Yesterday I decided to clean out the pantry and freezer. My roommate and I are both fans of the television show “Chopped” so I declared that I would prepare a meal with whatever ingredients I pulled from the freezer or pantry that were at or near (or maybe past) the expiration date.
The fact that it was my own pantry gave me a perhaps unfair advantage, but there was always the chance of that one-off ingredient I had to figure out how to work in. In this case I think it was a bag of mixed-frozen fruit (strawberry, mango, papaya). The other ingredients I had were left-over crumbly bits of tortilla chips (plain and super spicy), chicharrones, coconut milk, frozen hash-brown potatoes, and yogurt. All in all, though, the ingredients were easy to work with.
I decided the chips and chicharrones would make a perfect coating for fried chicken, so I put them in the food processor and ground them down to crumbs (even more than they already were. I pulled out some boneless, skinless chicken breast, coated it with an egg wash then dredged it in the crumbs and let it rest for about ten minutes while I let the oil (olive and grapeseed) in the frying pan heat and the oven come up to temperature. I then seared the chicken on each side and placed in a baking dish in which I would finish the cooking.
After doing a quick fry on each side of the breast, I sprinkled them with more of the crust mixture which I had set aside and mixed with fresh, finely-grated Romano and mozzarella cheese. I put them in the oven to cook for about 30 minutes at 350°.
How can anything coated in pork fat not be good?
I have a bad habit of overcooking chicken breast, but this batch turned out perfectly done and nicely moist on the inside.
I used the potatoes, more of the cheeses, and an Alfredo sauce to make creamy twice-baked potatoes. I sprinkled some of the same reserved chips/chicharrones crumbles over the top to connect the chicken and potatoes.
I did not take pictures of the fruit, yogurt, and coconut milk concoction because I had no idea it would actually turn out. I decided to make a pudding with pureed veggies and yogurt to which I added the two cans of coconut milk and a cup of sugar. I cooked it until it was hot through, added a cornstarch mixture, let that cook briefly, and then refrigerated it overnight. It actually turned out perfectly! I am going to have to work on the recipe some more, but this is one I can use to surprise friends.
Given the fun I had in the kitchen (aside from slicing my finger open on the arm of the dishwasher), I will have to clean out my cupboard more often to see what I can come up with.