Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Remainders: Building Blocks of Creativity

I thought I'd close out the year by writing a bit on being creative in the kitchen. I find that working with underlying principles is the way to be flexible and turn out good food (or at least edible) with whatever you have on hand. This is a lot like how with learning a language, you need to learn grammar (cooking techniques, principles, theories) in order to flexibly and creatively express whatever you want to say (dishes) rather than just turning out stock phrases in response to stock situations (just following recipes).

Using excess components or leftovers can be a great way to get yourself thinking more creatively about how to cook with different ingredients. It's when we have constraints that we're forced to be our most creative, and having an ingredient or component you have to use is just such a constraint.

For example, pictured above are scrambled eggs with shrimp-infused chipotle salsa and spinach and duck fat fried potatoes. The salsa was excess from another dish the night before in which it was more of a soup/sauce, and it wasn't a big stretch to look it and think I could use it in a scrambled egg with salsa dish. There was too much fluid for the eggs to scramble right, so I put the salsa in the hot skillet first to cook down some of the soup. After cooking down somewhat, I added the spinach so that it could wilt. Then, in order to get nice curds in the eggs, I pushed the salsa and spinach to the side so that they wouldn't interfere with curd formation and added the eggs, proceeding to scramble as normal in the remaining two-thirds of the skillet area. As the curds formed up, I gently mixed in the salsa and spinach with the egg and finished up.

As for the potatoes, they were leftovers since I generally make enough for more than one meal when I cook (time savings). I just fried them another time to reheat and crisp the skin. Put them together with the scrambled eggs and you have a pretty nice breakfast.

Well, it's been another good year for growth and learning for me. I hope your 2013 was for you, too, and that you continue to stretch in 2014. Happy new year!


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