I learned a lot about leftovers when I took over as the head chef of The Amazon Club decades ago. This was a nightclub built by dumping a few tons of sand on a pier in Tribeca, scattering enough palm trees around to oxygenate downtown Manhattan and then opening the faux tropical doors to over a thousand dancing yuppies every night.
Needless to say, with that kind of volume, when something was leftover at The Amazon Club it was really leftover. Later on I'll tell you what I did with the case of "washed out Wednesday Buffalo Wings" (taco town!) but for now, I'd like to concentrate on something that was sparked in me, the Monday morning I walked into work and saw the bartender getting ready to throw out 10 pitchers of pre-made pineapple margaritas for a party that never happened.
"The pineapple tastes sour," he said, semi-horrified to have to speak to another human being before 10 a.m.
"Give it to me," I screamed, waking the day manager, who was also the night manager and occasionally the bouncer and the D.J.
"Whatever," he said, placing the pitchers on the bar. He meant, "Leave me alone; I'm not really here anyway."
I had a bus tub filled with swordfish steaks in my walk-in that I knew were still quite servable, but let's just say were a day past their prime.
An hour before lunch I pulled the swordfish out and covered the steaks with the margaritas. My 11:30 seafood lunch special was ready to go in zero point five seconds. Margarita Swordfish with salted lime garnish!
It was such a big seller, I never let the bar throw out a pre-made cocktail again.
Other ideas that came via the inspiration of about to be tossed booze were:
Funky Wine Marinated Breast of Chicken
Take leftover white wine. It doesn't matter if it's a week old and sour as your mother-in-law. Mix with Dijon mustard, minced garlic, fresh ground pepper, and olive oil. Do this all to your liking and taste, then toss in a couple of pinches of fresh chopped thyme and pour over any kind of chicken you want to cook. Make enough marinade to coat your chicken.
When you're ready to cook, season the chicken with salt (you won't need any more pepper) and roast until golden.
Sangria Poached Pears
Dump a pitcher of old red sangria (can be up to four days old, providing it was refrigerated of course) into a pot, add a handful of sugar and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile peel whatever pears you like and drop into your simmering sangria.
I like to drop a piece of parchment on top of the pears as they cook so the tops don't stick out and get exposed. If you don't have parchment, sink those puppies with a pasta strainer. Hey! Whatever works.
Cook your pears until they're soft but still firm. LIKE ME! This will probably be about 15 minutes. Then remove pears. You can do this the day before if you like. You'll want to put those pears in the fridge and serve cold anyway. You can reduce the hell out of the sangria and pour over the pears like a killer sauce, or you can serve the pears with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, whatever floats your boat.
Now of course, back in the Amazon days when I was a wild young chef, the rule of thumb was one pitcher of leftover booze for the kitchen crew for everyone that went on the food, but I've mellowed since then and don't spend a lot of time feeding yuppies in the sand.
Doesn't mean I don't appreciate a good drink in my food!
FYI: Piña coladas make a great curry sauce, and one of the best barbecue beefs I ever made started with a tall glass of whiskey and Coke, but that's a story for another day.