Thursday, April 03, 2014

Left overs 101

What to do with left over roast chook

For many years I have overseen kitchens that have delivered thousands of meals, toss in my gregarious and generous nature with food, my deep seated need to nurture people and my own appetites and you are left with a profile person that is not very suited to cooking for small numbers, like my own family of five, me included.
When your fridge and freezer starts to bulge with sticky-taped labelled take-away containers with the over catered family dinners its pretty obvious you are suffering from ‘Over Catering Syndrome’ or OCS as we call it in the game.
Let’s shift down a gear though. I’m always startled and dismayed by the reported waste of food that Australians reach every year. According to this website, we waste a staggering 8.7 Billion dollars worth of food per year.
Perhaps the reasons why we throw out so much food are manifold.
Firstly I reckon we just don’t trust food not to be off. Instead of trusting our noses, we look to use by dates as the default position. It says use before the 24th and it’s the 25th today so I should bin it. I think observing and smelling first should be our first responses to questioning foods consumable authentication.
Secondly, we crave variance in our diets and for many, eating the hero and cast of last nights dish a second time doesn’t hold much appeal. My theory on this is that we seek reward/comfort/titillation/validation of our day through the evening meal and the prospect of eating a similar thing to last night reminds us of yesterday’s woes.
Thirdly, we are promiscuous in this country when it comes to our tastebuds. We are easily swayed by Turkey on Monday,Malaysia on Tuesday and Argentina on Wednesday etc. It’s a challenge for us to commit to a singular cuisine. This I believe, is our weakness and our strength when it comes to that old chestnut of a quandary ‘Does Australia have a unique cuisine’
Anyways, quite often we have left over chook after a roast as two of our brood are parsimonious in their imbibing of the flesh. I love feeding our pets with strips of skin, flesh and tendon like the next person but I’m always left with a sense that the poor chook should’ve been totally consumed by us, the people who have instigated and amassed this whole mechanism to get our meat to the table, well not us personally but we are the consumers at the end of this line and should be accountable.

I’ll try my best, OK? This is for four peeps

So….. At this juncture after dinner I’m left with about ½ a cooked breast, 1 ½ legs and one wing. These are not big chooks BTW; it’s just that my fam only eat a smidge of meat, preferring the vegies and copious amounts of (real) gravy to the flesh of a roast.
I strip off all the remaining meat and shred the skin. Reclaim all the bones and make a stock adding the usual aroma suspects and then reducing to its fundamentals, i.e. a light brown super chicken essence. Strain this and let it sit and be revered on your bench-should yield about 500mls
This stock will have an Unami profile of crisp chicken skin and form the cornerstone of your sauce for the leftover-pie of which you are about to embark.
Take about 100g of butter an let it froth in a heavy large-ish pot (2litre) before adding 1 diced onion and ½ a washed and diced leek. Let this sizzle at a low heat until the leek and onion start to colour and you begin to inhale the intoxicating aromas that only slow-cooked onionoids can deliver under the duress of fat and heat. Now add a few crushed cloves of garlic, some dried tarragon (its intensity is superior to fresh in long cooked dishes) and inhale one of the true Sofrito  aromas of which so many ancient dishes have their foundations celebrated.
Just as the Sofrito becomes Autumnal at its edges we turn the heat off and add a cup of flour, stirring into a paste and because we are using butter as a lubricant we’ll follow suite and use milk as the stock
Slowly add 1 litre of milk as you would when making a white sauce, stirring constantly to achieve smoothness. Once this is done you’ll have quite a thick paste but now you add your secret ingredient! You include that lovely reduced chook stock to your veloute and as well as enriching its flavour you’ll be able to dilute it enough for another 15 mins of ‘cooking-out’ the ‘floury-taste’. After this time, add your retrieved chicken meat, shredded skin and mix thoroughly. The filling should be quite thick when warm so stiff when its’ cold. Add some sea salt and pepper to focus the flavour before letting it cool completely
Next day, grease a 20cm spring form cake tin and line with ready-bought or homemade short crust or puff pastry, fill with the cold pie-mix and top with whatever pastry you’ve used. Brush with milky egg-wash before baking at 160C for 40 minutes.
Let the pie cool completely before trying to retrieve it from the tin. One that is done, portion it into quarters but leave it whole to re-heat.
Serve it with mash, vegies and a spicy tomato chutney or relish.
Two bites of the cherry.
Waste not, want not.


GourmetGirlfriend said...

"....just as the sofrito becomes autmnal at it's edges....."
such lovely recipe writing.
I LOVE (and gain great satisfaction) making leftovers into something else.
And let's face it anything wrapped in good pastry is gonna deliver non?!

steve said...

Hey Ruth thanks for reading + congrats on your new venture!
Viva le Leftovers sans frontiers!