Never Mind The Chicken Soup For The Soul

Souls can take care of themselves.  What we’re making here is chicken soup for dinner.

Last night was roast chicken night. With potatoes, sweet potatoes, and whatever else was sitting in the vegetable locker at our house. The whole lot went into a big old covered roasting pan, which in turn went into an oven at 200º C…and then the cook went out and built model airplanes in his Little Workshop.

And they are coming along splendidly, thank you. The main thing was that the cooking process was quite slow and quite simple – and the roast chicken was appreciated by all concerned.

Not eaten all up, however, and that brought me to the kitchen bench this morning. I stripped the carcass of all usable meat and then boiled the bones a little. This, and the jelly left over in the roasting pan, went to make a superb stock – into which everything else that has been hiding in the back of the icebox was dropped. Carrots, peas, a crust of stale bread, a half-cut onion…( It had been drinking…) plus a little more black pepper and a handful of herbs.

The cook is going back out to the Little Workshop and is going to glue landing gear onto airplanes – and tonight’s dinner will again make itself. The point is you do not need to hover over your stove like a TV chef if you have the right ingredients and the right containers. And you do not need to plate it out with a raspberry pureé…

Hint: go look through the Goodwill Store for cooking pots that have proved that they can do their job. Never mind the fancy new kitchen store stuff. Here’s the 1940’s metal roasting pan minus one of its handles which my Dad never did get around to fixing in 1954…I have not got round to fixing it quite yet, myself.

Addendum: The soup was delicious – and there is a pot of leftover soup in the icebox for tomorrow. We live good here.

Advertisements

Chinese Leftovers

No, I’m not talking about Taiwan.

I mean the oblong plastic containers that h0ld the remnants of last night’s takeaway. They  are the most valuable asset that you can find in the fridge:

  1. If you were not a cook last night, it is doubtful whether you will be one tonight. Skill with cuisine doesn’t set in at 3:00PM . Those leftovers are what stands between you and hunger at midnight.
  2. If you look critically at what is in the containers you’re likely to encounter meat, vegetables and rice in considerable quantities. I’ve no idea whether it has gluten, lactose, fructose, sucrose, or twinkletoes, but if you eat a little from each container you are likely to have a balanced meal.
  3. It is all tasty. Depending upon which uncle or cousin was cooking there will be various Asian spices in the mix and enough variety in the textures to make for an interesting dinner.
  4. It is paid for, and will not last longer than another day. Eat now, or waste money. Which should not be a matter for any debate.
  5. We need the container for model airplane parts so hurry up and wash it out.
  6. That’s all that is on the menu tonight. Eat or starve.
  7. You’re allowed to drink Goon with Chinese leftovers with no loss of social status.

How Many For Dinner?

A simple question, but there is room for pain and suffering between every word.

a. ” Don’t know “. Shall I cook for four or one? Because it does make a difference in the amount of ingredients committed to the pan.

b. ” I’ll be working late”. Well that means you’ll either be eating late or elsewhere or not at all. Shall I cook a soup that can set or a quiche that will not?

c. “I’ll let you know “. If I am going to cook something slow, complex, or hazardous, tell me early in the piece. If you wait until 5:30 for 6:00 you will be getting scrambled eggs on toast. If you tell me at 6:00 neither the eggs nor the toast will be cooked…

d. ” We were going out but we changed our mind “. Oh good. Let me do the mathematics of dividing a two-person dinner, perfectly cooked, into a four-person snack.

e. ” I brought people home “. Good – you divide your guests into the ones who are to be eaten and the ones who get to eat. Let me know and I’ll stoke the oven.

f. ” I decided that I am not hungry “. The leftover pot grows fatter.

Take One Spoon From Bowl A And One From Bowl B…

The family are out tonight.

I am not. Therefore it is incumbent upon me to feed myself without reference to their needs or desires. I can let myself go. And I am letting myself go to the refrigerator and looking to see what’s in the Tupperware. It’s Leftover Night. I couldn’t be happier.

We accumulate plastic bowls of stuff. Potatoes, beans, pasta, Chinese food, casseroles. Nearly everything that is made fresh has an echo. While we do police the shelves to discard stuff that is too old to define, the rest is fair game for the big stir-fry lottery. I am happy to say that I have very rarely managed to make leftovers inedible.

Some tastes do not mix. Milk pudding and fish cakes is a mistake. Taco Bell is never improved by being asked to become Taco Baklava. And nothing that was ever intended for the cat should be diverted to the dinner table.

But everything else is fair game. Ooh…I wish we did have some game. Rabbit, pheasant, moose…Hard to get moose in an Australian suburb – even the Canadian specialty shops make excuses and say they’re sorry they can’t supply it. Well, they would say ” sorry “…they’re Canadians. But what I wouldn’t give for a big ‘ol can of whole moose in gravy.

You can also play the leftover game with desserts. Sweet is sweet, no matter how it is produced, and the meat/milk decisions you might have to make in the main course are swept away for the afters. The problem is that generally there are fewer leftover desserts than other portions of the meals. One solves this by making fresh desserts – it doesn’t pay to be discouraged. I was trifling with the idea of putting cake, sherry, custard, and fruit into a bowl but decided that it would never work.

A note to cooks who put things in Tupperware. TW takes up a surprisingly large volume of space in a fridge. You think it’s all jolly colours and a flexible lid, but the engineers at the Tupperware factory have a secret plan to take over the kitchens of the world. Every container is bigger than you need and the lid makes it bigger still. The clever ones that nest into each other are apt to squeeze everything else out of the appliance – but they are so cute that no-one can resist getting the whole range.

My solution is not to get twee about the food. It will all go into and out of the same holes anyway, so it might as well all be lumped into one big pot in the refrigerator and be done with it. You never can tell – no matter what you throw in there it becomes brown and you may end up for a brief period of time with a Brillat-Savarin winner.

Spag Blog

Australians would get that. This Australian got it tonight…and will get it again tomorrow…if he is in luck.

Second day home-made spaghetti Bolognese is one of the highlights of cuisine that you rarely see in food writing. Indeed, it is rare to find any reference to leftovers in the fancy cookery books – other than the occasional note that something may or may not be frozen. In the case of leftover home-made spaghetti Bolognese we have never had enough excess to freeze it. That is how good it is.

This is not an organic spoons and harvesting garlic before daybreak sort of cooking – I have not got the expertise, patience, or sense of solemnity for that. This spag bog contains grocery store tomatoes, capsicums, and onions and a jar of commercial spaghetti sauce as a base. The particular dish you see in the illustrations has Paul Newman sauce in it, but you can use lots of other ones like Dolmio or IXL and skip the snivelling charity announcement on the lid. You can also avoid the late Newman’s politics. It doesn’t really matter as long as there is tomato stock, oregano, and garlic in the jar.

I do add extra garlic ( we are in a vampire zone ) salt, pepper, olive oil, and chopped champignons.

The ground beef should be from a cow. It doesn’t really matter whether it is the cheap fatty sort or the premium dry type – it gets fried anyway and the fat drained. And when I say fried, I mean fried. Lowish-medium heat, but done long enough to make it crisp. The extra texture in the sauce is important.

How long to cook the sauce for? All day at very low heat.

Which spaghetti to use? I use the Australian San Remo brand in regular size, but you can suit yourself. If you learn to cook pasta well, any spaghetti type will work with this. Al dente for the first night. Leftover dente for the next – and it is the taste of the next night that I really relish.

The pot sits in the icebox overnight and the flavours melt into each other. The leftover spag softens a little and the bog sweetens a little. With a soft red wine and crusty Italian bread, this is truly a dish fit for a King – or a Caesar.