I know plenty of people who avoid cooking at home because they hate being stuck with all sort of leftover ingredients they won’t use again, or leftover from that carefully crafted meal they won’t eat. What a waste of money!
Now you probably guessed I’m here to tell you none of those fears need to be true. There are plenty of ways to repurpose a leftover meal into a brand new dish, besides casserole. That leftover meat and vegetable dish can be turned into a keto-friendly stir-fry, or salad.
I happened to have some leftover cooked chicken breasts, a few avocados and some cilantro, half a lemon, salt pepper and oil. The result was this salad for lunch:
1 bunch cilantro
1 tsp olive oil
1 pinch salt and pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
Add any type of leftover protein you have on hand. Slice into bite -size portions.
Mix together and enjoy!
Don’t worry if cilantro isn’t your thing. You can substitute your version of this salad with plain salad greens or slices of cucumber. The possibilities are endless and it’ll still be in keeping with your high fat (avocados) low-carb, ketogenic diet.
Don’t ever trust me to hold a box of croissants for you. I will eat it all and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. It’s not just flaky, buttery pastries that I love. I’m a huge fan of French cooking in general. There’s not a single French dish I’ve tried and I haven’t loved.
It’s not just flaky, buttery pastries that I love. I’m a huge fan of French cooking in general. There’s not a single French dish I’ve tried and I haven’t loved.
Imagine my joy when I discovered a French recipe that combines flaky puff pastry with meat. I’ve never had a rabbit with mushroom and leek pie before I discovered the recipe in a friend’s cookbook: Lapin de Compagnie en aumônière. And boy did the recipe sound amazing!
I’ve made it twice now and, I’ve modified the recipe a bit. I won’t kid you, it’s labor intensive. There’s no reason why you can’t substitute chicken for the rabbit if game-meat isn’t your thing. Chicken might even be more tender as rabbit meat can be a bit tough, but with this method, it turned out amazingly tender. To thicken the sauce the original recipe called for flour. But when my husband, Dave was on the ketogenic diet, I stopped using flour to thicken my sauces. Just allow a bit more time to cook the liquid down. When Dave had his pie, he gave me his pastry puff top. I didn’t complain.
1 soup pot or Cast Iron Dutch Oven
1 large saute pan
1 small sauce pan
1 large strainer
2 or 3 Pyrex bowls
2 small Porcelain Bowls. Every rabbit fits in two of these bowls. Not only are they pretty, but they are oven safe!
1 whole rabbit, cut into 8 portions
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, halved
1 leek, divide between the green and white parts. Half the green portion and shred the white
button mushrooms, about two little boxes from your grocery
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock (recipe to follow)
1 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream
1 puff pastry sheet
1 egg yolk, beaten
Combine the carrots, onion, green leek, celery, wine, chicken stock, bay leaves and thyme with the rabbit in a soup pot (or Dutch oven) and bring to a simmer. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper. Add a bit more water to cover the rabbit. Remove the carrots, onions, celery after about 20-30 minutes. DO NOT DISCARD! Save it in a separate container.
Let the rabbit continue to cook in the stock for the full hour or until the meat can be easily separated from the bones. Then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Remove the rabbit from the stock and remove the meat from the bones. Try to shred the meat into smaller pieces with your fingers or a fork. Strain the stock, and throw away the bones.
Cook the mushrooms and shredded white leek a saute pan with butter until softened, then combine with the reserved vegetables and shredded rabbit meat.
Heat up the stock in a sauce pan and let it cook down until it’s reduced by half. Add cream and let the liquid thicken. Pour enough of the liquid until it coats the veggie and meat mixture. Then let it cool before dividing it into the ceramic serving dishes.
As your mixture is cooling, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll out your puff pastry and using a small dish cut out rounds that will cover your serving dishes with a slight overhang. Now place it gently over the top of the filling and crimp down the edges to seal each dish. Don’t forget to pierce few holes in the center of each pastry. Brush the pastry with egg yolk.
I would place each assembled pie dish on a cookie sheet before popping it into the over for each removal.
My late grandmother often made this recipe whenever people gathered in her home. I regret there are no pictures of those dinner parties, with a table covered with dishes full of differently prepared food and people squeezed in shoulder to shoulder. What strikes me as an adult, is that she made all her feasts on a little coal burning cast iron stove, similar to this one:
Primitive, yes, but this was 1980s China. My grandmother thought her two-burner propane stove was much too technologically advanced.
