Breakfast hash is an easy way to repurpose leftover roast beef. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

The Christmas roast fed the cheery souls around the table — then went on to become a great ragu with mezze rigatoni, then breakfast hash, then filling for homemade ravioli’s once and there is still enough for another round of ravioli and possibly some beef and barley soup. A few scraps graced the cat’s dish, too.

Each iteration had its own character and flavor so it hardly seemed like the same thing day after day.

Leftovers are like money in the bank. They help solve the old what-to-cook-dilemma, stretch the grocery budget and keep food out of landfills, where approximately one-third of the food we buy ends up.

Lots of you probably have compost piles so parings, bits and pieces, or even long-forgotten and unrecognizable fare from the back of the fridge rots productively. At this house, crows swoop in and haul away favorite morsels, and if a bad smell emanates, a breeze sends it off elsewhere, acceptable because there are no nearby neighbors. What’s left fertilizes next year’s vegetables.

Meanwhile, leftovers feed us or find their way into the freezer. If the leftover is “ready to eat” — such as soup, baked beans or a casserole — I label and endeavor to jot down on a reminder list that there is dinner ready to heat up and serve. If the leftover is a potential ingredient, such as roasted chicken, boiled potatoes, cooked squash or our Christmas roast beef, then the cook du jour gets creative.

If you liked the meal the first time around, a slight alteration might be the only thing needed to make an appealing second one — like warming the chicken in leftover gravy, or shredding it up for taco filling. Mash the potatoes or slice them up for home fries. Fold some corn into the squash, sprinkle on some grated cheese and run it under the broiler.

Don’t forget breakfast. Our chopped roast beef joined diced potatoes and a chopped shallot, topped by a fried egg, a good weekend breakfast.

Leftovers by design is a winning strategy. Cook more potatoes than you will eat at one meal. Extra rice is wonderful topped with a soft-boiled egg at breakfast or folded into stir fried vegetables. In summer, extra pasta becomes pasta salad. Anytime, it’s a quick lunch with a little extra tomato sauce on top. Extra roasted vegetables chopped up and added to salad is delicious.

I’d love to hear your favorite way to use leftovers. What do you advise us to do with leftover roasted chicken, for example? Send your ideas along to me at and I’ll share them here.

Together we can feed our families instead of a landfill.

Roast Beef Hash

This is a non-recipe because it will depend on what you have. This is what we did at our house.

Leftover roast beef

1 medium raw potato, or the equivalent boiled

1 shallot or 1 small onion, chopped


Coarsely chop about 2 cups of leftover beef, removing gristle and excess fat. Leave some fat for frying the hash.

Dice the potato and simmer until just tender, in a shallow pan with water enough to cover the bottom. Drain.

If you use an already cooked potato, merely chop or dice up to taste.

Mix together the beef, potatoes, and shallot or onion in a frying pan and brown lightly over medium heat. Add a light dribble of vegetable oil if the hash seems dry.

Top with an egg if desired and serve.

Some, not me, like ketchup on hash.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...