Improvising Griddle Cakes

It’s getting to be that time again.

My fridge is over-run with leftovers. It’s either time to start eatin’ or time to start trashin’.

No matter what I do, I always seem to end up with leftovers. To be fair, this is often deliberate on my part. I like to eat leftovers for breakfast the next morning. I like to have a back-up if I can’t make lunch before I have to leave the house. I like to pretend that if I make a pound of pasta ahead of time, I’m saving myself work later in the week.

Le boyfriend hates leftovers. Like, with a passion. So that leaves me to do most of the work in takin’ care of the rows of tupperware containers in our fridge.

I hate wasting things! I mean, you’re talkin’ about a girl who keeps a bag in her freezer with (cleaned!) discarded vegetable scraps from chopping (heyyy, I hold out hope that one day I’ll use it to make vegetable stock). Every month or so when I clean out the fridge, my heart pangs with every *swish* of the trash bag as something else gets thrown in it… all the big plans I had for those items, gone in one fell swoop. The phyllo dough that was going to be a tart one day. The tomatoes that were going to be sauce. The onion that could have been so many things…

Recently, I’ve been trying to find ways to repurpose multiple leftovers into one meal. One of the best solutions I’ve come across so far is griddle cakes.

Pretty much anything can go into a griddle cake. Open your fridge and take stock of your leftovers… small pastas, rice, beans, hearty vegetables, potatoes… whip ’em together with a little bit of egg and fry ’em up! Leftovers begone!

Normally, I’d include a basic recipe at the end, but since this is about using your leftovers, I figured it’s time for a little griddle cake improvising tutorial!

This week I had about a cup of rice, half a can of black beans, and some shredded carrots that needed immediate addressing. These were pretty ideal ingredients for griddle cakes… even though you can make them out of almost anything, it’s best to have something mushy (like rice) to keep together the more piece-y ingredients (like beans and carrots).

If you don’t have something starchy, mushy, or sticky, try to break down what you do have into as thin pieces as possible. I recommend shredding! Think about latkes or zucchini cakes — shredding brings out the moisture in veggies and helps keep ’em stuck together.

When picking your ingredients, try to imagine what the overall texture will be when mixed together.If you think you can easily form the mixture into a shape that would stick, or can at least be formed into something, you’re good to go. If not, throw in some mashed up beans, some cheese, or a binding veggie (like those mentioned) above.

Mix all your ingredients together and spice ’em up the way you like. Since my griddle cakes were shapin’ up to be like rice and beans, I added southwest sort of seasonings: cumin, paprika, some cayenne and cilantro. Feel free to go with a theme or just go with your gut… up to you, buckeroo!

When everything is mixed together, crack an egg into the mixture and mix well again. One egg is usually sufficient, unless you’re cooking for a big group. As long as the mixture looks evenly goopy and sticks together okay, you don’t need to add any more.

Heat some oil in a pan and when it gets really hot (like steamy…as in, the photo below teehee), drop a dollop of the mixture in and flatten into a cake. 

Now the key here is to be patient! They’re gonna’ need about 7 minutes or so on each side. If you do the first flip too soon, your griddle cakes could end up looking like this:

Not the end of the world, they still taste good, but a little patience never hurt anyone!

Every so often, I’ll use a spatula to press down on each cake and push out some of the moisture/spread the heat to the inside of the cake. This also helps me tell if the underside is cooked or not; if the cake spreads out more when I press down, it needs a little more time.

When it’s time to flip, do it fast! If you can flip ’em with just a shake of the pan, you’re my hero! But if you’re like me, a very quick flip with a spatula works too.

Chances are, somewhere along the line, one of your cakes will fall apart. No need to worry, little improviser. Use your hands to help reshape them while they’re still hot; they may not look perfect, but they’ll be in one piece by the time they cool. Like so:

It’s up to you how you want to serve ’em up! I like them on their own, but could easily see eatin’ them on a sandwich or covered in a thick, fruity sauce! Eat ’em up!