It started with David Lebovitz’s mustard chicken. We ate that meal on Friday to celebrate the big boy’s Labor Day-return from college.

A few pieces were left over. So I decided to serve them last night.

That’s when the whining began.

“I don’t really like leftovers,” each son told me.

“I don’t really like leftovers,” my husband’s expression told me.

And — truth be told — I don’t really like leftovers, either.

But here’s the thing: Food waste in industrialized countries is a huge problem. The Feeding America network of food banks, among other organizations, estimates 70 billion pounds of food are wasted each year in the United States alone. And I don’t want my three pieces of chicken added to that pot.

So instead of reheating our leftovers, I looked for ways to re-create them. Could I use that chicken anew? Could I create an entirely new dish — one that didn’t scream, “You’re eating last night’s dinner again!”?

Absolutely. Shredded and added to a pot of fennel, garlic and clams, Saturday’s dinner was a far cry from Friday’s. Everyone ate their fill; no one muttered, “Chicken again?”

And no food was left over.

Leftover Chicken & Clams

  • 1 bag little neck clams
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken, skin removed
  • 1 cup assorted herbs, roughly chopped (I used basil, tarragon, thyme and chives)
  • 1 pound cooked spaghetti (optional)

Prepare the clams:

  • Place the clams in a large bowl. Remove any that are cracked or open. Cover the remaining clams with water and let them sit for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the clams from the water and scrub them with a vegetable brush. Empty the water from your bowl and rinse out any sandy residue.
  • Place the clams back in the bowl and, again, fill the bowl with cold water. Let the clams soak for about 5 more minutes, then rinse them well in a colander. Set them aside.

Place the olive oil in a large saute pan and heat to a shimmer.

Add the onion and fennel. Season with salt and pepper, then saute until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the lemon juice and wine. Heat until the liquid begins to boil.

Add the prepared clams to the saute pan, along with the butter. Stir to combine, then cover the pan tightly. Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the top of the pan. Place the clams that have opened onto a plate to guard against overcooking. Leave unopened clams in the saute pan. Add the chicken to the pan and again cover it tightly. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove the top of the pan. Discard any clams that haven’t opened, then place all your cooked clams back in the pan. Add the herbs and stir until they’re well-combined and slightly wilted.

Serve immediately, as is or over spaghetti.