Sunday, February 7, 2016

Defrosting Your Fridge: Ideas for What to Do with That Food!

Happy belated New Year, all! I can't believe we are well into 2016 already. Where does the time go?
I haven't written a word to you all for over a month! It appears that the holidays were busy and then some! It feels good to be back.  In between all the traveling and company, I've been slowly hashing out my New Year's resolution to create a daily routine (as routine as a pilot's wife can get). Getting back to you all will be part of my writing goal (but I've got some other projects in the works, so I'm going to need you to share).

One of my other New Year's goals is to get better at experimenting in the kitchen.  There are so many foods that I buy at the store that I can make at home (yogurt, ricotta, kombucha, etc.  Notice the fermentation theme, here).  I've just been lazy and haven't taken the time to read up on it and to try it. 

Well, Fate decided to lend a hand and throw us a broken fridge to help me get that ball rolling...

A few weeks ago, Chef Reiton and I noticed that we were getting random pools of water appearing from beneath our fridge.  After a bit of inspection and research, we learned that the little hose in the back of the fridge that allows the defrost water to drain can get clogged, causing the water to leak out onto the floor and into the bottom of the freezer drawer (we wondered where that huge sheet of ice was coming from...). Thanks to Google and those who share their knowledge on home refrigerator repair, we discovered how to solve the problem ourselves instead of having to call our friendly but expensive Whirlpool repairman.  

The down side? We had to defrost the fridge.  


Thankfully, 1) the winter storm that hit Boston on Friday was bigger than was expected, so the 7 inches of snow piled on our back deck could serve nicely as a natural cooler.  2) We tend to shop twice a week for food, so we didn't shop for the second half; the dinners just became compilations of random scavenged foods as we tried to use up what was in the fridge and freezer, just in case repairs didn't go as quickly or smoothly as we wanted.

Well, despite our interesting meal combos, we were still left with:
  • a bunch of cheese (we have a good-cheese fetish, admittedly)
  • lots of pickled items in jars
  • butter
  • half-n-half
  • a frozen leg of lamb
  • a few random vegetables
  • some chicken wings and a carcass
The cheese, jars, and lamb leg got stuck out in the snow in a plastic storage tub.  But those veggies and the chicken?

Well, my New Year's resolution of experimenting started halloo-ing from the back of my brain, and so I pulled out a wonderful little book, The Essential Book of Fermentation by Jeff Cox, given to me for my birthday by our dear friends, Joe (now my boss—I'm officially a copy editor!) and Marie.  

What was I going to ferment? That gorgeous purple cabbage that had been sitting all lonely and forlorn in my fridge, that's what.  In five minutes flat, that baby was slivered into shreds and sprinkled with sea salt and caraway seeds:

the start of sauerkraut

All I had to do was completely man-handle that pile of shreds for 10 minutes, scrunching and crushing and squeezing and mixing, until I got it to be a juicy, purple, tender mess:

I covered the surface with some plastic wrap, put a plate facedown on top so that all the cabbage was covered up, then I pressed the plate down hard, pushing all the shreds down underneath their own purple juices.  Now the cabbage was ready to ferment, slowly developing into that amazingly health food: sauerkraut.  If you've never had it homemade, you are missing out.  It is entirely different from the sweet, vinegary kind you get at the store.  And homemade fermented sauerkraut contains bacteria GALORE that will make your gut incredibly happy.  Like, really insanely happy.  In fact, a lot of nutritionists say that eating sauerkraut every day does wonders for your body.  Some food for thought...

As for the other vegetables and chicken parts that sat on the counter—you regular readers guessed it...


making chicken stock

Chicken wings and a carcass and a bit of leftover roasted chicken got dumped in the Crock-Pot and covered with a quartered onion, old celery, leftover herbs, a hunk of carrot, sliced up shrivel-y ginger root and turmeric root, a wrinkled serrano chile pepper, and the frozen scraps left from making spiralized zucchini noodles.  I filled the pot with water, put it on high until it all came to a boil, then turned it down to low.  That was yesterday afternoon, and she's still going strong.  I topped it off with a bit more water this morning, and I'll probably let it go until tomorrow afternoon.  The more nutrients I can suck out of those bones, the better. And if you could just smell my house right now... Man.

I'm happy to say that the fridge fixing went ridiculously smoothly.  It took me longer to take advantage of the empty fridge and give it a good scrub down than it did for the repair.  Here she stands, all clean and shiny, ready and waiting for that homemade sauerkraut and chicken stock.

defrosting fridge

The only question is, what do I experiment on making next???

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