Wednesday 7 September 2011

Just What I Had On Hand

I live just two blocks from a grocery store.  It’s easy for me, when preparing dinner, to think I’ll just pick up an ingredient or two to add to what I have on hand.  Lately though, reducing food waste has been much on my mind so I’ve set myself the challenge of limiting my grocery shopping.  Each day’s best effort goes into using just what I already have on hand.

Don’t get me wrong:  What I have on hand is often really great.  I take care to ensure that I have a well-stocked pantry and freezer, and I get a farm box from my CSA farm every week.  My fridge is full of fresh produce and I have lots of great seasonings and condiments on hand all the time.  Still, there is for me always the temptation to get just one more thing, add just one more ingredient.

Today, I looked in my fridge and found leftover brown and wild rice mixture, steamed cabbage and an ear of roasted corn.  The first item I spied in my freezer was a whole chicken. 

I’d had a conversation with my friend Natasha last weekend about roasting chicken in the slow cooker and, since the day was quite hot and I didn’t want to heat up my kitchen, that’s what I decided to do. 

I put some aromatics (onion, garlic, celery, carrots, fresh thyme and rosemary) in the bottom of the slow cooker, then brushed my chicken lightly with olive oil, seasoned it generously with seasoned salt, and set it on top of the aromatics. 

I know many of the good cooks reading this are cringing right now but sometimes, during the day-to-day repetition of putting supper on the table, plain cooking wins out over more elaborate treatments.  There are lots of other ways I could’ve gone with seasoning that bird.  I’ve tried almost all of them over the years but my husband loves seasoned salt so today that’s what I used.

I set the slow cooker on low and let it do its work. 

When the chicken was cooked, I transferred it to a metal pan and set it under the broiler to brown and crisp the skin.  This last step is what takes a slow cooker chicken from pale and unappealing to aromatic and inviting.  It only takes a few minutes and it’s well worth both the effort and the extra dirty pan.

While the chicken was browning, I set about cooking my side dish.  I cut the kernels from the cob of corn, coarsely chopped some of the steamed cabbage, diced half an onion, and got the rice out of the fridge.  Using a non-stick pan, I sautéed the onion in a little toasted sesame oil--just until it was tender--and then added the rest of the ingredients.  I used equal parts of all four.  Once the vegetables and rice were heated through, I adjusted the seasoning with a little salt and pepper, perched the chicken on top of them in the pan and took it to the table. 

Despite the fact that I served it in the frying pan, it was a lovely looking supper.  Carving the bird at the table made it somehow festive.  It smelled great and tasted even better.  I’m so glad I used what I had on hand.

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