By Jenny McCoy — Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts
I’m nearly two weeks into my resolution to create zero food waste in January, and surprisingly, it’s going well. I expected to be throwing out a lot more food. There have been a few losses — like what to do with the food that my toddler refuses to consume. (I don’t yet have an answer, other than compost.) But there have also been some unexpected wins, like the amazing facial scrub I Instagram’d last week, made from coffee grounds and egg shells. Plus, dinner time is no longer a rotation of the same couple dozen dishes. Everyone in my family is pretty happy.
The biggest secret to my success? My freezer.
A while back, I contributed to a great article by Marian Bull for Bon Appétit, “The Right Way to Freeze Basically Everything.” In short: I am obsessed with my freezer. I cannot emphasize that enough. Obsessed. Before my family goes out of town, I freeze anything that might not last until our return. That might mean tossing the whole chicken I didn’t get a chance to roast into a freezer bag. It could also mean putting my half full gallon of milk directly into the freezer, plastic jug and all. I asked my husband to clean out the fridge before we left for our Christmas break and upon returning two weeks later to find brown slimy spinach, I sadly asked, “Why didn’t you freeze that?” He thinks I’m a neurotic food hoarder, but really, I just hate seeing good food get dumped. As the BA article indicates, you can freeze anything. So if you notice something in your fridge inching closer and closer to its expiration date, do something about it! Eat it, or freeze it.
Make This: Kitchen Sink Stock
So what about all of those kitchen scraps? Sure, you can compost them. But why not put them in your freezer, too? Each time I prepare a meal, I toss all my vegetable and meat scraps into freezer bags. Once I have two gallon-sized freezer bags stuffed full, I make stock. I call it my kitchen sink stock. It might have a variety of meat bones — chicken, pork, beef. It might have veggies that most wouldn’t add to stock — broccoli stems and bell pepper seeds. But I don’t mind. I toss it all into my pressure cooker, cover it with water and 20 minutes later have great stock. If it tastes like too much bell pepper to use for a cauliflower soup, I use it for a bean soup. If it’s not as flavorful as I’d like, I use it when I cook rice or couscous. And everything goes in it; from garlic and onion skins to herb stems and kale stalks. I’m sure some chefs will read this and weep, as stock making is a very time-honored tradition and the backbone to many cuisines. But in my case, I just want to avoid spending money on store-bought stock — and cut down on food waste in my own home.
Then Make These: A Couple of My Favorite Recipes
Once you’ve got your Kitchen Sink Stock made, here are few of the hit dishes I’ve made in the last couple of weeks that put it to good use.
Cream of Stem Soup
Servings: Makes about 6 to 8 servings
1 pound broccoli stems, chopped
1 pound cauliflower stems, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnishing
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery
½ stick unsalted butter
6 cups Kitchen Sink Stock
1 cup cream
Dash or two of nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the chopped broccoli and cauliflower stems in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown and caramelized. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
- In a large pot, sauté the onion and celery in butter until translucent and tender. Add the roasted broccoli, cauliflower and stock, cover and simmer about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture in batches to a blender and purée until completely smooth (do not fill the blender completely full and be sure to hold the top on with a kitchen towel to protect your hands — the steam from the hot liquid can push the lid off). Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the cream and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
Savory Mushroom Stem and Stale Bread Pudding
Servings: Makes 10 to 12 servings
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¾ stick unsalted butter
1 pound mushrooms, sliced with entire stem intact
1 bunch kale, chopped
¼ cup water or stock
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 pound stale bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups crème fraiche or sour cream
8 large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup grated parmesan or gruyere cheese
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish with butter. Place the bread in a large mixing bowl.
- In a large skillet, sauté the onions, celery and garlic in the butter until translucent and tender. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and light golden brown. Add the kale, cover and let cook about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to sauté until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Add the sautéed vegetables to the bowl of bread and stir to combine.
- In a large bowl, whisk the cream, crème fraiche and eggs together until smooth. Add the mixture to the bowl of bread and vegetables and stir until combined. Add the salt and pepper and mix well. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake until golden brown and the pudding slightly puffs, about 1 hour. Let stand about 15 minutes to cool slightly before cutting and serving.
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