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Leftovers better than the original?

Grilled some NY strips last night with baked potatoes and it was quite good, but trying to figure out what do do with one leftover steak I had a great idea. Why not toss some red peppers, onions and a little seasoning (salt, pepper, crushed pepper flakes and celery salt) with the thinly sliced steak, a slice of Havarti and throw the whole works onto a soft toasted Ciabatta? So that's what I did. Along with fried baked potato it was surprisingly better than the original dinner last night.

My question is: have you ever fixed leftovers that were better than the original dish? And what was it?

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  1. Leftover meatloaf and brisket make for sandwiches that are often times more enjoyable.
    Braises are better the next day, served as is.

    1 Reply
    1. re: monavano

      Absolutely! Sandwiches, in my opinion, are what meatloaf is really made for.

      I always like lasagna better the next day too.

    2. Many soups, stews and braises are better the next day.

      2 Replies
      1. re: huiray

        You took the words right out of my mouth. (But now there's room there for the soup and stew.)

      2. Pretty much everything made with the remnants of the thanksgiving turkey are better than the original roasted turkey was.

        Also have to agree with just about all soups and braises being better the next day.

        1 Reply
        1. re: twyst

          I agree about the turkey - after spending the day cooking I never enjoy the fresh turkey dinner as much as the left-overs the next day when I can relax and enjoy the reheated leftovers - and I generally think the best part is the carcass made into a hearty turkey soup that is enjoyed for days after that with no further effort.

        2. Any stew or meat/vegetable soup, most bean dishes, chili, lots of casseroles. I agree with monavano about meat loaf; I love it fresh out of the oven, but my primary reason for making it is for the sandwiches. And as much as Marcella Hazan would hate me for saying this, I like just about any pasta dish better for lunch the next day; the only one I can think of at the moment that tends to get worse is mac'n'cheese.

          As for derivative dishes using leftovers, my mom's pot roast hash and her chicken (or turkey) hash were two things I've adored since I started eating real food. The beef hash is meat run through the grinder, the vegetables chopped and mixed in, and enough gravy to moisten; the chicken/turkey is chopped meat, stuffing and gravy. Both are baked, the beef version sometimes topped with biscuits. Alas, these are both just about the only childhood delights of mine that fail to charm Mrs. O, so I make smallish quantities to feed myself at noon.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Will Owen

            I certainly agree that meat/vegetable soups are better the next day, but that really refers to Western-style soups. Depending on what it is, various soups in a Chinese cuisine style are best eaten immediately, where the vegetables added are still crunchy and green, almost raw.

            One soup which deteriorates with age (if not being "replenished", just the same pot reheated repeatedly etc) is phở .

            1. re: huiray

              I disagree about Chinese style soups.

              Fish head soup, oxtail, pork sparerib with daikon, chicken herb, etc. are all better after a day of "rest" in the fridge.

              Even pho stock -- sans replenishment -- is often, if not always, better the day after it is nurtured and coaxed from the bones and aromatics.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Those Chinese-style soups you cite are indeed better the next day, although even there with long-simmered soups and braises - as well as the related "tun t'ong" kinds of soups - there are exceptions for me where I prefer the "just-finished" taste profile of some soups.

                You need to re-read my post. You ignored what I actually said - various soups where the vegetables are best eaten while still crunchy, almost raw (or the components just cooked). Wonton soup, for one, with just-cooked wontons and just-blanched choi sum, scattered with freshly chopped scallions and cilantro. Left-over wonton soup, reheated the next day, is a mess of soggy, mushy stuff. Various "kwun t'ong" preparations with fresh cut veggies - you want the crunchiness of the veggies. Overnight and reheated, you get another mushy mess.

                As for phở, well, when I make it it do tend to leave it overnight with the bones before finishing it off. Perhaps that is what you mean. After finishing it and filtering (i.e. with the fish sauce, the spices, etc etc all already added - and the spices removed) in my experience leaving it on the stove overnight (at RT) then reheating it often results in a gradual "turning" of the underlying flavor profile and a degradation/loss of the spice aromas, as well as an increasing concentration of the stock (more and more salty, ameliorated a bit by dilution - but that speeds along the decay in the spice aroma)

                We will have to disagree, and I will simply note that you may well like disintegrating wontons and soft mushy vegetables in all your soups.

                1. re: huiray

                  I think we agree, except you and I really have different ideas of what constitutes "soup".

