The Fantasy Kitchen: Leftovers
Making delicious meals for others is one of my favorite things. I try to impress my friends and family members with various culinary experiments. However, one of my favorite exercises is repurposing leftover ingredients into new and exciting dishes.
Growing up, I was accustomed to “leftover night” every week. In my house, that meant warming up any leftovers from the week before in the microwave and serving them as a sad, forgotten buffet-style meal. As an adult, that is not how I leftover (You got it, I use leftover as a verb).
I just finished putting away the leftovers from taco night as I write. I am already looking forward to turning that taco meat into a southwestern omelet with a bit of pepper jack cheese and avocado in the morning. Leftovers are a lifesaver, not only in reducing food waste but creating quick and easy meals with pre-cooked ingredients.
I was first introduced to the mastery of reworking meals past into meals future during post-holiday times. My brother-in-law makes a popular turkey tetrazzini dish following every Thanksgiving. I have since seen Thanksgiving leftovers morphed into just about any soup or casserole you can imagine. Feel free to reach out to me this November if you need ideas for reimagining your leftovers.
My own mother-in-law is an absolute master in this area. Of course, she lives in the country and is at least a half-hour drive from a decently stocked grocery store. Therefore, a little versatility is a necessity. She has served us steak dinners that turned into mouth-watering beef stews the next day or roasted chicken made into day-after chicken enchiladas.
Reuben Soup: Leftover Special
I just returned from a weekend on the farm where I got a chance to work on one of my favorite leftover recipes for the in-laws. The middle of March always reminds me of two things; college basketball and corned beef.
About a decade ago, I worked at a locally-owned steakhouse as a server. The place did a St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage special that had a reputation known far and wide. I was skeptical about how we had staffed up for a weekday lunch, but I quickly understood when there was a line of over 20 people when we unlocked the door at 11 a.m. that morning.
The lunch-sized portion of the day’s special sold out shortly after 1 p.m. and dinner portions would not be available until 5 p.m. In-between, we sold a lot of Reuben sandwiches that afternoon and the soup, which was Reuben Soup. I tried that soup for the first time that day, and I was hooked. I had to learn to make it.
This year, I spent a long St. Patrick’s Day preparing a few chunks of corned beef brisket on my smoker. Smoking the corned beef was a time-consuming, yet not very difficult endeavor. I combined 3/4 cup of maple syrup with a 16-ounce Guinness and soaked the corned beef in it overnight.
I removed the corned beef from the beer brine in the morning, and rinsed it well. When it was time to hit the smoker, I set it to 275 degrees. The brisket goes directly on the grill with the fat side up for two hours. After two hours, I removed the brisket and placed it into a disposable aluminum pan. I brushed dijon mustard onto the brisket, covered it with foil, and returned it to the smoker for two-three more hours.
The goal is to reach an internal temperature of 203 degrees. Once the brisket reached 203 degrees, I removed it and let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing it against the grain and serving.
So, this past weekend, I arrived at the farm with leftover smoked corned beef in tow. I was prepared to serve this legendary soup to rave reviews. It has all the flavor of a Reuben sandwich in a soup. It is quite easy to make, as well.
• Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat
• Add 1 large onion (chopped), 1 stalk of celery (chopped), and 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
• Cook until vegetables are softened
• Stir in 4 cups beef broth and 5 red potatoes (unpeeled and quartered) and heat until boiling
• Cover and simmer until potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes)
• Add in 2 cups of chopped corned beef and 1 cup of sauerkraut
• Cook until heated through
• Salt to taste
• Serve soup topped with shredded Swiss cheese and a drizzle of Thousand Island dressing (you may also substitute Russian dressing)
You can create your own rye croutons by:
• Cutting 3 slices of rye bread into 1-inch cubes and toss them in melted butter with 1 teaspoon of caraway seed
• Toast the croutons in the oven for 15 minutes at 375 degrees
• Watch them carefully to ensure they do not burn
• Drop a few freshly toasted croutons into the soup before serving
The bonanza of recent NFL trades, cuts and signings has also created some enticing leftovers that less-savvy fantasy football managers may forget about come draft day.
