What Is For Dinner is What Was For Dinner: The Mashed Potatoes Edition

Way back when I made a post about stocking a tiny kitchen–a constant concern when you’ve got 42 square feet and a love of cooking. One of the other battles one faces in a small kitchen is once you’ve cooked up your feast, what does one do with the leftovers? There’s no chest freezer for long-term storage, and the refrigerator–already packed to the gills with two kinds of milk jugs and various staples–can only hold so many Snapwares. So after a 40th-birthday dinner (short ribs and mashed potatoes), a Christmas Eve feast, Christmas cookies, and New Year’s Day pasta on the way, our refrigerator is reaching maximum density.

To top it all off, pregnancy heartburn has returned with a vengeance, so the idea of eating leftover short ribs has my stomach roiling in anticipation, and it’s not happy grumbles.

So last night, I stared into the refrigerator, wondering what I could pull together that would be mild on the stomach AND get rid of some of the containers that were stacking up. The short ribs and leftover gnocchi sauce went in the freezer, next to the cioppino; I’m hoping to have the stomach for an all-day sauce on New Year’s (that will also use up the pre-rolled meatballs I’ve been storing in the freezer).Leftover mashed potatoes are always a puzzle: they’re never as much fun eaten from the microwave, and I’ve had bad luck with potato pancakes in the past. We had a full head of organic broccoli on the verge of going gooey (I don’t even remember what my good intentions were for that), a few pallid celery stalks next to the fresh bunch, one lonely carrot waiting to be usurped by a new bag, a few tablespoons of sour cream in another container…. hmm.

Another use for leftover mashed potatoes.

Inspiration struck: soup. Sautee up an onion along with the pallid celery and lonely carrot. Chop up the broccoli and prune out the yucky parts. Toss in the broccoli and cover with water; stir in a teaspoon or so of Better than Bouillon. Simmer it until the broccoli is very tender. Pop in the immersion blender until the soup’s┬ámostly smooth, while smiling and shouting “It’s OK! It won’t hurt you!” to your terrified toddler. Then–and here’s the part that I’m excited about–dump in the leftover mashed potatoes, stirring until well-blended.

Brilliant, right?! I’m so proud of myself. Potatoes are often used to thicken soup, and mashed potatoes already have built-in deliciousness, what with the butter and the sour cream and milk and salt. The broccoli soup came together in less than 30 minutes, and three grilled cheeses and two dollops of sour cream later, we all sat together at the table, yummying our way down to empty bowls. (OK, actually, one of us yummied her way down to a few crumbs of sandwich, and screamed when we attempted to feed her the soup. But she DID lick her spoon clean, so, little smartypants, you can’t fool us: You liked the broccoli soup.)

End game: we finished off the mashed potatoes; sour cream; old celery and carrot; and white bread loaf. (White bread is a holiday treat in our household. If I bought it frequently I’d never eat anything else.) AND I have a new use for leftover taters! Happy New Year!

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