Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's not leftovers, it's legacy.

Noodling with chicken noodle. © Ryan Schierling

Be it an intentional challenge, due to economic necessity, or simple unwillingness to make another trip to the grocery store, all of us have had the experience of cooking something for dinner using only what we had on hand. From the bits and scraps left over from recent meals or odds and ends in the pantry, you aspire to prepare something you might actually want to eat. Sometimes an old standby is the end result of pillaging the pantry and other times a novel "one-off" meal emerges. On occasion, one of these creations will even be so scrumptious as to become a family favorite.

But this was not one of those resplendent times. No, this was really just Chicken Noodle... uh, pasta.

It was delicious and easy, but this was primarily an effort to use what was left of an excellent grilled chicken. While I may not be much of a meat eater, I do believe it is important to not be wasteful when a critter is sacrificed for our table. The other elements I rounded up from the fridge, pantry and herb garden… a couple of carrots and some onion, a small bag of pappardelle (extra back-up pasta we had on hand from Easter in case the homemade pasta wasn't enough), and some fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden.

Is this starting to sound like an easy game of "Stump the Cook" on The Splendid Table?

Let's face it, what we have here are the discernible makings of a simple chicken noodle soup. But it didn't feel like a "soup" kind of night; pasta sounded far more appealing than a steaming bowl of flavorful broth with noodles. So, I just started sautéing the vegetables and fresh herbs like I would for a soup, then added a wee bit of flour to make a blonde roux before adding chicken broth a little at a time. When I achieved a light sauce I added the chicken, brought it up to bubbling, seasoned (mmm… cracked black pepper) and tossed it with the cooked pasta.

Soup can be made from just about anything… pick a vegetable or two, choose a savory stock or just water, add a bit of meat, perhaps, or maybe a little cream, and seasonings to suit your taste. (Heck, you could even puree leftover casserole and water with a stick blender and turn that into a soup!) So really, why not adapt a favorite into a pasta sauce? It may not turn out to be a recipe you make again and again, but, thanks to some persuasion from a fast approaching expiration date and a little imagination, it will likely make for a wonderful weeknight take on something you already enjoy. Buh-bye leftovers, hello extra room in the fridge!

What have you come up with on a night when legacy was "what's for dinner?"

1 comment:

  1. once, upon returning from a 5 day trip-nothing in the fridge and the grocery store closed for Sunday-we pulled a tupperware of white beans I had prepped for a cassoulet out of the freezer. Combine that with the last 2 shallots and an onion, nibbits of garlic and a lonely carrot, some tomato paste in the pantry spiked with some Rooster sauce and lots of chili pepper made for the strangest white bean chili ever concocted. But it did taste good enough to keep us from rioting and binging on whatever the local quickie-mart was selling.


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