French cooking is famous for the mother sauces which can be modified to many many classic sauces. In home kitchens, the foods that branch off into a whole lot of dishes are great to know about for an avid meal planner or a seat of the pants cook feeding a family. That’s what we explore here, tips and tricks to make your kitchen life easier and the bellies of you and your family fuller.
We all have our favorite dishes, and many come with recipes that can be complex and convoluted. For those of us that are self-declared foodies, this is just fine. Some days nothing is more fun than decoding a complex recipe in a style of cooking that is less familiar to you. Other days, however, the KISS rule rules. There’s an entire lexicon of great simple recipes out there. And another layer that adds interest is getting a sense of how things differ in a professional environment compared to home cooking. Certainly, a large amount of how a restaurant produces complex food in mere moments comes down to detailed preparation. Add repetition to that and you actually have a large portion of the restaurant formula for success.
Broaden your own horizon
On those occasions that I want to explore a different cooking style or dish, the internet certainly doesn’t disappoint. For example, I just discovered Notakeout.com. In this case I had heard that there were ways to imitate those grocer’s abundant rotisserie chickens at home, without an actual rotisserie. Lo and behold, they offered exactly such a recipe. It delivered the tasty fall off the bone moist chicken meat that you want. Specifically, I was seeking this because it may make a great meal the first time that you serve it, but the leftovers are the core to an almost endless string of recipes. This one source is a quality ingredient for everything from a quick chicken soup to lo mien, from chili to enchiladas, or from chicken alfredo to cannelloni. Or just a simple chicken sandwich. Plus, you can cook the bones into stock. It’s like a cookbook waiting to be written, which is the idea of broadening your horizons.
From little comes plenty
There’s a lot of dishes that you can make that just keep on giving. Ham is a great example, there are always outlets to use up those leftovers. In fact, there are so many that I have at times bought a cheap ham, that I might not serve as a meal, that I will cook up specifically to integrate into a bunch of meal planning. Sure, save a great looking chunk to slice for sammies. You can coarsely cube the rest and have it fit every meal category. In scrambled eggs or an omelet or keep some of those slices to grill or for a breakfast muffin because ham is a natural part of that first meal. Sliced in a ham sandwich or grilled cheese or making leftover mac and cheese into a full meal, lunch is a no brainer with ham. For dinner it’s a classic scalloped potatoes with ham, more soups than I can mention here, or tossed in pasta. And the ham bone makes stock, the base for ham and beans or split pea soup too.
The big bird
A turkey is where many folks learn this whole idea of filtering one food down into a variety of dishes. There may even have been times when you were on the edge of never wanting to see turkey again, usually when it is made into Turkey Tetrazzini. Don’t misunderstand, done properly tetrazzini is a tasty dish, it just has become the end game for those in the know who utilize every part of a special dish like turkey. Thanksgiving leftovers have become standard fair for TV humor for years. The thing is though, they are great. It is also the best example of getting every bang for your buck out of the big bird. For most households it ends with the bones being cooked down into golden stock and delicious soup or stew.
Cooking a pork shoulder down to pulled pork is another world class meal starting point. It also freezes really well, making it easy to project down the road into future meals. Straight up for a classic pulled pork sandwich is outstanding. But it morphs into all kinds of Latin cuisine, a Cubano sandwich, Colorado chili, and more. And bacon. These days if you can catch a brand of bacon that you like on sale, buy it. Lots. You can bake it to about 60% doneness and freeze it for lots of future use. Breakfast doesn’t even need to be mentioned, the uses are almost infinite. Lunch time for a BLT, thrown on top of your cheeseburger for dinner, or chopped into a multitude of dishes from quiche to chowder, it will get used up handily.
Wrap and freeze
Virtually any of these items will freeze just fine if properly handled and wrapped. You probably have your own tricks from prepping burger patties to mincing garlic and saving it in an ice cube tray. My point is that there is a lot of value in prepping ahead, not just for a restaurant kitchen. Some things in the store don’t scale to just a single meal for you and your fellow diners. Don’t be afraid to buy the bulk and prep it forward to enjoy.