Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Leftovers Reborn

It was dinner time, and I hadn't done any grocery shopping in a week. It was one of those nights when ordering takeout would have been easier, but I couldn't--not when there were plenty of leftovers. The problem was, how do I pull them all together for a decent dinner?

At least I had the foresight to defrost some chicken legs the night before. I looked at the pale poultry and a pot of turkey stock; poached chicken, perhaps? Peeking out of the vegetable bin were a carton of cremini mushrooms and some green beans; these could go into a saute. On the top shelf sat a bowl holding a few spoonfuls of pesto and a container of red bell peppers I roasted a week ago. I rooted around for some herbs and sat everything on the counter.

I browned the chicken in olive oil and added carrots cut into irregular rectangles. After deglazing with some white wine, I added garlic and enough turkey stock to cover the legs. I turned down the heat, put a lid on the pan, and let the chicken simmer while I turned my attention to the side dishes.

I minced some more garlic and cooked it slowly over low heat. This bought me some time while I diced the mushrooms and roasted bell peppers. I turned up the heat and sauteed the mushrooms until they caramelized. A little white wine deglazed the pan and the bell peppers were added.

While the vegetables cooked, I blanched the green beans, then added them to the mushroom mixture. I minced some oregano that John's best friend Mike had grown and added them to the vegetables. A little salt and pepper, and it was ready to be plated.

I added some orzo and peas to the green bean water and let it cook for 10 minutes before tossing it with the leftover pesto. The starchy side dish was also ready.

The chicken was done around the same time. I placed the legs and carrots on a platter and turned up the heat to reduce the poaching liquid. When it was slightly thickened, I poured it over the chicken for an improvised reduction sauce.

Thirty minutes after staring hopelessly at a pile of seemingly disparate ingredients, we sat down to poached chicken with carrots, green bean and mushroom saute, and orzo with pesto. We celebrated this budget-minded creativity with a half bottle of LeNoble Brut Reserve, a creamy champagne with light bubbles.

My parents taught me never to waste food. They are part of a generation that experienced famine and did not have the 'luxury' of discarding anything that may be of use. I take those lessons to heart, but I also cannot bear to throw out any food that I took the time to cook. I have made memorable meals from fine (and fresh) ingredients, but giving new life to leftovers is also very satisfying.

My mouth is totally watering right now. I am looking up some of the cooking terms in order to try this.(deglazing?)

You have a great blog. It has actually inspired me to get some recipes, make a shopping list and go get the ingredients.
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