NFL Free Agency Leftovers to Target
Several high-profile players are moving on to new teams to seek better NFL and fantasy value, but several players stand to benefit by staying where they have been. These players, whose fantasy value is likely to increase simply by staying put, are the ones I am referring to as the leftovers. They may end up providing you with a tasty experience.
Michael Pittman Jr. (WR, Indianapolis Colts)
The fallout surrounding the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes could be felt in the severed ties between the incumbent quarterbacks and the front offices pursuing Watson. That alienation of a starting quarterback led to the Atlanta Falcons trading long-time starting quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts.
While the Falcons say goodbye to the franchise leader in virtually every passing category, the Colts welcome a seasoned veteran to an already talented roster that could be poised for a postseason run.
Other than Ryan himself, no one stands to benefit more than top wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Last season, playing with Carson Wentz at quarterback, Pittman hauled in 88 receptions for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns. He has a career average of 12.4 Yards Per Reception (YPR).
Until last season, when he finished with 3,968 passing yards, Ryan had 10 consecutive seasons of 4,000+ passing yards. He has also thrown at least 20 touchdowns in each of those seasons. Ryan should be a significant upgrade over Wentz and should provide Pittman with additional targets. Given the quality of the Colts’ offensive line and their ability to protect Ryan, Pittman should see plenty of downfield opportunities, as well.
Courtland Sutton (WR, Denver Broncos)
Courtland Sutton, like Pittman, sees an upgrade at quarterback this season. Given that he was in line to start alongside Drew Lock or perhaps a re-signed Teddy Bridgewater, Sutton could have hoped for nothing better than the Denver Broncos orchestrating one of the biggest trades in NFL history and landing Russell Wilson as their new signal-caller.
Like Ryan, Wilson saw a decline in his numbers last season. However, unlike Ryan, Wilson missed three games and struggled noticeably upon his return due to a serious finger injury. Assuming Wilson is healthy to start 2022, Sutton is in line to play with the most talented quarterback of his career.
Sutton struggled to put up consistent production last season after missing nearly the entire 2020 season with a torn ACL. Still, with Wilson at the helm, there is optimism that Sutton will return to a greater YPR average than last season’s mark of 13.4 yards.
Wilson also offers value with his legs, and alongside Javonte Williams, he improves the Broncos’ rushing threat significantly, opening up space for all the Broncos’ receiving threats to work. This and the Broncos facing high-scoring division rivals like the Chiefs, Broncos and Raiders twice a year should put Sutton in a position to succeed in 2022.
James Conner (RB, Arizona Cardinals)
James Conner spent his first season with the Cardinals in 2021. With it he saw his second-highest rushing yardage output along with the highest touchdown scoring season of his career.
The Cardinals rewarded him with a three-year extension. With Conner crossing the goal line 15 times last season, he stands to have the short-yardage and goal-line role locked up for the foreseeable future.
Backfield mate Chase Edmonds signed with the Miami Dolphins during the past week, possibly opening up more passing-down work for Conner. Though it is likely that the Cardinals seek out depth at the position via free agency or the draft, it is also apparent that they believe in Conner in a workhorse role. After finishing 2021 as the Points Per Reception (PPR) RB5 in 15 games, Conner has a realistic chance at finishing as a top-12 running back again in 2022.
Dalton Schultz (TE, Dallas Cowboys)
Dallas decided to use the franchise tag on Dalton Schultz following his career year in 2021. Schultz managed 78 receptions on 104 targets, totaling 808 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, building on his breakout the season prior.
Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson Jr. and tight end Blake Jarwin are among the names of pass catchers that will no longer be in Dallas. With this, Shultz looks to carry a significant load in 2022. Expect him to see an increase on his 104 targets. Schultz finished as PPR TE3 last season and should be considered a lock to remain a top-12 tight end going forward.
My motto in the kitchen is “have fun.” For me, it is easy to keep. I sure hope you have fun in your kitchen preparing food for your friends to eat.
Find me on Twitter @DaveFantasy for more life and fantasy sports content.