A dilemma that I’m sure has plagued many a college student: It’s the last week of break and you barely have anything in the fridge. You also don’t want to buy any groceries because you’ll be home soon and it won’t be worth it. What is a poor soul like you going to do? What you’re going to do is put down the menu of that pizza place and keep driving past Chipotle because today you’re going to learn how to adult.
The beauty of leftovers is that they afford you creativity and the ability to give food a second life. French toast, aka pain perdu or “lost bread,” is the quintessential leftover meal – equally as delicious is its cousin, bread pudding. Corned beef hash and fried rice rank high up there too. In my opinion it’s more interesting to make food from disparate, often thrown-away ingredients to make something completely new. I mean look at Chopped and how fun it is to watch. A great cut of steak is going to be a great cut of steak. If you look to the history of different cultures, resourcefulness and stretching a meal is what made great cuisine. Personally, my resourcefulness came from being a college student who got bored very easily in the dining hall and decided that the panini press would make a great makeshift griddle. It’s fun to experiment with ingredients, and each week offers a new challenge.
My recipe this week is made only with ingredients I had in my fridge and pantry. The star of this recipe is leftover broiled salmon that my dad made, plus things like the ends of bread loaves and spare herbs from meal delivery subscription services. Because the ingredients were leftovers, I eyeballed everything. However rough estimates are given:
- 1 shallot (can substitute with onion)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- herbs (I had chives and flat leaf parsley, dill would work great here as well)
- old bread (can substitute with breadcrumbs/panko)
- 1 tbsp crème fraîche (can substitute with sour cream or greek yogurt)
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp mayonnaise
- 1/2 lemon for zest and juice
- salmon (We had a whole fresh salmon, I probably a total 1.5-2 cups of meat left)
- salt and peper to taste
- Toast bread ends until they’re very dry.
- Finely mince shallots and garlic and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Chop chives and parsley and place in the bowl with the shallots and garlic.
- Zest a tsp or so of lemon zest and then squeeze for ~1 tbsp of juice, add to bowl.
- Mix crème fraîche, mustard, and mayonnaise into the bowl and stir.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, at this point feel free to add more of the previous ingredients on this list.
- When the bread has finished toasting, place into a food processor or coffee grinder and pulse until it reaches a sandy texture. Pour half into the mixing bowl and reserve the other half for breading. Stir all ingredients until they’re well incorporated.
- Add salmon to the bowl, being careful to remove all bones if it’s fresh fish, and gently fold with a spatula to preserve chunks of fish.
- In a preheated pan, add a few tsps of oil (the fat from the salmon and other ingredients should come out so use as little oil as possible unless the patties start sticking to the pan).
- Form mixture into tangerine-sized balls and flatten out until the patty is 1/2 inch thick so that it can cook all the way through.
When the oil begins to shimmer, add the patties (otherwise you can do the water drop test if you’re feeling adventurous) and be careful not to overcrowd the pan or they won’t get crispy on the outside.
Let the patties sit for 3-4 minutes without disturbing them. This will allow a crust to form – it should lift when it’s ready. Like a real burger, you should only flip once. Once flipped, cook the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Once the patties are cooked, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels if you want to drain the excess oils that rendered out.
- Serve in a bun, on a salad, or however you prefer.
- Using whatever lemon juice, crème fraîche, mustard, mayonnaise, and herbs you have, make a dressing for the burgers or a salad and enjoy!
- Use a website like My Fridge Food or other similar mobile device apps to see what you can make with food in your fridge.
- Always stock up on staples like onions, garlic, spices, and dried herbs. You’ll most likely be only a few ingredients away from a full meal.
- Having chicken or vegetable stock in the pantry, along with dried lentils, can turn most things into a great soup.
- Utilize. Your. Freezer. In addition to freezing food if you decide to make a large batch, freeze meat, bread, or vegetables and never miss an ingredient again.
- If you’re really in a pinch: almost anything can be thrown into an omelet/frittata, on top of naan with a spread for a quick pizza, or in a taco.
What are your favorite leftover meals? Have any questions or comments? Let me know in the comments below or on my Instagram. Have a great break and happy eating!