Cheap Ass Monday: Trois Varietes de Nourriture Surplus

Sometimes I’m amazed at the brain’s ability to retain information.  Like this: the last time I studied or spoke any French was my sophomore year of college. That was roughly 12 years ago.* Yet I only had to look up 3 of the 5 words in the post title, and I’m almost 70% sure it says what I want it to say.** Sometimes I amaze even myself.  For my next trick, I will keep 15 plates spinning while playing the score to La Traviata on the recorder.

*OH MY GOD.  And I’m starting to go white, for real; you don’t have to search around my scalp for those suckers anymore, they’re IN YOUR FACE.  Because I am a thousand.

**Don’t correct me. Let me live the dream.

I had to use the psuedo-French to fool you into reading this post (at least, those of you with no working knowledge of French whatsoever; I assume any French speakers have run for the hills*) because all I really did was three different preparations of the garlicky greens left over from last Thursday’s Empowerment Cowgal Jamboree and Hootenanny.  I did it again just then: I didn’t say “I ate a bunch of leftovers,” I said I “made three different preparations.”   Really, you hardly need to know how to cook at all if you know a little lingo.  I find that the same holds true for sounding like you know something about wine (the nose, tannins) and/or cognac (peat).

Anyway, I had this big bowl of leftover greens, spinach and rainbow chard.  Leftover spinach and chard are not the norm around here because (1) we really like them and (2) generally, large amounts wilt down into tiny piles, so we always finish them.  I wasn’t measuring these greens when I made them, but I must have used a serious assload to have the amount of leftovers we had.  I thought that instead of worrying my pretty little head with math this Monday, I’d just showcase leftovers in a variety of ways.**  We ended up eating a bit of the three different versions, tapas-style, but could have easily made a (light) main course out of any of them by supplementing with a salad or some good bread.

I also needed a dinner that was going to be fast, because I came home from work, sat down on the couch to read for a few minutes and chat with Brian about our respective days (crappy) before starting dinner, and conked out until almost 8:00.  NOTE TO BRIAN: I was already tired and it was not in any way the sound of your voice that put me to sleep although it does have a soporific quality that is quite soothing, even when you’re in a fit of pique.  Also, pique makes you really cute.

*Most likely long ago, if you think about it.

**There it is again: I’m not “eating” leftovers like some kind of chump, I’m “showcasing” them.

Preparation the first: Quesadilla.  Much like puff pastry, you could throw almost anything between two tortillas filled with cheese and I would eat it, and I include brussels sprouts in that statement so you know I’m serious.  It does not, however, include liver.  I did say almost anything.

The other bits of dinner required preheating the oven, so I figured I’d make this while Operation:  Preheat was underway and then stash it in the warming drawer (FANCY!). Butter in pan.  Tortilla in pan.  Sprinkle cheese, spread greens around, sprinkle more cheese. Top with other tortilla.  Fry till melty and golden.  Using butter probably wouldn’t have occurred to me, but America’s Test Kitchen told me to and I am their mindless automaton.

That Christopher Kimball, he looks so non-threatening with his round glasses and cute bow ties and columns at the beginning of every issue of Cook’s Illustrated about his wholesome childhood and wholesome family living in wholesome New England, where every Saturday night is Family Goat Milking and Berry Picking Night.  DO NOT TRUST HIM.  He’s the fucking puppetmaster.  Once you start using the the damn New Best Recipe cookbook you’ll never love another cookbook the same way again.  There’s a reason I never use that book for Smackdowns: it is too foolproof for its own good.  It would destroy the drama!  The mystery!  The potential for complete failure, and thus the potential for valuable schadenfreude. It’s just too dangerous.

Preparation the second: Eggs en cocotte, AKA shirred eggs, AKA “crack in a cup,” AKA “the best fucking eggs in the entire world.”

If you’d asked me, before my first time making eggs en cocotte, how long it takes to cook an egg in a 375 degree oven, I would have answered 5 minutes tops.  I would have been very, very wrong, because it takes more like 15 or 20 and that? Is a goddamn mystery to me.  Kinda like braising cucumbers.  I mean, I’ll do it, because these eggs are too fucking good not to, but I’ll be confused every time.  (I won’t do it again for the cucumbers.  I’ll repeat: warm mushy pickles. I’m not running my oven for an hour for warm mushy pickles.  I don’t like pickles in the first place, and the warmth and mush does little to further endear them to me.)

