Friday, February 19, 2016

Recycling

This time of year, the lack of fresh-from-the-garden ingredients and the marginal traffic at the restaurant, punctuated by the hellish crush of Valentine's business always leaves me feeling uninspired about food. I'm not doing awesome food at home or at the restaurant, or at least it doesn't feel that way to me, lacking the ingredients necessary to inspire creativity and just being in survival mode trying to get through Hell Week, er, I mean Valentine's Week. If you've been in the restaurant business, you know what I am talking about. If not, well, count yourself damn lucky.

We were so busy last week that I don't even remember it and I am rolling on 13 days now without a day off. I have some photos of food I did at home, but I can't remember when I cooked it. I do know that Ann went through the freezer and pulled out some odds and ends left over from other kitchen projects. In particular, she pulled out a zip-top bag of chicken thighs and another of marinara leftover from something, probably the meatballs from Bob's funeral reception back in January. I found a rather mangy bunch of rapini in the vegetable drawer that I bought for Mary to enjoy, but she went back home before she could eat it.

Chicken Thighs on Blanched Rapini
What to do with chicken, marinara, and rapini? I decided to braise it all, blanching the rapini and putting in a baking dish, flouring and searing the chicken, and covering the whole with marinara and a sprinkle of cheese. I remember the chicken and the braised rapini being exceptionally delicious, but then, I love braised rapini (and Ann does not).

Under Marinara with a Little Cheese
And of course, even after Carter ate chicken, we still had leftovers of leftovers, so a couple of nights later, I pulled the chicken off the bone, diced some wayward turkey breast from the cooler, and blended the marinara and the rapini. The contents of blender went into a soup pan with water and then once at a boil, in went a bag of egg noodles. Once they were mostly cooked, off the heat it came and I stirred in the pulled chicken and turkey. It was a pretty darn good bowl of soup made from recycled recyclings.

Recycled as Soup with Turkey and Egg Noodles
My grandmother would be proud of my frugality. As a professional chef, my food costs and profits are dependent on getting every bit out of food that I can, so recycling comes easy to me. Bones and roasting juices go into stocks, leftover side dishes into soups, and all manner of vegetable peelings and trimmings go into broth. In an age where so much food is wasted, this seems to be a rare talent.

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