Fridge Soup

Recently, Clotilde over at Chocolate and Zucchini – perhaps the very first food blog I ever read, something like 10 years ago – wrote a post about what she calls “Clean the Fridge Soup.” The idea is to use up vegetables and other ingredients that have gone past their prime (no glazing them in expensive butter and serving them alongside a breathtakingly expensive roast to the Queen, guys) but have not completely turned to shit (duh).

I found the post during a rare Sunday food blog scan, and was delighted to see something so relevant, as I’d already planned a sort of Clean the Fridge Soup for myself this week.

fridge soup - menu pic

My Clean the Fridge Soup was planned around a bag of carrots I got in our CSA box three weeks ago. Yep. Three weeks ago. But carrots are hardy, okay, and if they’re stored properly, they’ll keep for ages. Even so, I was getting antsy with them just sitting on the bottom shelf and decided that I was going to have to do something about them.

Luckily, I had to make chicken stock. Let me be more specific: I had to get rid of the chicken carcasses in the freezer because my boyfriend was complaining about them. Is that better? He’s right, anyway, we’re tight on room and until we drop $300 on a chest freezer, I simply cannot cram any more bones in there when we so desperately need the room for Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter ice cream, which I will now refer to exclusively as “the love of my life.” Sorry, boyfriend.

So I planned a chicken stock Sunday, and because I am resourceful, I decided to use some of the finished stock (ahem, not put it back into the freezer) to make dinner the next night, which would also take care of the carrots I needed to use, and by “use” I mean “roast.” Which is really one of the top 5 secret ingredients of all great soups, if a technique can be an ingredient. Roast what you can, develop those deep flavors and caramelized surfaces, and then just puree the shit out of them later.

Also into the roasting pan went some red bell peppers and fennel, and eventually all of that went into a pot with some mirepoix, stock, tomato paste and warm spices like paprika and cayenne, and then everything got zizzed in my food processor (which I initially filled too high, resulting in a minor mess) and then went back into the pot and finished with a little bit of heavy cream (expensive, organic and local – another one of the top 5 secret ingredients).

So it was basically a grownup version of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, which is why it made infinite sense to serve it for dinner alongside grilled cheese sandwiches (spread mayo on the outside of the bread instead of butter, YOU’RE WELCOME EVERYONE). And why, upon finishing his portion, my boyfriend stood up and said “I could eat a MOUNTAIN of that.”

And, later this week, the dregs of it will become the base for a kind of cheater romesco sauce to drizzle over a bowl of chicken sausage, roasted broccoli, and brown rice. (A still shortcut-ish but slightly realer and, frankly, outstanding romesco sauce can be found here.)

Which is exactly what I’ll need in the week before Christmas, because as I implied earlier, if it’s not easy enough to make and comforting enough for me to fold my weepy old bones around a bowl of it and feel a tiny bit better about what I’m doing with my life, I am just not fucking interested.

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Back Pocket

My Saturday morning routine goes like this:

Wake up. Either see that it’s too early and spend 45 minutes trying to go back to sleep or just get out of bed, grumbling about how my schedule sucks and it would be nice to be able to sleep until 9am for once in my life.

Go to the bathroom to pee, wash my face, and pet the cat, who for some reason loves hanging out with me in there.

Make coffee. Feed the cat while coffee is brewing. Stand in front of the coffee machine and stare at it, psychically willing it to brew faster.

Get coffee, take it upstairs to the office, and sit in front of my laptop for a couple of hours so I can check up on – in this order – Facebook, Tumblr, Apartment Therapy, The Kitchn, Food52, and Foodgawker. Once every couple of weeks, I add Smitten Kitchen, Serious Eats and Amateur Gourmet to the lineup.

It’s on Saturday mornings that I think the most about food, because that’s when I have the time to read about it, look at photos of it, and write my grocery list and weekly menus. I’ve occasionally thought about how fucked up it is that I spend the first part of my weekend like I spend all of my workweek – staring at a screen – but have decided that this is actually pretty relaxing for me, and doesn’t carry with it the Monday-Friday jaw clenching and stress-related terrible posture.

This week on Food52, there was a feature about readers’ Best Back Pocket Dinner Recipes, which they define as “favorite go-to meals for when the going gets tough.”

These are meals that are thrown together easily, with ingredients you probably already keep in your fridge or pantry, and that satisfy you in ways that belie their simplicity and, sometimes, frequency. Stir frys are common, as are pastas. Eggs appear a lot, which brought me to my #1 back pocket dinner recipe.

Can we please talk about frittatas? Specifically, can we please talk about how simple and versatile and wonderful they are, especially when your boyfriend has purchased a cast iron skillet that is just the wonderment of my kitchen universe right now?

Goddamn, I love me a frittata. I love that I don’t think about making one until I’m walking home from the bus stop, when it’s dark and raining and I don’t have work the next day so I don’t have to think about hurrying to make something that I can quickly shove down my gullet before cleaning the kitchen and struggling to get maybe 6 hours of sleep before I have to wake up the next day. I love that I already own everything I need to make one, but that I can always stop at my neighborhood bakery and pick up a perfectly crusty loaf of whatever they have. I love that even the most labor intensive version is really just a bunch of preps, and that eventually, those unlovely piles of chopped onion, garlic, bacon, potatoes, kale, and bread will become a gorgeously rustic meal for the next few days. I love that I can eat it in front of Netflix with hearty dashes of hot sauce and ketchup while wearing my comfiest fat pants.

I love that I never think about taking a frittata’s photo, because it’s either on my plate, in my mouth, or waiting to be consumed as leftovers and never in any of those places for long enough to be photographed.

About En Cocotterie

This is not a food blog.

Well, it’s not your typical food blog.

Here there will be no shot-by-shot recipes brimming with crystal clear photographs, perhaps taken by a professional shutterbug spouse. There will be no cookbook-worthy testing. There will be no aggressive reservation hunting or restaurant reviews. There will be no giveaways. I do not have that level of my shit together. I am not in the business of empire building.

This is a food blog in the barest sense – it is about food.

It is about a person (me) who loves food, who loves eating it and cooking it and talking about it. It is here because I have another blog where I can talk about other things, and because, when I did talk about food over there, I found that I was creating a slippery slope for myself. Weeks would go by where all I wanted to talk about was food, and this would have been fine, except I built my following on dick and fart jokes, goddammit, and my readers want it to stay that way.

With En Cocotterie (my hybridization of en cocotte and coterie, see what I did there), I’ve given myself a place to discuss one of my most favorite topics. I can talk about food in my own way, take photos when I remember and not have to apologize when I don’t. So if you’re looking for yet another overachieving food blog, one authored by someone who is (probably) a stay-at-home mom, wife, or other woman of significant means with significant amounts of time and Photoshop training, then by all means, cruise on by.

But if you find this by accident and are interested in becoming part of the conversation – part of a coterie, if you will – then you are more than welcome.

Bring snacks.