Sometimes I think this blog should be titled, or at the very least subtitled, “Starting Over: A Million and One Ways to Use Up Leftovers”. And I’m only half joking. The thing is, though, that is the way we eat most of the time. There’s just the two of us, I am determinedly in the ‘mass catering’ mindset, and seem incapable of cooking for fewer than eight hefty appetites at a time. At every given point in time we are usually pushed for either time or money (and very often both) – right now it is time that is at a premium; we currently just have one night per week to spend in each other’s company. The rest of the week is either just one of us, home alone, or working in the evenings. As much as I would love to have limitless hours and dollars to dream up a weekly menu, and shop daily, right now even brushing my hair daily is an achievement, so I’m all about cook-once, reap-the-rewards-many-times kind of cooking that both frees up my evening hours, while still allowing me a creative challenge: how best to keep these leftovers interesting?
This recipe is from ‘Real Cooking’, a book from a wonderful food writer, Nigel Slater who, thankfully, feels very much the same way I do about having a second go at things – or evidence would suggest that he does, anyway. There is a wonderful phrase part way through this book regarding roast chicken: “Only the very wasteful would fail to make a broth from the bones”. Exactamundo, Nigel. I am many, many things, but very wasteful I am not, especially when it comes to my beloved food. Elsewhere in the same section are suggestions for transforming leftover roast chicken meat into something not just ‘not bad, for leftovers’, but great in its own right. In this recipe, chicken is mixed, very simply, with roughly-given quantities of cream, mustard, cheese and tarragon (given that this is necessarily a fridge-scavenging exercise, rough quantities are the only kind that can truly count), topped with breadcrumbs, and baked. The result is luxury.
Chicken with Cream and Mustard
Adapted from Nigel Slater, ‘Real Cooking’
2 handfuls leftover roast chicken, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
0.5 teaspoons dried tarragon (this would be even better with fresh)
1 handful grated cheese; anything will do (I used 50:50 parmesan and Cheshire)
2 handfuls breadcrumbs (about 2 slices of bread)
Preheat the oven to 200C. In a bowl, mix the chicken with the cream, mustard, tarragon, cheese and a pinch of salt.
Pour this mixture into an ovenproof dish, scatter the breadcrumbs over the top.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden and the sauce is bubbling.
Serve with a green salad or green vegetables; I went with a huge pile of sautéed, salted cabbage.