Taste It, Don't Waste It: Holiday Curry

Photograph courtesy of Sherri Brooks Vinton

There's the party, there's the after party and then there's the day after-after party. This is not some hipster trend fueled by too much energy drink and an awesome sound system. The day-after party is a solid tradition that spans the globe. In Poland it's called poprawiny, which translates roughly to "to correct or fix." In Brazil it's the enterro dos ossos, or "the burying of the bones." Mexicans call it recalentado, aka "reheated." 

By any name, the way-after party, held the day after a big celebration such as a wedding or similar large scale feast, gives family and friends a chance to come back together around the special event, compare party stories and maybe even nurse their aching heads. It's a tradition that is also a super way to make sure that every crumb and sip that was cooked and gathered for the big day gets enjoyed. Nothing goes to waste. Now that's something to celebrate! 

So Nice, Do it Twice!

The idea of throwing another party after you have pulled out all of the stops just hours before may seem daunting. But think of it not as a time to bring out your best, but rather a chance to mop up the rest. You've already shown your guests a great time at party number one. Now this smaller, very casual gathering is a chance to relax, enjoy whatever you have on hand and share a few more laughs with your good friends. Think of it as two parties for the price of one. 

In the UK, it's common to roll your holiday leftovers into a curry. Below, I've put together one of the easiest and most pleasing recipes to do it. You don't need to limit yourself to the leftovers from your party alone. The holidays are a great chance to throw a collective after party. It's not unusual on the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Eve to have a little extra on hand. Invite your friends over to pool leftovers - just tell them to grab what they have and head on over to your place. 

The secret to sharing tidbits is to create a great tasting, make-ahead curry base that is vibrant enough to bring your day-old bits and bobs back to life, yet flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of leftover ingredients. This curry base is vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free and will only be as spicy as you make it. So you can build any kind of dish that you want on top of it. And you can double it to accommodate the size of your feast. Not sure how much food will show up? Don't hesitate to make extra curry base. It freezes perfectly so you can whip up your own curry party - even for one - whenever you have some extras on hand that need eating up. 

One Curry Fits All

The curry is great for any kind of roast - turkey is my favorite, lamb or chicken would be good as well. It's not as traditional, but roast pork or beef would fold in nicely. Seafood and vegetables would also be equally welcome in this warming stew. You can throw everything into the same pot or divide your leftovers into two or more saucepans - one with meat and veg, maybe one with just veg - so you can accommodate different tastes or dietary restrictions. 

If you don't have enough leftovers to feed the crowd, you can easily stretch whatever amount you have to bulk up your curry. Chickpeas taste great in the mix and are a super trick for turning a handful of leftover roast into a pot that feeds plenty. Potatoes would work the same way. Just steam them until they are nearly tender and then add them to the curry to cook through and meld with the other flavors in the dish. You can also bulk up your stew and bring bright new flavors to the dish by adding a new batch of fresh or freshly cooked vegetables. Stemmed spinach can be added directly to the curry. Vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots and eggplant benefit from a quick roasting to cook them tender and bring out a sweetness that compliments the heat of the spices. 

Whenever you are cooking leftovers, it's a good idea to add a splash of something acidic to your recipe, and this curry is no exception. A squeeze of lemon or lime juice at the end of cooking works wonders to liven up the dish and chase away any sign of lethargy from your leftovers' rest in the icebox. 

Cook up a pot of rice and you can call dinner done. Or you can up the ante with a toppings bar that allows guests to customize their curry. It's an extra step that you can easily skip if you'd prefer to keep things simple, but it adds some fun and variety so, "in for a penny, in for a pound," I say. 

More Leftover Upcycling Ideas

You don't have to limit yourself to just the curry, though. For leftovers that the curry cannot accommodate, try some of these ideas:

Cheese : Blend leftover cheeses into the tasty spread, fromage fort.

Mash : Mashed potatoes or yams can be quickly turned into samosas, particularly if you have extra hands for assembly line production.

Outlier Veg : Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts that might overpower the curry can be chopped, tossed with a vinaigrette and served hot or cold as an accompanying side dish.

Dessert : You can round out the meal with any leftover desserts you have on hand. Cut slices of cake into bites so that everyone can try a little of this and that. Arranged nicely on a tray, maybe garnished with a little powdered sugar or a scattering of pomegranate seeds, a few slices will go a long way. If you have desserts, such as pie, that can't be cut into individual serving portions, you can spoon them into little containers. Anything will do. Shot glasses, spoons (particularly Asian soup spoons), sake cups, tea cups, cupcake liners or mini tartlet pans would all be completely charming.

Beverages : Partial bottles of leftover wine can be blended into a sangria or steeped with warm spices to make mulled wine. A little bit of leftover wine or liquor can be sprinkled over a lightly sugared fruit salad. Allowed to macerate while you enjoy dinner - it will be a welcome topping for ice cream or those little dessert bites you've prepared. 

Leftover Curry Base

Serves 10-12

This makes enough curry sauce to spice up a nice sized pot of deliciousness. You want to add enough leftovers so that every bite is full of something good, coated in the delicious sauce, not lonely ingredients bobbing around in a lot of liquid, like a soup. If you don't have enough leftovers on hand, supplement by adding canned chickpeas, steamed potatoes or roast up some vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower or eggplant to round it out. Serve with rice, naan bread and toppings, if you like. 


2 tablespoons neutral flavored oil, such as organic canola

1 large onion, diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 cloves

2 tablespoons minced ginger root, about a 1-2" piece

4 tablespoons curry powder (you can add a little more or less, according to your taste)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 quart of whole-canned tomatoes (preferably home canned), crushed with your hands

2 14-ounce cans of whole coconut milk (not sweetened)

6-8 cups leftovers such as cooked turkey, chicken, lamb, seafood or vegetables

1 cup chicken stock or water, as necessary

1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice 


In a large heavy bottomed pan, such as a Dutch oven, sauté onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, in oil over medium heat until translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Add curry powder and cumin and stir. Add the tomatoes and simmer until thickened, about five minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer until thickened, about five minutes. Add the leftovers and simmer until warmed through and the flavors have blended, about five minutes more. Thin with a little stock or water if necessary. Stir in the lemon or lime juice and serve with rice and/or naan bread and toppings, if you like. 

Optional toppings:

Diced pineapple


Shredded coconut

Chopped cashew nuts and/or slivered almonds

Minced chilies

Chopped cilantro and/or mint


Coriander Sauce

Chopped scallions

Fried shallots

Quartered limes and/or lemons

Sherri Brooks Vinton  wants you to have a more delicious life. Her writing, talks and hands-on workshops teach fellow eaters how to find, cook and preserve local, seasonal, farm friendly food. To find out more, visit www.sherribrooksvinton.com.