make a sauce of powdered sugar, cream cheese, heavy cream and enough of the juice from the fruit to make the sauce pourable. Mix with the fruit for a yummy fruit salad.

- Run leftover fruit through a blender, strain, add a touch of honey and freeze for a healthy popsicle.

- Blend leftover fruit in a blender with ice, agave, and a touch of milk for breakfast smoothies.

- Cut the corn off the cob and use in salads and salsas.

- Shred leftover chicken or brisket to use for pizza topping or in tacos. You can also use up the rest of the guacamole here.

- Shred leftover chicken and brisket to make chicken pot pie or shepherd’s pie.

- Chop up leftover hamburgers to use for making chili, spaghetti or add to a hearty soup.

- Chop up leftover deviled eggs to make egg salad sandwiches. It’s basically the same thing anyway. Add a different twist like curry. I think the yolk stuffing mix also makes a good dip for chips.

- Slice leftover sausage into disks and add to stir fried veggies and pasta for a quick weeknight dinner.

- Mash up leftover potato salad, bind together with a little cornstarch, shape into little cakes and sauté in a olive oil to make potato salad latkes. You can even top them with some tuna or smoked salmon for a nice dinner option.

- How about tossing some of that shredded barbecue chicken over greens with sliced tomatoes, avocado, feta cheese and dressing for a great salad?

- Use leftover mashed potatoes or scoop out the potato from baked potatoes to add to your favorite bread recipe, along with a little sour cream and bacon for a great sandwich bread that can be kept in the freezer until needed.

- Chop up leftover deviled eggs and mix with cooked macaroni to make macaroni salad. You may need to add a little milk or vinegar to loosen up the mixture a bit.

- Mix some leftover shredded barbecue chicken, a little extra sauce, a touch of mayo, shredded cabbage and a broken up package of uncooked ramen noodles for a kicky chicken coleslaw.

- Layer leftover fruit with store bought pound cake and whipped dairy topping to make an easy trifle dessert.

- Crush up leftover watermelon, remove seeds. Add tequila and triple sec for cool summertime watermelon margaritas.

 

Chef Reneé’s Loaded Baked Potato Salad

 

2 pounds red potatoes, skin on, washed

6 boiled eggs

1 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons dijon

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 pieces bacon, cooked and chopped

4 green onions, sliced thin

1/2 shredded cheddar cheese

 

In a large pot of salted water, add potatoes and cook until just fork tender. Remove from boiling water and cool. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch cubes.

While potatoes are cooking and cooling, cook bacon on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven until crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels. Reserve 3 Tablespoons bacon grease. Heat bacon fat in a frying pan and fry potatoes until light golden brown. Remove to paper towel lined plate to cool, season with a pinch of salt.

Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, white vinegar salt and pepper in a small bowl. Chop bacon, boiled eggs and green onions. Combine potatoes, bacon, eggs, green onions and dressing, adjust seasoning as necessary. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Top with shredded cheese.

To make into latkes, mash the potato salad with a potato masher. Add a little cornstarch to act as a binding agent. Form into patties about the size of a hamburger patty. Fry in a non-stick skillet with a touch of oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt to taste while still hot.