This past weekend, I cooked a bulk of food to get my wife and me through the work week. All of it was Korean meals that can keep and we can easily reheat. I made two types of soup, shrimp and vegetable pajeon (savory fried pancakes), soy ginger chicken, and chicken juk (rice porridge). All we have to do is steam some rice and we have convenient homemade meals all week long.
My mother taught me a lot about cooking. Particularly, waste little as possible. One time I was chopping some green onions and discarded the white/green ends (closest to the bulbs). My mom freaked. She quickly plucked them back out of the wastebasket and ran them through a thorough rinse. “Don’t waste this part, they still can be used,” she stated. From time to time, I’m still served pickled scallion bulbs as banchan in Korean restaurants.
To this day I’ll still find some use for the whiter parts of scallions. Sometimes I’ll process them and use them as an oniony base for a sauce or marinade. Or I’ll split them open length-wise, remove their slim inner core, fan them out in sheets and julienne into strips. These strips can make an attractive edible garnish, or an ingredient that I add to pajeon. As for the cores, I tend to mince them up and add to dipping sauces, soups, or in a bubbling pot of chicken juk.
Naturally, I try to apply this same principle to all other areas in cooking. For my shrimp pajeon, before discarding the peeled shrimp shells and tails, I boiled them in water to use as a light seafood base for doenjang jjigae broth. Doenjang jjigae is like a hearty Korean version of miso soup and ubiquitous in Korean restaurants and households. My version uses tiny dried fish for soup flavoring, so it seemed acceptable to extract a little flavor from the shells/tails.
The one major thing that is hard for me to use is fat. I was taught to render and discard it. I know in some cuisines it’s a popular substance reused in frying or flavoring, especially in modern cooking, but it’s an ingredient that I don’t like to knowingly eat.
However, I do make a chicken dish where I boil skin-on chicken legs and thighs in a mixture of chicken stock and soy ginger sauce. When reduced, I have this thick, glossy sauce that has cooked into the chicken but heavy in fat. After the leftovers spend a night in the refrigerator, you can see a thick layer of fat harden and separate from the reduction. Normally I discard this fat, but lately I’ve been saving it. When combined with some of the reduction, the resulting sauce makes a delicious Korean version of the popular Hainanese chicken rice.
So do you have any tricks or tips that you use in the kitchen to maximize ingredients?
- by Gene Lee, Food and More blog
– Gene Lee writes about International Cuisine for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Eat, Drink, Man… A Food Journal.