I remember, out of every dish she made, everyone always raved about my grandmother’s version of the triple cooked pork belly. (It’s actually called Kou Rou, or upside down meat in Chinese, but I think triple cooked pork belly is more descriptive.) There’re several versions of this dish out there, but nothing beats Grandma’s, amiright?
Later, my aunt made this dish for my husband Dave. The juicy chunks or pork and distinct flavors left a lasting impression on him. When he started the ketogenic diet, Dave requested that I recreate the triple cooked pork belly, back here in America. Sadly, there are no written copies of any of my grandmother’s recipes. My grandmother was illiterate and the custom was to pass down family recipes via kitchen-apprenticeships which, until recently, preserved them for generations. So I crowd-sourced various family members for their memories of the ingredients and preparation. What I got from various relatives was a pinch of this and a dash of that. I did my best to approximate how much a unit of “dash” or “pinch” and convert it into a more coherent recipe.
Keep in mind, this is a labor intensive recipe that takes some planning. Give yourself one day at least to soak the mustard greens. Follow the first two steps. The last step can be done an 1 hour and 15 minutes before serving.
Stainless Steel Steamer
large microwave safe bowl
2 lbs pork belly
2 green onions
2 slices ginger
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Star Anise
2 tablespoons oil (I use olive believe it or not)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (doesn’t really matter if it’s light or dark)
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (or rock candy)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste
5-6 oz. dried preserved mustard greens from any Asian grocery store.(About 3 cups after soaked overnight and thoroughly washed)
Now I call this dish triple-cooked pork belly for a very good reason. Here we go:
Flavor a pot of cold water with 1 star anise, 1 green onion and a few slices of ginger root. Put the pork belly into the cold water mixture. Bring to a boil on medium high heat, then immediately reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Fish out the pork chunks and set aside to let it cool off a bit.
Heat a pan (or wok, if you have one) with some cooking oil over low heat. To make sure the oil is hot, throw in some more of the sliced ginger and wait for it to start sizzling. Then pour in red wine, soy sauce and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Add sugar to thicken the sauce. You want it to turn into a thick caramel texture. If it gets too dry, add a bit more wine. If its not thick enough, turn up the heat a notch and keep a close eye on it till it thickens. Then place the pieces of pork into the pan and let it fry in the sauce. Turn over a few times to glaze the pork belly. Once there’s a nice golden brown coat on every side of the pork, wrap it in a container or plate and refrigerate for 2 or more hours. DO NOT WASH OUT YOUR PAN!
Prepare a large steamer 3/4 of the way with water. Heat the unwashed pan you used to glaze the pork and add the last bit of oil. Heat for a minute or two then toss in the last green onion, the last bits of ginger slices, along with the drained mustard greens. Fry it up until it’s fragrant and turn off the heat.
Now take the cold pork belly out of the fridge and slice it nice and thin with a sharp knife. Line the slices of pork along your large round bowl. Fill the bowl, leaving a half inch at the top and pour in the mustard greens.
Set the bowl in your steamer and steam on high heat for 75 minutes. Once it’s steamed, let it rest for 5 minutes then pour off some of the liquid in the bowl into your pan again and let it simmer and reduce to a nice slightly thick sauce. I refuse to use cornstarch in my sauce, so a little bit of patience is key. Your liquid WILL reduce.
Now, your pork has cooled slightly. Place a large serving plate over the top of the bowl. The plate should overlap the bowl rim. It’s very important that it does as you will hold the plate firmly over the bowl and flip the bowl over. You’ll have a nice mound of pork belly on your plate. Pour the sauce over it and serve to your guests.
I had quite a weekend, in terms of cooking, last weekend. I made a few treats for a dear friend’s bridal shower, and then hosted a dinner party for some old friends.
Let’s tackle the dinner party first. You have to love dinner parties. Either throwing one or attending one. What’s more ubiquitous across cultures than sharing a meal in the home?
My typical dinner party starts with an appetizer, main entree of some sort of meaty dish, with a few sides and then dessert. This time around, I broke my own rule. One friend happened to love my stewed oxtail, another friend loves duck. Also, I still had some of the lovely tuna Dave caught vacuum sealed and frozen, I decided to do an air, land and sea themed dinner.
I had Peking Duck in Beijing, China for the very first time when I was three years old. It was my first trip to the capitol. I vaguely recall taking a really crowded, slow-moving train, standing on top of the Great Wall, running up steps in the Forbidden City and feeling incredibly hot and uncomfortable at the ruins of the Summer Palace. I’d go into detail about each other those spots, but this is a food blog, after all, so let’s focus on the food.