For the eggs: Leftover greens in a ramekin.  A little heavy cream, because cream and greens are total BFFs.  Crack an egg on top.  A little salt and pepper.  Some little shavings of butter.  Into the oven for longer than you think is necessary but it totally is.

I’ll admit it: I was originally going to serve the rest of the greens on the side, as-is.  But there weren’t a ton left after the quesadilla and the eggs and they looked a little pathetic, so I decided to turn them into something using a tried and true method of turning leftover vegetables into something hearty: throw in some chickpeas and smoked paprika.

Everything was good.  The quesadilla, while somewhat lacking in star power, was tasty.  The chickpeas were summarily devoured, their chew and the smokiness of the paprika transforming the greens into something else.  This with a loaf of good crusty bread or tossed with some orzo or quinoa would make a great light lunch or dinner all on its own.

Sadly, both were like the last kid picked for the kickball team when compared to the eggs.  I can state that categorically, having historically been the last kid picked for the kickball team.  Eggs cooked this way always have such an amazing, creamy quality to them, and the runny yolk and smidge of cream made a lovely sauce for the greens.  It’s such a delicate looking little dish, you want to eat it demurely but really, the best way is to mash all that shit together with a fork and suck it down while it’s still hot and creamy*.  When things taste this good, fuck demure.  This could also have used a little bread so we could have wiped up every little bit of eggy goodness left clinging to the side of the ramekin, but we had to bid them good night.  Also I was full, and the only loaf of bread we had around was double fiber, where 2 slices = 12 grams of fiber. You’ve gotta plan ahead when you eat that shit, and I really wanted an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

To recap: Do not ignore your random leftovers in the back of the fridge until they start to reek and you decide to toss environmental consciousness to the wind and throw out the whole tupperware container instead of cleaning it out and reusing it because you’re so scared of the smells and/or ambulatory mold-creatures that will emerge if you open it outside a clean room, which I assume most of us don’t have in our homes.  Use these three simple rules – foods in quesadilla are always tasty, you can put anything under eggs en cocotte and it will be orgasmic, leftover veggies + chickpeas + paprika = meal – and do your part toward saving the planet.

And seriously, make those fucking eggs.  Really.

*That sounds much grosser than I’d intended and I’m sorry.

ONE YEAR AGO: Fish Balls, Fish Balls. Eat them up, yum.

0 thoughts on “Cheap Ass Monday: Trois Varietes de Nourriture Surplus

  1. I’m thinking your decision to avoid the double-fiber bread was a good call, considering all the greens you were eating. Those two things together would be dangerous. And your toilet would not thank you.


    I also have an unnatural love of “The Best Recipes” books. Whenever I make something from them and people compliment me on it (which OF COURSE they always do) I get great joy out of saying, “Thanks! It’s a Best Recipes recipe!” I’m such a goober.

  2. Oh thank GOD! I though that me and Dirk Gently were the only two people/literary characters I know who would throw out the entire container (or in his case the entire fridge) rather than deal with scary leftovers from the back of the fridge!

    p.s. those dishes look and sound so very heavenly, I’m almost resenting you right now!

  3. I am so making those eggs. Tonight. With the fresh eggs I got yesterday right from the chickens themselves. A fresh chicken egg IS the perfect food.

  4. Sadly, I cannot do the egg recipe because I’m allergic to egg whites. It’s the worst allergy: no eggs en cocotte, no caramelized-onion-and-spinach frittatas, no 12-egg pound cakes, no meringues. No meringues!! I better get a boatload of anti-karma points for that.

    I’ll do the chickpea one, though – that looks amazing.

    And the plastic container thing? Is the reason why there is leftover stew in my refrigerator transmogrifying into something that may be sentient by now. You’ve helpfully removed my barrier to just chucking the whole thing, so thanks – it’s getting gone immediately, before it walks out & starts doing theoretical mathematics all over the place.

  5. Re: sentient stuff in the fridge. My daughter was perusing containers in the fridge the other night, peered at one through the plastic, and announced, “I’m throwing this away. It’s old enough for me to date.”

    I suspect there’s some major chemical reaction taking place with the petrochemicals in the plastic that would have caused me to grow a third arm and develop X-ray vision, and so on.

