I like to think of cooking with leftovers with the same principle I’ve often heard actors describe improv performance: It’s all about saying “yes.” If you have too many rules and aren’t willing to be creative then your results probably won’t be very good. But having an open mind can really yield some fantastic results that jazz up your leftovers to the point that they’re much more than just old food.
My wife Molly is a joy to cook for because she’s the only person I’ve ever cooked for who’s been open to trying just about anything I make in the kitchen. That freedom and assurance has made me more confident in my cooking, and that has led me to discover some great dishes that incorporate leftovers.
Pretty much any time we make mashed potatoes we’re certain to have one or two leftover containers full of them for another day. They’re good reheated but not as good as when they’re fresh. That’s true of a lot of leftovers, and that’s what keeps many people from even bothering. I know people who’d rather waste money by regularly throwing away mounds of food than try to salvage leftovers.
When I saw the potatoes in our fridge recently, which actually in this case came from a thick homemade potato soup that, when cold, had the same consistency as leftover homemade mashed potatoes cooked with butter and cream, it just came to me to coat them lightly in corn meal and fry them to make part of dinner that night.
This is a super-simple way to, as I said earlier, jazz up something in your fridge that’s not too exciting. You can serve these potato balls as a side to another dish, as an appetizer or as dinner by themselves if you’re eating alone. Either way we think you’ll like them a lot. My wife Molly said they were good enough that she’d order them as an appetizer at a restaurant. I hope yours turn out just as good!
Leftover Mashed Potato Balls
What You Need:
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes (better if thicker and homemade because instant will likely be thinner)
1/4 cup ground corn meal
cooking oil for frying
What You Do:
- Use a cookie scoop (or a spoon) to roll up cold mashed potatoes into small balls.
2. Coat each potato ball lightly in corn meal.
3. Heat cooking oil in a large pot on your stovetop.
4. Fry each potato ball until lightly golden brown.
5. Drain potato balls and serve with shredded cheese, green onions or your other favorite toppings.
YIELD: Our potatoes yielded 8 fried balls, enough to split as a side. Your leftover potatoes and the size of your potato balls will determine how many you finish with.