I figured out what it is that I do in my kitchen. It's recycling. No, I'm not referring to crushing cans or separating paper from plastic, I'm talking turning last night's mashed potatoes into tomorrow morning's potato pancakes. It's a way of life. I learned it from my parents who were trying to feed six (and usually more) kids while keeping it interesting and affordable.
It's really no surprise, when you grow up in the land where rock-hard bread becomes gorgeous Bread Pudding and stripped turkey bones become Turkey Gumbo with some boiling water and browned flour added. And, after all, my Mother was Cajun - Prairie Cajun, to be exact, from the plains of Avoyelles Parish. In Bunkie, they didn't have the daily abundance of the Gulf to enjoy, so they got realllly creative - recycling every part of a pig into something delicious. I remember Momma coming home from a visit to 'the country' proudly holding a big, greasy paper grocery-store bag full of fried pig skin - cracklin'. Think Cajun potato chips. But don't think about the cholesterol!
So, as the daughter of a tribe of food recyclers, it is my quest, nay, my DUTY, to continue the grand tradition of getting every morsel out of everything you cook. In my house, we really don't have "leftovers" because that would imply that you just reheat what you cooked yesterday. Simply won't do. Rather, I take what we had yesterday and turn into something more fascinating today.
Let's take an inventory of the fridge, shall we? I've got leftover Mock Oyster Dip (broccoli, cheese etc.), half of the Sweet Spud Andouille Bisque (what wouldn't fit in the 'to go' container I sent my friend Di) and my turkey bones from Sunday's turkey dinner. You didn't think I threw those turkey bones away, did you? What? And be haunted by my Cajun grandma, Lessie? No way!!
OK, then, here's what's cooking at my house today!
SOUPS 1-1-1 (just like at the fancy restaurants)
I'll give each family member three cups of soup and some homemade bread. Let's get started.
SOUP #1 - Cream of Broccoli
2 cups of leftover Broccoli Cheese dip (or you can make your favorite recipe fresh)
1 cup of Half 'n Half (go lighter, if you want to)
grated cheese for garnish (your favorite)
chopped green onion for garnish
Place the dip in a heavy-bottomed pot on low heat. Add the Half 'n Half and heat slowly - don't want to scorch it. When it's heated, pull out your stick blender (my Magic Wand!) and blend in the pot. Or blend in batches in the blender or processor. Serve in small coffee cups. Garnish with cheese and chopped green onion.
SOUP #2 - Sweet Spud Andouille Bisque
See yesterday's blog. Assuming you didn't eat it all at once, heat up the leftovers slowly. Serve in small coffee cup, topped with a dollop of sour cream.
SOUP #3 - Turkey Andouille Gumbo
Leftover turkey gravy (from Sunday dinner, remember? See January 1st)
Andouille sausage - sliced into roulettes (or your favorite smoked sausage)
Roux (or you can use instant roux, if you like)
chopped green onion for garnish
First, put your bones to boil and let them roll for about half an hour. Turn off the heat and let them cool. Then, transfer the bones only from the pot. Keep the stock in the pot. Place the bones on a plate and pick any and all meat that's left from them. Now, you can throw the bones away (unless your Cajun mama taught you to use them further??). Turn on the flame on the stock pot again. Now, add your roux. If you're using one of the fine instant rouxs available (like Oak Grove or Zatarain's), just whisk it into the stock until it's thoroughly mixed. If you've made a fresh roux (good for you!! for instructions, check Sunday's blog under Groovy Gravy), add it now. Also throw in any leftover turkey gravy you may have. Now let this all boil, thicken, reduce...whatever....till it gets nice and thick. Add your andouille and turkey meat. Sometimes, I even add some crawfish tails because they work with the "gaminess" of turkey gumbo, in my mind. Serve in small coffee cup, over rice, topped with chopped green onion.
So, that's it. An absolute gourmet's delight and I didn't travel any farther than my own fridge for all the ingredients. FOOD RECYCLING, Cajun-style! You should be able to throw this all together within an hour or so, and your family will eat like they're at a fancy, Uptown restaurant. I'm going to make some homemade, Gluten Free bread to go with mine. Serve whatever bread YOU like.
Now, for lunch....I've got those grilled chicken breasts, some pepper-jelly vinaigrette and a bucket of washed baby lettuces....hmmm...... While I fix my lunch, you enjoy this. Doesn't get any more authentic Cajun than THIS guy......