The Morning After: How to upgrade your leftovers

It was such a good idea the night before. We’d take you home, you’d stay over, tomorrow would be as wonderful as the day we met … Alas, french fries, you’ve fooled us again. While cold pizza will always have a place in our hearts, let’s be real: Some leftovers just suck. Opening a carryout box to find last night’s sandwich devolved into a soggy shadow of its former self is depressing. It’s time to start over. We turned to St. Louis chefs for new ways to turn yesterday’s dinner into today’s standout meal. So go ahead and request a box for the nachos – you’re not letting one queso-soaked chip go to waste.

French Fry Gnocchi with Gremolada
Courtesy of Ernesto’s Wine Bar’s Jimmy Hippchen

4 to 6 servings

1 cup leftover thick-cut french fries at room temperature
1½ cups flour, plus more for rolling
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 bunch curly leaf parsley, stemmed and minced
Zest of 1 lemon, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 Tbsp. butter
2 pinches kosher salt, divided

• Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath.
• In a medium mixing bowl, lightly mash the french fries with a fork, taking care not to overwork the starch. The potato should be broken up but still fluffy. Set aside.
• Add the flour to another large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg and working from the outside in, gently fold the flour into the egg with your hand until just mixed. Add the mashed fries and continue to knead, adding more flour as needed to create a pliable ball of dough.
• Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick tube. Slice the dough into 1-inch pieces.
• Boil the gnocchi 2 to 4 minutes, until they begin to float. Use a spider to remove the gnocchi and plunge them into the ice bath. Remove when cool, place in a serving bowl and toss lightly with the canola oil. Set aside.
• Meanwhile, make the gremolada by tossing together the parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Set aside.
• Warm a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until it begins to smoke. Melt the butter in the skillet, then add the gnocchi and a pinch of salt and let cook undisturbed until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn and brown 2 minutes more, adding another pinch of salt to season and help sear.
• Transfer to a large serving platter and top with the gremolada.

BLT Bread Pudding
Courtesy of Pint Size Bakery’s Christy Augustin

4 servings

2 whole eggs
5 oz. whole milk
2 oz. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sour cream or Greek yogurt
¾ tsp. kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Minced fresh basil
2 cups rough chopped leftover BLT
½ cup grated Parmesan

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, sour cream, salt, pepper and basil until combined. Add the leftover BLT and stir to coat. Let soak 20 minutes.
• Evenly divide the mixture among 4 ramekins and sprinkle the tops with Parmesan cheese. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown. (If using a 2-quart or other small casserole dish, bake 35 to 40 minutes.)

Leftover Nacho Taquitos
Courtesy of Southern’s Rick Lewis

3 servings

1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. hot pimentón or hot paprika
2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for frying, divided
½ lb. ground beef
8 to 10 oz. leftover loaded nachos
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
½ yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
9 small corn tortillas
Shredded lettuce, sour cream and sliced green onion

• In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl.
• Prepare the taco seasoning by adding the chili powder, cornstarch, pimentón, salt and cayenne to the cumin-coriander mixture. Whisk together and set aside.
• Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and 2 tablespoons taco seasoning and brown the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
• In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the leftover nachos until finely minced. Mix the nachos and ground beef together and set aside.
• Clean the bowl of the food processor and make a salsa de aguacate by puréeing the avocado, jalapeno, onion, garlic, cilantro, olive oil and lime juice until smooth. Set aside.
• Fill a cast-iron skillet with 1½ inches vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When it reaches 350 degrees, fry 1 tortilla 30 seconds. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
• Spoon 2 tablespoons of the beef-nacho mixture down the center of 1 tortilla and roll tightly like a cigar. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
• Working in batches, place the taquitos seam-side down in the oil and fry on each side until golden and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
• To serve, place 3 taquitos in the center of a plate. Top with the shredded lettuce and sour cream, drizzle with the salsa de aguacate and garnish with cilantro and the green onion.