I don’t remember which restaurant I had my first taste of Peking Duck. It kind of doesn’t matter. What matters was my first bite into the soft envelope of slightly sweet wrapper that subtly released so many different textures and flavors were incredible. Later, I had “Beijing Roast Duck” again when we returned home to Tianjin, some 83 miles away. I recall telling someone that the flavor was off and being ridiculed for my snobbery. (That happened a lot.)
It wasn’t until 2008 when I’ve made my home in the US for a few decades, that on a return visit to Beijing that I tasted the real thing again. My husband, Dave, was with me on that trip and his response very much mirrored my own.
Dave was adamant that we recreate that experience at home.
I’ve tried. For several years now. At first, I roasted my ducks (headless from Wegman’s or H-Mart) on a Cuisinart Roaster with Rack like a slab of rump roast.
While the meat was flavorful, I could not recreate the crispy skin that comes with hanging a duck in an open oven so that its fat rendered out, slow roasting the meat, yet leaving the skin as crispy as a potato chip. But I kept trying.
I stuffed it like a turkey:
Dave created a contraption out of string that shall never be mentioned again.
Then we found Chinese groceries that sold the duck with the head on and we fashioned it so that we could hang it by the neck in the oven. Better. Much better!
Once upon a time this meal was only served in the imperial court, to the guy living there, so mentally prepare yourself. This recipe is not for the faint of heart. It takes time and preparation. I recommend studying this recipe until it makes sense. Once you buy the ingredients and start the process, it’ll be too late to turn back.
My Peking Duck in a regular oven.
Part 1 — Prepare 5 days in advance.
1 duck, preferably with the head still on. (Feeds three adults.)
1 tablespoon fennel seed
2 teaspoon clove
2 teaspoon peppercorn
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
5-6 stalks of scallions, white part cut off and sliced into slivers.
2 cloves of garlic
1 bamboo skewer
2 slices of ginger
1 cucumber, sliced into slivers
- Prep your duck by washing it under running cold water, then let it drain. Pat dry. Remove excess feathers and fat from the bottom
- Take half of the 5- spice ( star anise, fennel seed, clove, cinnamon, peppercorn) blend w/ salt, molasses, green portion of the scallion, garlic and ginger. Stuff in the cavity. Use a bamboo stick to sew the cavity up.
- Cut off wings and feet. (If you’d like , keep these scrap bits to make duck stock later.)
4. Separate skin by inserting a straw through a small slit cut into the base of the neck and blowing vigorously. The skin should balloon and separate from the body. Flip, cut another slit and blow again.
5. Boil pot full of water with salt, 5 spice ingredients and soy sauce. Hold the duck by its neck over the pot and ladle the hot liquid over duck in a poaching/ basting manner until skin turn amber in color. Be careful as the hot liquid will splatter on you. So wear a shirt
6. Set on a baking rack over a cookie sheet and dry for 5 days in the fridge.
When it’s time to cook the duck, let it rest at room temperature for up to 1 hour. Cooking time takes 2 hours, so prepare by setting your oven racks as far apart as possible. The duck will be hung by the base of its neck using a metal hook from the top rack. Place a roasting pan on the bottom rack to catch all the rendered fat drippings.
Turn the oven to 350 degrees F and roast for two hours. After two hours, turn up the oven to broil on low for 10-15 minutes. This should crisp up the skin, but not burn it. Check often. Be careful removing the duck from the oven as it will be sitting on top of a pan full of scalding hot duck fat. Carefully slide the top and bottom rack out slowly until the duck can be easily removed from the hook. Let the duck rest for 5-10 minutes before carving.
My pancakes are still being perfected, so I won’t share it just yet. However, the dark sauce that goes with the duck can easily be made with what is called a Chinese noodle sauce, honey and a bit of water.
To my favorite kitchen appliance:
Life in my kitchen sucks for you, I know. I use you. I abuse you. I don’t often take care of you.
All your predecessors are now living a wonderful life in retirement… somewhere. I’m certain they don’t miss the endless days of slow roasting meats, simmering chili or stewing tea eggs. Sometimes for 48 hours straight without a break.
After a quick dip in a soapy, lukewarm bath and it’s back on the counter to brew chicken broth.
I do appreciate you. I appreciated all of you. I’m just often times too busy to stop and express it because I have a movie to watch or a nap to take.
You do all the work. And then I take all the credit. I’d apologize. I want to apologize. I really do. But we both know I’ll just do it again, and again. Speaking of, I’m having some people over next week. I’m thinking oxtail stew.
All my best!