It's a constant problem at my house. Leftovers. They lurk around and challenge my culinary skills.
I hate to waste, and I am constantly balancing the need to be sure every meal feels like plenty but that doesn't end up leaving me with more leftovers than I can handle.
My biggest battle comes with one item. Everybody loves it once in a while, many folks use it as a staple on their table and it is the backbone of many cultures.
It sits in the pantry, ready to round out many a menu, but it also presents the biggest leftover challenge.
Sure, you can do a nice fried rice with a few cups of leftover rice. You could make rice pudding with a cup or two. These are great alternatives, but what if you want to disguise it completely?
What if your family says, “no more rice?”
Hiding that rice may make you change your mind about leftover rice. If you want something crunchy, easy to enjoy as an appetizer and that keeps people guessing about the main ingredient? Then try making hot, crispy rice cakes.
Rice cakes are an Easy Way Gourmet trick that makes any amount of leftover rice disappear fast.
Think of them as a tiny, sturdier version of a potato cake. They are really easy to make, simple to keep warm or reheat, and they can also incorporate other leftovers—like cooked vegetables or even a bit of ham, pork or chicken.
It's a simple proposition. You mix the rice with a few binding ingredients, portion it into small cakes and fry them in a non-stick pan until they are browned and crunchy on the outside. If you want to make the mixture up ahead of time, you can do it a day ahead.
If you want to make the rice cakes up ahead, you can reheat them in the oven just before serving. They are a versatile way to use up leftover rice and perhaps a few other leftovers if you like. I can guarantee people love them, especially with a nice dip or dressing on the side.
Crispy Hot Rice Cakes
(you can double or halve this recipe to fit the amount of rice you have leftover. If you double it, it will make enough rice cakes that you may have to freeze some for a future party!)
3-4 cups leftover rice
2 large eggs
¼ cup minced onion
½ cup breadcrumbs
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
1 teaspoon Old Bay or Badia Complete Seasoning
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried dill or parsley
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Olive Oil, vegetable oil and/or butter for frying
Optional items: (just be sure these items are well drained or almost dry when you add them to the mix)
½ cup minced sundried tomatoes
1 cup minced cooked carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli or asparagus
1 cup minced cooked chicken, ham or pork
Mix the first ten ingredients together well. Add in any optional ingredients you like. The mix should be fairly thick but still moist. If it seems too wet to make cakes, add in more breadcrumbs or cheese. Shape the mix into small cakes. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place several of the cakes, separated by an inch or two, in the pan and fry them until they are golden brown. Turn them over and fry until they are browned on the other side. Drain them on a paper towel and keep frying batches of rice cakes until you've used all the mix you have. If you need to keep them hot, or you want to reheat them, you can do so by putting them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 350ºF oven for 10-15 minutes.