A little about me: I cook a lot, mostly dinner at home for my family and friends but sometimes for massive parties of upwards of 200 people. I’ve been doing sous vide cooking since 2010. I run a food blog called Unselling Convenience (also @unsellingconvenience on Instagram if you’d rather follow along there), which is mostly an inspiration board and memory database of things I’ve enjoyed cooking and probably want to cook again. I believe that shortcuts are great, but not at the expense of quality. I administer the Everyday Sous Vide and Instant Pot Love groups on Facebook.
There are a number of things I do in the kitchen over and over again. Some are seasonal, some year-round. But I’m a big fan of cyclical approaches to cooking, that make the most of fresh ingredients and byproducts.
When I buy ingredients, I’m always thinking about what I’ll use them for when they’re fresh, what I can salvage out of them when they start to turn, how I can preserve them for future use, and what byproducts they’ll have that are also useful. I hate food waste and try to minimize it whenever possible.
Here are some common cycles in my kitchen:
Whenever I roast a chicken for dinner, I save the bones and whatever meat I can’t pick off the carcass and put it in the instant pot with an onion sliced in half, a handful of diced celery (I chop a whole head or two at once and store it in the freezer in a ziploc bag), and a few carrots unpeeled and broken in half. I cover it with water almost to the top, and cook at high pressure for four hours. If I can’t deal with it immediately, it will keep on warm for a few days no problem. When I’m ready, I strain the liquid into a saucepan and put it over high heat to reduce. If I want to use it right away, reduction by a third or half is usually enough. If I want to store it, I’ll reduce it until almost all of the water is boiled off and it’s a thick syrup (check frequently when it gets close to that, it will burn once all of the water is gone). 6 quarts of stock can reduce down to about a cup, it stores for weeks to months in the fridge, and it can be easily reconstituted by mixing with hot water or dolloped out as-is into sauces or other dishes. Chicken stock and glace also both freeze well.
Every once in a while I get a big bag of lemons. I wash them, then zest them with a fine grater or peeler. The zest can go into the freezer in a ziploc bag for later use in baking, lemon sorbet, and sauces. It can be steeped in everclear or vodka to make limoncello (sous vide can accelerate that). Then I juice all of the halves, use a bit of it and freeze the rest in 1 cup containers. (Lemonade: mix 1 cup of lemon juice with 2–3 quarts of water and 1/4–1/2 cup of castor sugar or the equivalent of simple syrup. Adjust acidity and sweetness to taste. Add fresh mint leaves and blueberries if you like.) Per Stella Parks, the shells can be steeped with around 40% sugar by weight for 6–12 hours to make a very concentrated lemon syrup which keeps in the fridge for a long time.
Milk / Yogurt
I buy 1–2 half gallons of milk every week. Sometimes we drink fresh milk or use it for cereal or oatmeal. Whatever is left at the end of the week, I will usually either ferment into yogurt or make a batch of bechamel to vacuum seal and freeze. The bechamel is very easy to thaw out in the sous vide and add to lasagna or use as a base for mac & cheese.
There are many ways to make yogurt, I find the instant pot to be the most convenient. We all prefer the thicker texture when it’s strained, but it lasts much longer unstrained (the whey is very acidic), so I usually only strain a few cups at a time. The strained whey makes an excellent 1:1 substitute for buttermilk, I use it for making pancakes and breads.
I buy fresh eggs 1–2 times a week and usually have 5–6 cartons in the fridge at a time. I use the freshest ones for scrambled eggs, the middle ones for baking, and when they get to a month old, I hard boil them and use them for salads or deviled eggs, or drop them in leftover pickle brine.
Berries & Stone fruits
When they’re in season in the spring and summer, I usually buy too many fruits — primarily berries of all kinds and stone fruits. I’ve lactofermented some plums, but a little goes a long way. Mostly I’ll just eat whatever I can and make cobblers and clafoutis/flaugnarde with a bunch. I usually freeze a few quarts of blueberries and sour cherries every year — rinse, lay out on a sheet pan in a single layer on parchment paper or silpat, freeze for a few hours to a day, then vacuum seal or pack into a ziploc bag and get out as much air as possible. When the berries in the fridge start to get soft, I will usually make a compote by bringing them to a boil with a small amount of sugar and cornstarch slurry to thicken — the proportions aren’t critical and I usually just eyeball it. Compote stores in the fridge for a few weeks and can be frozen well.
Every year or two I like to make some batches of jam and can it in boiling water. For canning, I usually use the freshest fruit I can find.
I buy apples in the fall and keep them in my wine fridge (between 40–50 degrees). When they start to get soft, I usually make instant pot applesauce (skins included, 7 minutes on high pressure, with a bit of water, sugar, and cinnamon, then blended with a hand mixer and thickened on the stove if needed). If I have a LOT of them, I’ll can the extra applesauce in boiling water for shelf stability. For making dried apple slices, I’ll usually start with the freshest apples I can find.
Cucumbers / Pickles
Kirbies are my favorite kind of cucumber, for both eating straight and pickling. See my separate piece about my method for crunchy fermented pickles. The leftover brine is useful for a number of things as a general acidic liquid (salad dressings, marinating meat, etc…), and the fermented garlic can also be used in place of regular garlic for an extra tang.
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