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Reheating without a microwave. January 28, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I was recently reading a statement on a blog I very much respect in which the blogger responded to someone who asked how to reheat leftover mashed potatoes without a microwave, “Mashed potatoes don’t reheat very well.” Gasp!

This certainly hasn’t been my experience. Now mind you, I’ve never owned a microwave, which for all I know could reheat mashed potatoes, leftover pasta, dressing, corn pudding, rice, dal, refried beans, chili, and so on perfectly at the push of a button. But if, like me, you don’t have one, what’s the alternative?

Clearly, it’s not a pot on the stove. Try reheating rice, mashed potatoes, pasta, or what-have-you in a pot, however heavy, on the stove, be it turned down ever so low, and you’re asking for the dreaded burned-on bottom and thrown-out, burnt-smelling top. Yuck! And to top it off, you need Iron Man to scrape all that burnt, sooty gook off the bottom of the pan.

Been there, done that, way too many times. Forget the stovetop: When it comes to heating leftovers, the oven is your friend. Our friend Ben and I have a compact countertop convection oven—larger than a toaster oven but way smaller than a conventional oven—on, shock surprise, our kitchen counter.

Now, this convection oven has definite drawbacks when it comes to cooking, simply because it’s smaller than a “real” oven. Fewer slices of pizza, fewer trays of roasting veggies, fewer pans of lasagna or dressing or a combination of casseroles can fit in the countertop oven at a time. But when it comes to reheating, it’s a dream.

Here’s what I do: Put a little milk—and I mean a little milk, a couple of tablespoons—in the bottom of an ovenproof glass, clay, or metal pan. Add your mashed potatoes or creamy pasta, cover with aluminum foil, and pop in the oven at the “convection-stay on” settings. I like to start out at 350, then quickly dial down to 300, then 250, then 200, removing the potatoes or pasta when they’re heated through. Give them a quick stir, serve: They’re perfect! No burnt anything, and if anything, they taste even better than when first made.

This works for pretty much any leftovers, too, even if they’re not creamy like mashed potatoes or creamy pasta. Suppose you’re reheating rice or baked beans or spaghetti or chili or refried beans or dal. If the rice or spaghetti looks really dry, add a splash—again, just a splash—of water or veggie stock in the bottom of the pan instead of milk, then put in your leftovers, top with foil, and heat until heated through. I’ve found that veggie sides like green beans, carrots, or roasted veggies reheat beautifully in the aluminum-topped pan with no additional liquid at all, as long as you added butter when you originally cooked them.

So simple, but so good! Clearly, this would work in a real oven as well if you kept the heat low, but it seems like a waste to heat an entire oven just to heat up some leftovers. But if you do happen to have a countertop oven, I think this is the very best way to reheat leftovers, even if you do have a microwave. And if, like us, you don’t, it’s a godsend.  

             ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

Addendum: Once again, my friend Delilah has come to the rescue with a great suggestion here. She uses a double boiler to heat leftovers without scorching, burning, or drowning them. Delilah points out that adding a bit of water—one or two inches—in the bottom pan of the double boiler (make sure you don’t add so much that it touches the top pan), bringing it to a simmer, then putting the leftovers in the top pan, covering it with the lid, then cooking until the leftovers are heated through, typically ten minutes, turns out perfect leftovers with no added anything, every time. Thanks, Delilah! Great idea!!!

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1. Jupiter - January 28, 2011

I don’t have a microwave, either. The only thing I hate reheating is rice. I always dry it out,even though i add a little water to it. Or I add to much and make it sticky. I tend to just use the leftover rice now to throw in a casserole or in rice pudding.

Hi Jupiter! Rice can certainly be tricky—as you say, crispy-dried (ouch) or soggy/mushy (eeewww). I used to just give it to our chickens rather than confronting either option, until I discovered the oven-friendly method. I think the trick is to butter the rice before you refrigerate it after its first appearance. Lightly buttered rice seems to neither dry out nor mush up on reheating (as long as you don’t overdo it with the water/stock). My favorite is making a simple Indian rice with basmati rice, butter, black mustardseeds, and cumin in the rice cooker. It’s delicious the first time and delicious reheated, and it reheats perfectly. If you’d rather simply use cold leftover rice in something rather than attempting to reheat it, another option besides casseroles and rice pudding (both good choices) is making fried rice. For fried rice to turn out well, you simply MUST use cold cooked rice, as I found out after numerous failed attempts with just-cooked rice. Ugh! But the cold leftover rice is perfect.


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