Waste Not, Want Not

Waste Not, Want Not

There are tons of sexy secrets for how to make your food taste like “restaurant food.”  Anthony Bourdain shared a few of these: use excess amounts of butter, use shallots, garnish with fresh herbs and always use good stock.  Along the way I have picked up a few as well.  For instance, use less water when boiling your pasta.  It creates a thickened, starchy soup that, when blended into your pasta sauce, helps to unify it and coat your pasta.  Embrace super high heat, cast iron pans and gild your pastas with an extra hit of good olive oil.  Goya Adobo powder. Always. An anchovy or two in almost anything will give extra depth and a touch of umami.  Use a mortar and pestle to grind your pepper.  Wait until the final moments before adding parsley to a dish.  And finally, the key to a really great chile or red sauce or hearty soup is leave it covered on the stove overnight — lactic acids develop from the slight fermentation which results in a robustness of flavor.

The other secret to restaurant food, to restaurants itself, is much less sexy.  It is basically, don’t throw ANYTHING out. Restaurants are cost conscious to a level that is not understood by the public.  Nothing goes to waste.  Meat scraps and vegetable scraps are used in broth; unused table-side butter is incorporated into sauces; fish skin, bones, shrimp shells are all used for soups.  I even know a restaurant that scrubs their potato peels so clean that they use them to make a tempura fritter to go with soba.

I do the same thing…and perhaps even go beyond as I don’t have to worry about grossing anyone out.  I save all meat, fish and chicken bones and scrap — even scraping plates after dinner  — and stuff them into a freezer bag for when I want to make broth.  I do the same with my carrot peels, onion ends, celery leaves and parsley stems.  I save tough  broccoli trunks, zucchini ends, lettuce hearts and basically any green vegetable and make a sort of delicious green soup when I fear that some vegetable or another is going to go bad. I save bacon lard, render beef fat and always make schmaltz from chicken trimmings and skin.  The result, of what some might call garbage hoarding, is that I always have rich, flavorful broth which I use in simply everything from mashed potatoes, to simple pasta sauces to, obviously, soups and stews.  And when I fry potatoes or cook steaks or pork chops, those rendered fats add extra favor and lightness (and are actually healthier than margarines or any of that shit).  And, as a plus, I am actually saving some much-needed cash.

I suck at large political gestures and I am ashamed at my lack of activism against a world that I fear has gone mad in these late stages of Oligarchic Capitalism.  So, in my small world, the world of my family and my friends, I find it desperately important to treat the people close to me properly, to be kind and when it comes to food, to make sure it is lovingly prepared.  And, within the same realm, I just feel better as a person, more self-sufficient and more kind to the world-at-large by treating food and waste with consciousness.  Try it!  Worst that can happen is some good broth.




3 Replies to “Waste Not, Want Not”

  1. I learned these kinds of behaviors from my grandma and mom and there is something satisfying about it. If a whole chicken is ever cooked at the house you’ll find a bag of bones and parts in the fridge the next day, ready for broth or whatever. Great post Jeremy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *