There are two camps of thought when it comes to leftovers, those who won't touch them and those who adore them. Sometimes this is dish specific. There are many people who will eat cold leftover meat and shun leftover Chinese food or pasta. Those ham bones and chicken carcasses are often coveted for soup, while leftover fish is sometimes scorned as flavorless and over-cooked. Although here's a hint, if it's overcooked when it's cold it was probably already there when you ate it the night before. Maybe you like it that way. Some dishes such as beans, braises, etc. are better then next day and deliberately held over before serving. But then this falls outside the category because they aren't leftovers until after they've been served for the first time. As I recall, MFK FIsher once wrote of loving fried chicken for the spaghetti dish that it became the next day. Me, I love leftovers of all kinds for all of their possibilities.
Just recently I turned leftover roast chicken into salad, not a new thing by any stretch but still as just as good as the first incarnation the night before. Cold shrimp cakes were diced into a spicy tomato sauce for a Chinese inspired Fra Diavolo sauce served with pasta. Leftover shortribs and steamed potatoes became hashcakes, the perfect landing pad for onsen eggs and bernaise sauce. Shishito peppers and lemon roasted potatoes are baked into a an exotic fritatta casserole that is really a play off the classic potato-pepper-egg hero that I grew up seeing in Italian pizza joints. It's all in your perspective. Instead of viewing them as leftovers I like to see them as ingredients. After years of creating family meal out of odds and ends it's an automatic reflex to see new dishes in what is left from the old. Sometimes the second meal is even better than the first and it sparks a whole new inspiration.
When we first made the leap from restaurant to home kitchen what I missed most was the pantry. This was not just the spice rack or dry storage, though I missed those too, it was the abundance of prepped food to play with. Restaurant dishes have many steps because there are many hands to do the work of cooking and cleaning. You can easily play with different combinations because most of the base ingredients are already available, prepped and partially cooked in the walk-in. When we are working through a manuscript this abundance comes back to us. There's more food around than we can eat or give away each night and since we are writing for website and publisher we happily put it all to use. Leftover english muffin dough becomes a sourdough loaf studded with prosciutto bits and caramelized onions, runny caramel tarts get chopped up and folded into ice cream, and leftover pepperoni gets baked on top of brussel sprouts. Waste not, want not is our motto, as dictated by both conscience and budget. If we're going to use our leftovers, we may as well have a little fun with it. Since we're using something that has already served it's original purpose, we can be a little more creative. Truthfully some of our best creations have come from these inspirations. Sometimes it's good to play with your food.