Post-Fireworks Meat: 5 Things To Do With Leftovers

First things first: I now thoroughly enjoy leftovers but that wasn't always the case. In the days of yesteryear my dad worked overnight every third day-of-the-week at the fire station and my mom would only serve my brother and me the scraps from the previous nights meals. I suppose new food was just too fancy for the kiddos. Somehow, though, my appreciation for leftovers grew. Maybe the love affair started when I had to cook for myself.

There are things that aren't great leftover though: sushi, french fries, oatmeal ... and barbecue. I might take some flack for that last one, but to me, you just can't capture the magic from the smoker from the night before. So, in the spirit of all things America, this July 5, I bring you five ways to pep up and shapeshift the meat from your 4th of July cookout.

1. Rachael Ray's Mac-and-Cheese Dog Casserole

Go ahead, let the hate rain down on me. Yes, I said Rachael Ray. There are few names that inspire vitriol like the strange shaped, raspy voiced talk show host that gave us the phrase "E-V-O-O." But here are two things you may not know about her: She posed for the most awkward girly mag shoot ever and she makes a kick-ass hot dog casserole. I know, it sounds horrible with the ketchup and mustard mixed in, but I can personally attest to its tastiness. It's a great way to use up leftover hot dogs.

2. Barbecue Nachos

A staple in Memphis, TN, barbecue nachos haven't fully made their way down to Texas. You can't even find them on the menu at most of the pork heavy restaurants here. It's a little shock to the system at first, to have nacho flavor mixed with barbecue-pulled-pork sweetness, but trust me, it's tasty.

3. Baked Beans with Burnt Ends

Being from Florida, barbecue beans means something totally different to me than it does to my Texas peeps. I like beans that are as sweet as they are spicy and smoky. I can't vouch for the greatness of this recipe, but I can say that adding the burnt ends of your leftover pork or beef to your beans while they simmer will add a tremendous amount of flavor. Another tip: Throw some butter beans into the mix.

4. Smoked Chicken Quesadillas with Mango Salsa

There are many things you can do with smoked chicken, and this is just one example, picked because it sounded fancified and because the chicken was already smoked.

5. Barbecue Gumbo

I had never thought about putting burnt ends in gumbo before I read this recipe. Obviously, cooking gumbo is a pretty-involved process, and we are in the middle of summer, so you may want to hold onto your ends until December.

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Lennie Ambrose