I often wonder if I’ve always been frugal at heart. I like a good bargain like everyone else, but I really enjoy the idea of eking out every bit of the produce in your grocery bag. One of the things that caught my eye this past month was an article on how restaurteurs saved all the clean scraps from vegetable peeling and the ends of chopped onions, carrots, etc. and placed them in containers in the freezer. Once they had a sufficient amount, they would boil them up to produce a vegetable stock. I thought it worth a try, keeping in mind their dos and don’ts and the cautions on balancing allium scraps to sweeter vegetables, but the resulting product was too ‘muddy’ for our tastes. Perhaps I was doing something wrong, but I deemed it too much of a hassle and not worth trying again. Better fodder for the compost heap.
However, making stock with the leftover carcass of roast chicken (and turkey) has always been a success in my kitchen. I have been doing this for as long as I have been cooking. The resulting stock is a little deeper colour (due to the roasting) than stock made from raw chicken bones or with cheaper cuts such as wings, but still delicious. Like that chicken stock, other experiments at frugality this month were more successful.
Brassica are abundant in our local Athens open air market this time of year. One of our favourites is broccoli. I often find myself looking for broccoli heads with a lot of leaf still on. Just the other week, I watched as one of the vegetable purveyors lop off leaves from the broccoli before putting the head out on the stall, making it more presentable to the buyer. When I asked for it with the leaves, he was very bemused but humoured me nonetheless. I know a lot of people consider the leaf a throw-away product, but it is, in fact, an edible part of the plant with a subtle broccoli flavour. You can use these greens the same way you would use other brassicas (cabbage, kale, collard greens, etc.) in cooking. I am considering making a pasta dish called Haluski, substituting broccoli greens for the more traditional cabbage.
Parmesan rinds are another common throw-away item. I have always saved them, bagging them up and popping them in the freezer. I’d pull one out to use when making minestrone or ragú to give the soup or sauce a little bit of a Parmesan kick. However, since I recently found a huge stash of them in the freezer, I decided to make Parmesan broth – a recipe I’ve saved, waiting for the time when I had a large cache of frozen rinds. You can read about in an earlier post this past month: Rind Broth. It is one way to capture all that flavour that otherwise would have gone to waste.
I recently made a risotto using the broth – mushroom, peas and tarragon. The Parmesan broth had been in the freezer and I noticed a couple of things: a lot of solid fats had risen to the top and the broth is surprisingly devoid of salt. So, discard the fat and salt the broth (the latter often euphemistically written in recipes as ‘adjust seasoning’). Using this broth, I don’t need to add grated Parmesan at the end. However, I did add a knob of butter as I usually do to produce a glossy-looking risotto.
Speaking of mushrooms, I have seen many cooks remove the stalks and discard them since they are not as delicate as the caps. I find this a terrible waste and I usually use the whole mushroom. But, I set out to test how the stalks could be used in other ways. I first removed the stalks, cleaned them, chopped them into little cubes and froze them so they could be used to make soups or be sautéed in smaller batches for inclusion in omelettes, pastas, risottos or anything else where a handful of mushrooms might enhance the dish. When freezing them in their raw state, I discovered that the mushrooms tend to lose their shape and colour when defrosted. Actually, that is an understatement: the defrosted bits looked like a dark mush. The sight of them sent me scrambling to the internet to see if they were safe to use. They are, but I now sauté the mushroom bits first before freezing which prevents them from becoming that blackened mess.
After a lot of preserving last month, I thought to share the frugal use of things that often end in the bin, but with a bit of creativity are still very useful. Have a look at my other In My Kitchen posts and with other IMK bloggers who connect at Sherry’s Pickings. Wherever you are in the world, stay safe.