For a long time, my cooking career consisted mainly of baking, which follows set procedures and lists of ingredients. Experimentation was risky. I've always wanted to be more of an impromptu cook, knowing just what seasoning to apply where, like an elusive puzzle piece. I've been making progress, through simple trial and error and bits of knowledge I gain through osmosis when I skim through food magazines at work.
One of my favorite things to do these days is fish out day-old leftovers from the fridge and revitalize them. I rarely keep them in their original form, unless they're just too good to be messed with, like my mom's stuffed shells. I also like trying to find ways to expand leftovers--dicing a few pieces of leftover chicken into a stir-fry, for example--to make another full meal.
Today's mission: leftover Chinese. Who DOESN'T have leftover Chinese? Who can eat those gargantuan portions of rice and sticky meat in one sitting? Warming up half a serving of lo mein is easy, but alas, I was stuck with the following: 1/2 cup pork fried rice, 1-2 cups white rice, and 3/4 cup of General Tso's chicken. This wouldn't do--I needed to make a meal for two people, me and my sister Angela, who's always the most willing to undergo my food experiments, being an accomplished baker herself.
First, I wanted to make the rice more appetizing. I combined both rices and seasoned the mixture with a pinch of dried ginger, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of garlic salt, each flavor chosen because I've known it to be included in many Asian recipes.
Instead of trying to split the leftover chicken between us, I diced it into smaller pieces and mixed it with the rice, and microwaved the whole thing.
To complete the meal, I added bowls of fall lettuce salad and buttermilk drop biscuits from a super easy recipe in Cook's Illustrated. (Oh, and a Leinenkugel Berry Weiss. ;) Our revitalized Chinese was delicious--the chicken reheated well after being diced, and the rice was fresh and savory.
The moral of the story is: don't throw out leftovers! Get them out, dice them up, throw them in a pan, and toss on a seasoning combination you haven't tried before. You can't lose--they're only leftovers!