Loaded Nacho Arepas
Courtesy of Ernesto’s Wine Bar’s Jimmy Hippchen

4 to 6 servings

1 2-lb. skin-on pork shoulder
Kosher salt
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 lb. chorizo
About 1 lb. leftover loaded nachos (no meat)
¾ cup milk
1 cup flour, plus more if needed
Juice of 1 lime

• In a large baking dish, liberally salt the pork shoulder. Refrigerate uncovered 1 hour.
• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• Coat the pork with 2 tablespoons canola oil. Roast 2½ hours, until the skin is crisp and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 187 degrees. Let rest until cool enough to handle, then roughly chop into 2-inch pieces. Set aside.
• Meanwhile, in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, saute the chorizo until the fat renders, about 4 minutes. Add the roast pork pieces and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
• In the bowl of a food processor, purée the loaded nachos into a thick paste. Scoop 1 cup nacho purée into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the milk. Add the flour to the mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until a pliable dough forms. Use your hands to roll the dough into golf ball-sized balls, then flatten into discs.
• Heat the remaining ½ cup canola oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. (The oil is hot enough when a bit of dough sizzles in the pan.) Working in batches, fry the arepas until crisp and golden on 1 side, about 2 minutes. Flip and fry another 2 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
• To serve, top each arepa with the pork mixture. Squeeze lime juice over each serving.

leftover Breakfast Bird’s Nest
Courtesy of Mai Lee’s Qui Tran

4 servings

8 oz. ground pork
1 large syrup-soaked pancake, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. rice wine
6 Tbsp. butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked white rice
2 eggs
Chopped green onions or chives

• In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the ground pork, pancake, salt, pepper, garlic powder, sesame oil and rice wine.
• In a large pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add the garlic. Cook the garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute, then add the rice, spreading it in an even layer. Let sizzle without stirring until the bottom of the rice is crisp, 3 to 5 minutes, then slide the rice disc onto a serving plate.
• Return the pan to the stove over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. Add the pork mixture and saute, tossing frequently to prevent the pancake from burning. Cook 5 minutes, until the pork is no longer pink and the syrup has caramelized the meat. Transfer the mixture to the bed of rice.
• Return the pan to the stove over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the eggs. Cook 3 minutes until the whites are set. Top the pork with the sunny-side-up eggs, garnish with the chopped green onions and serve.

French Fry Migas
Courtesy of Cleveland-Heath’s Rick Kazmer

4 servings

4 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 bell pepper, julienned
1 medium onion, julienned
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, sliced
2 cups leftover french fries
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
8 eggs, beaten
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh corn tortillas, for serving
Sour cream, shredded cheese, minced onion and cilantro

• In a large pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil and saute the bell pepper and onion 5 minutes. Add the jalapeno and saute until the pepper and onion begin to soften and brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the fries and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and saute until fries start to crisp and brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and toss to incorporate.
• Add the eggs to the pan and season to taste with salt. Using a rubber spatula, scramble the eggs and vegetables together, stirring often, until the eggs are just set, 3 to 4 minutes.
• Serve on corn tortillas with the sour cream, shredded cheese, onion and cilantro, if desired.

Pancake Ice Cream
Courtesy of Cleveland-Heath’s Rick Kazmer

4 to 6 servings

3 cups half-and-half
²∕³ cup sugar
Small pinch of kosher salt
6 egg yolks
2 large syrup-soaked pancakes or waffles, chopped
Maple syrup, chopped nuts and crumbled bacon (optional)

• In a saucepot over medium-high heat, whisk the half-and-half, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
• Whisk together the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk the warm half-and-half into the egg yolks until incorporated.
• Return the mixture to the saucepot over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 170 degrees and coats the back
of a spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes.
• Remove from heat and stir in the pancakes and any collected syrup. Let sit until the mixture has cooled and the pancakes have infused the liquid.
• Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the ice cream base into a large mixing bowl. Discard the solids. Pour the base into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until solid.
• Serve the ice cream garnished with the maple syrup, chopped nuts or crumbled bacon, if desired.

Leftover Sandwich French Toast
Courtesy of Cleveland-Heath’s Rick Kazmer

6 servings

6 leftover sandwich halves (any filling, sturdy sandwich bread only)
6 eggs
1½ cups half-and-half
6 tsp. kosher salt
Butter for greasing
Fresh greens and dressing*

• Remove filling from the leftover sandwiches, leaving any mayonnaise or other spread on the bread. Set the filling aside.
• In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half and salt. Submerge the bread in the mixture to soak.
• Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium heat, melt a small pat of butter. When the pan is hot, remove 2 to 3 pieces of bread from the liquid, shaking gently. Add the bread to the pan and cook until golden brown on 1 side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set on serving plates. Repeat with the remaining slices of bread.
• Chop the sandwich filling and toss with the fresh greens and dressing to make a small salad. Top each serving with the salad.

* Try these flavor combos to top your savory French toast

Italian cold cuts + provolone + chopped romaine + red onion + Italian vinaigrette

Turkey + bacon + cheddar + chopped iceberg + ranch or blue cheese dressing

Tuna salad + thinly sliced celery + lemon vinaigrette