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Thoughts on cooking

02-bulkThis 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.

04-green onionsMy 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.

01-shrimp shellsNaturally, 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.

03-chickenHowever, 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?

Gene-Lee-Tagline- 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.

19 comments Add your comment


April 27th, 2011
7:08 am

The food looks wonderful! I try to use as much of produce, meat and seafood as I can – making homemade broth, etc. Linda Shiue taught me a real lesson in frugality – growing new scallions from the root trimmings.


April 27th, 2011
7:42 am

Very interesting. About 3 months ago I was cutting up green onions and threw the white ends in the trash. My friends new boyfriend, who is Hungarian, yelled at me about that saying it is wasteful. Apparently he had done the same to her. Now it’s a big joke to us and we always send him pictures of us using the whole thing.


April 27th, 2011
7:59 am

It has never occurred to me to throw away the bulb part of green onions. When I grew up in the mid west, we were always served the whole thing as part of a salad plate. We dipped them in salt and munched away.Ditto for the hard boiled eggs. My wife accuses me of saving all the stuff that should go to the compost pile. I also have a hard time with fat though.


April 27th, 2011
8:58 am

OK this is hilarious reading this because after we got married, my husband freaked because I USED the white part of the onion and threw away the green part. That is what my mom always did (she’s not the best cook) so I didn’t really think much about it. Regarding fat I will sometimes save bacon grease to use in cornbread instead of oil. Makes a HUGE difference, something my grandmother always did. Also great the skillet with the grease.


April 27th, 2011
9:39 am

My mom also only used the white part of the scallion rather than the green part!

Gene, you didn’t mention keeping regular onion ends and skins, carrot stumps and celery leaves, etc, in the freezer to make stock with once you have some leftover chicken bones or a carcass! Do you do that as well?

Gene Lee

April 27th, 2011
9:53 am

@Dana – I do actually. I keep things like inedible mushroom stems in the freezer (thrown in stock or soups every now and then), and little gristly parts (bones, knobs of tendon, chicken skin, etc.) left over on cuts of meat, chicken and pork – all labeled in foil packets..

M. Johnson

April 27th, 2011
11:25 am

Great topic. I usually keep bacon fat, but then forget to do anything with it.

Share some of those recipes!


April 27th, 2011
11:28 am

Nothing better in Spain than having grilled (whole) scallions with just olive oil and salt.

I only use bacon fat for fat-washing my bourbon.


April 27th, 2011
12:02 pm

I’ve never heard of NOT using the white part of scallions. I slice off the roots, peel off the first little outer layer if present, then slice the whole thing out to near the end of the green. I keep the sliced scallions in a sealed container in the fridge for about a week to use in various dishes.


April 27th, 2011
12:03 pm

I agree, M. Johnson – when do we get some full recipes???


April 27th, 2011
12:51 pm

I always cook in bulk on the weekends, with my neighbors. We usually fire up the grill and cook massive amounts of food for the week.

There is always fresh homemade spaghetti sauce in the freezer, in single size servings (it’s only me, my daughter is in school). Usually a roast or two. My neighbors call me the “Freezer Queen”.

JIMBOB (aka James Robert)

April 27th, 2011
12:52 pm

Nice tupperware collection!

Atlanta Native

April 27th, 2011
1:25 pm

I have been freezing my leftover shrimp broth (made w/ shells, originally, and using it over and over as a base for steaming shrimp. I reduce it before I re-freeze. It is awesome now.

Gene Lee

April 27th, 2011
1:51 pm

@Mary – Funny enough, this post started out about bulk cooking, but I realized I had so much more to say on not wasting. I don’t get to cook in bulk as much as I would like (need), but a large amount of soup, ragu in the winter, and an occasional white chicken chili tests the storage limits of my fridge.

Regarding recipes – I’ll try to post some fun ones at some point.


April 27th, 2011
2:22 pm

Count me among those who always uses the white part of scallions and very little of the green. I never saw it done any other way growing up. As Kirk said above, in the midwest you not only use the white part, but the the whole thing is served dipped in salt, often with meals in the same way you would serve maybe a relish or pickles.

How interesting. This has me wondering if there are other basic foods for which we all unknowingly have different ideas on “correct” usage.

Thoughts on cooking | CookingPlanet

April 27th, 2011
4:56 pm

[...] Thoughts on cooking [...]


April 27th, 2011
7:29 pm

I buy whole chickens vs. chicken parts, and I break them down into pieces. We save the backs and wingtips (and heads if they’re on) for soup and stock. We also save any pieces or peels of veggies in a gallon-sized ziplock bag in the freezer, and when the bag fills up we make stock with it; this works especially well for the tough parts of certain veggies. If bread has been sitting around for a while I’ll save it for bread crumbs or croutons. And you’d better believe I save rendered duck and chicken fat!


April 28th, 2011
9:34 am

Midwestern relish plate:

Tiny dill pickles

Green and black olives ( canned)

Green onions

Hard boiled eggs (halved)

What did I miss?

Gene Lee

April 28th, 2011
11:03 am

@Sydney – I noticed when cooking other cuisines that the white parts are used more than the green parts. I make a shepherd’s pie during colder weather that only uses the white parts of leeks. Mmmm wait.. Is it wrong that I’m craving it in this 80 degree weather?

I also used to slow-heat older bread in the toaster until it became completely hardened. I would then process it into bread crumbs that I’d use for meatballs, outer breading for frying, etc…