                  I think of soup as the Pho stock, not the noodles and other fixins'.

                  Same with wonton soup.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Wonton soup constitutes everything. Wonton soup without the wontons etc is just wonton broth.

                    Phở stock is phở stock, without the noodles etc, and I meant what I said about the phở stock.

          2. I find that steak and roasted chicken turn out better as leftovers.

            As you noted, a steak and baked potato is good, but when made your sandwich you added a lot of extra flavors that aren't there for a basic steak (or roasted chicken) and potato dinner.

            Depending upon how much we have leftover, the next meal can range anywhere from stew, soups, pot pie to fajitas.

            1. many cakes, except the most delicate, are better the next day.

              2 Replies
              1. re: magiesmom

                My favorite cakes are not the delicate ones, but such brutes as fruitcake, gingerbread and persimmon pudding, all of which will continue improving to a great age indeed as long as they're kept tightly contained and chilled. I finished last fall's persimmon pudding around Easter, and it was amazing.

                Back when we were eating a lot more heartily than we do now, I would often make gumbo with pork neckbones and homemade chicken stock, and we'd eat it all week, making small additions and fresh rice every night. Shrimp would be added the third-from-last night, oysters on the final night.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  I actually make a fabulous gingerbread cake that calls for letting it sit for two days before serving.

              2. Thanksgiving turkey and fixings are always more enjoyable for me as leftovers.

                1. My mother used to make vegetable soup with leftovers accumulated during the week and a beef knuckle. Typical ingredients were corn, cabbage, tomatoes, green beans, celery. etc. She made a huge pot, then set it out on the unheated back porch for a few days. I can still conjure up the taste of that soup.

                  1. I like day-old, cold apple pie straight from the fridge

                    Same with cheesecake

                    Oxtail soup

                    Coleslaw, or just about any marinated or pickled vegetable dish

                    1. Soups and sauces often taste better after their flavors have a chance to meld.

                      1. I can't even eat chili the day I made it. It needs to sit at least a day for me to enjoy it. Same goes for bolognese sauce.

                        1. not sure if they're all better, but certainly look forward to having the leftovers to make other things to give the original a run for its money...

                          roasted chicken --> enchiladas, salads, etc.

                          roasted veggies (if not just cold out of the fridge...)
                          cauliflower --> soup!
                          corn --> chipotle creamy corn soup
                          eggplant --> dips, omelettes
                          and so on...

                          polenta --> polenta squares with any number of sauces

                          baby salmon croquettes --> soup croutons

                          chicken lo mein --> cold chicken lo mein the next morning... or later that night... chinese food in general :)

                          1. The only reason to do Thanksgiving dinner is to be able to make chicken tetrazzini (the little thin egg noodles, mushrooms, sherry, sauteed artichoke hearts) the next day.

                            1. I've been known to make a roast solely as an excuse to make hash. Leftovers rock.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: oldunc

                                This last Sunday morning I had a baggie of leftover grill-roasted baby potatoes, about two cups of pulled pork from a shoulder I'd fake-barbecued a week before, and half a red onion. This was obviously a Message from On High that I needed to make hash to go with the eggs, and I dutifully obeyed. I also heard a still, small voice telling me to save about a cup of this for a midweek-lunch egg mess … that'll be tomorrow.

                              2. I often use your same technique with the peppers and onions for leftover green beans.

                                1. A dish I make with zucchini, potatoes and eggplant tastes much better the next day. (my version of ratatouille.

                                  1. Yes, with Thai curries, the second day is always better. The spices get into the meat and vegetables. The best is you don't have to cook, just heating up.

                                    1. What I like best about making a beef roast is making miroton with the leftovers next day.

                                      1. Pasta was previously mentioned, but a touch more involved is *fried* leftover pasta. If the noodles are sauced a bit the day before and fridged overnight, it becomes a prime candidate for the teflon pan and a bit of crisping up. Too dry? add a touch more sauce. Not dry enough, keep on frying.
                                        Burnt edges heaven.
                                        Having sliced meatballs or italian sausage in the mix: priceless.

                                        Depending on the type, sometimes pizza does better cardboard-aged in the fridge.

                                        1. For us the most often and favorite reuse of leftovers is mashed potatoes. Either turned into potato pancakes (not like latkes) or mixed with hot peppers, reheated, and topped with lots of cheddar. I always make extra so we can have one of these.