Food is a terrible thing to waste. Is your kitchen trash filled with valuable scraps that can save you money?
Imagine if someone were to barge into your kitchen, plunge head-first into the garbage and proceed to fish out every vegetable root, sandwich crust and parsley stem that you’d discarded; all the while, threatening to deduct each cent of frittered food from your bank account.
That's what happened on my first day of professional cooking (only the money was going to be deducted from my paycheck). It may sound bananas, but those who make a living off of mealtim, know the profits of rubbish resuscitation.
With a few tips from three savvy chefs, you can turn tonight’s scraps into money-saving meal supplements.
1. Save Cheese
Chef Rocky Barnette doesn’t waste a shred of Parmigiano Reggiano, a practice he picked up during his 10-year career at The Inn At Little Washington.
“When you’re paying 13 dollars per pound, you can end up throwing away a lot of money,” says Barnette. He recommends using a Microplane zester to get a few extra grates out of seemingly spent Parmesan rinds. Instead of chucking those tough strips, start a rind collection bag in the freezer and cash them in for richly flavored soups and sauces.
Money saving move: Barnette likes to simmer his rinds in milk and use the cheese infused liquid to make white sauces. Or you could just toss a rind or two into the pot while heating marinara.
2. Every Sweet Crumb Counts
Carlyn Berghoff, CEO of Berghoff Catering and Restaurant Group, recalls how her great-grandfather Herman Berghoff would gather the trimmings from leveled yellow cakes to use as the crumb filling for Berghoff Restaurant's signature apple strudel. Established in 1898, the family eatery relied on its guiding principles, “re-use, recycle and reinvent,” to steer the business successfully through two world wars, the Great Depression and Prohibition!
Money saving move: To make cake out of cast-offs, spread cake scraps or crumbled leftover cake on a baking sheet and lightly toast in a 300 degree oven, then place oven-dried crumbs in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Replace crushed graham crackers with cake crumbs for a decadent pie crust. Toss with plain breadcrumbs, thyme, salt and lemon zest for coating chicken cutlets or, simply sprinkle over ice cream for a classic combo.
3. Stems, Scraps and More
Recent New York City restaurant prodigy Joseph Campanale knows what it takes to survive and even thrive in today’s market. His menus reflect the high art of scrap salvaging. Mushroom stems, whose coveted caps are served as ragu, become the base for a woodsy stock used to fortify vegetarian pasta dishes. Flawless chunks of tuna are reserved for crudo, but “the scraps from the tuna butchering process are poached in olive oil and blended to make tonnato aioli, served with braised veal cheeks.” That’s some slick salvaging. One of the most commonly recycled ingredients is bread. Campanale's partner, Chef Gabe Thompson, cubes, seasons and toasts leftover loaves to make rustic croutons for salads and ribollita soup.
Money saving move: Crostini are excellent for salvaging a stale baguette, and you can cross crackers off the shopping list. Thinly slice day old bread and arrange slices on a baking sheet, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake at 325 degrees until golden and crisp.
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For more amazing money-saving recipes, check out our Food & Drink section.