  6. 1 – the testicles of the vegetable world would take a lot of smothering with cheese to be edible in a quesadilla… and would probably need to be roasted first anyway.

    2 – The egg en cocotte is definitely being made some time this week.

    3 – Chickpeas make the perfect (stealth) food-fight weapon. Heavy enough to go far, pale in color so hard to see coming, and dense enough to hurt but not HURT when they hit you. I learned this in college when I was invariably sitting between the 2 tables having the food fight and would end up in the crossfire. Retaliation becomes necessary, especially after catching ranch-covered broccoli in the ear. THE EAR!

    4 – Spent 4 hrs in the Mt. Sinai ER to find out my hubby messed w/ a zit he oughtn’t have, which then made half his face swell up and eye swell shut. I didn’t even know that was possible. It also took me 24 hrs to convince him that he needed to go to an ER because he is a Stubborn Male, but at least now he has antibiotics.
    Basically, I wish someone were making me fabulous eggs en cocotte or that I could get my hands on some buratta and bread and just call it a night.
    Instead I’m making him his fav BBQ chicken and biscuits because he’s the “sicky” and needs coddling.

  7. loving the look of that egg! i’m quite liking TNBR myself, though i have managed to find ways to FAIL. i suspect that wearing a bowtie while cooking improves your chances of success, though. that and pink cowboy boots, of course.

  8. So I’m not the only one scared that mold will crawl up the sides of a container, open the lid, and TOUCH me? Eeeuuurrrghhh.

    Yeah. Definitely better to do this with the leftovers than to let “death by ambulatory mold” be my fate.

  9. Oh. My. God. You are so right about America’s Test Kitchen. They have ruined me for other cookbooks, because how do I know they won’t be crappy? I need obsessive testing! Wahh!

  10. “I did it again just then: I didn’t say “I ate a bunch of leftovers,” I said I “made three different preparations.” Really, you hardly need to know how to cook at all if you know a little lingo”

    I agree with that. I read in a book a guy selling twinkies at a high dollar restaurant because of the description.

    Leftovers gotta love em

  11. kristin, really? i always say “thanks, it’s just something i threw together!”

    bad hair, feel free to resent me. you SHOULD resent me.

    tanis, jealous of your fresh chicken eggs. i have a backyard. maybe i should get a laying hen. then again, maybe not.

    cayenne, can you do yolks! because then there is the whole wonderful world of curds and ice cream.

    kay, keep us updated re: the status of your vision, b/c you could be on the verge of a major breakthrough.

    chessa, with enough roasting and cheese, i’d eat it. also, i would make you these eggs. also also, sometimes i really glad to have a partner who actively REFUSES help when he’s sick. (i’m the whiny one)

    burkie, if you fail with TNBR, it’s ALWAYS YOUR FAULT.

    camille, certainly not.

    we need to find some biodegradable containers for situations like these. i hate chucking the plastic.

    april, sometimes i think this whole Smackdown project is really just a futile attempt to find a book i trust as much.

    deacon, really? i’ve gotta get on that bandwagon. i can talk up a ho-ho like nobody’s business.

  12. gillian, you know there’s something in there waiting for you. just grab the eggs and run.

    deb, no problem. you should do so every night.

  13. There’s a restaurant in San Jose, CA called Original Joe’s that offers a side dish of wilted spinach, that weighes in about 2 lbs. pre-cooked, add bacon, olive oil and garlic. Then just for grins they add mushrooms. Oh my! Eat only half and you have enough leftovers for a cooked greens weekend!

    Your recipe for shirred eggs was perfect for our first meal on Saturday. Fantastic! Thanks so much for the inspiration. Thinking about adding the rest to a mac and cheese casserole next!

  14. Hi! I made the eggs en cocotte last night, except I did it totally differently, just using what I had on hand. I loved it! Totally crack in a cup. This is what I did:

    –enough frozen spinach (slightly defrosted) to cover the bottom of the ramekin
    –a wee bit of sauteed onion
    –enough mozzarella to cover the spinach and onion
    –a dash of feta
    –two slices of tomato
    –a wee bit of salt and some freshly ground black pepper
    –two eggs
    –butter, as per your recipe

    I had to bake my eggs for 25 minutes in my oven, which…I don’t know why. Anyway, I served that with a palm-sized piece of homemade whole wheat pita on the side…I was mopping up the juices from my ramekin. SO GOOD.

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