I heard the hipsters are dumpster diving these days. Usually I would judge, but lately, when it comes to food trash, I’ve struggled to draw my own line between crazy bag lady and normal human. Hear me out. I used to be one of those people who threw away vegetables when they got squishy, and tossed bread when it went stale, and threw out clementine peels and leftover cheese nubs. But I have started saving and repurposing all of those things and (for the most part) things are going okay!
I’ve realized that a lot of the food I was throwing away was perfectly fine. Or could be fine. Take, for example, the bread going stale in my fridge. When I used to buy a loaf of bread, The Boyfriend and I* would eat 3/4 of it and then I would leave the last heel in the fridge for, oh, a month or so until it was rock hard and moldy and the bag had its own little ecosystem inside. Then I would throw it away because ew. Now, when I get down to that last bit that I don’t think we’re going to eat anytime soon, but before the ecosystem sets up, I slice up the loaf, pop it in a low oven to dry out, and pulse the dried slices in the food processor until they’re bread crumbs. Then I store them in a big ziplock freezer baggie in my freezer until a project like this crispy mustard chicken rolls around and I get to use them up. I feel better about not letting bread go to waste and I (sort of) get free bread crumbs. It’s a two-man swing, like catching a dodgeball!
I know what you’re thinking. I cannot be just throwing squishy vegetables and old cheese and clementine peels in the food processor with the old bread because that would make for some nasty, weird crumbs. Also, all of those foods sound like they have actually gone bad and are inedible.
Second things first, I do still throw out food that’s actually spoiled. I’m bordering on crazy bag lady, not on Stomach of Steel Woman. But I can usually tell when something in the fridge is going to go bad before it does — it’s the 4 bites of brie after a dinner party when I have dinner plans for the next 3 days, or the loaf of bread that I bought on Sunday and ate only half of before leaving for a long weekend on Thursday.
When I have food on the road to schnasty, I try to use it up or find a way to preserve it to use it later before things get too far. For example, I save cheese for fromage fort (David Lebovitz has a great recipe, but I learned about this from Smitten Kitchen, and I harbor a bizarre loyalty to her recipe) — just pulse cheese with a little butter or olive oil (or both!), white wine, and herbs until it makes a delicious spread. And I used to dry out the clementine peels and make the clementine powder so beloved by David Rakoff (a writer I dearly love) — honestly, this one is a littttttle too much work for what I get out of it. I am still working on getting the powder to a delicious place and I’ll share the recipe as soon as it is. And squishy fruits and vegetables — just before they get too squishy, or before a weekend away if they are lookin’ on the edge — find themselves in one of two places: sliced and frozen in ziplock baggies for smoothies or stews (currently hosting: cucumber, apple, and potatoes in our freezer) or thrown into air tight jars to be quickled (quick-pickeled! Get it?).
I just realized that I wrote an entire post about using borderline-spoiled food and now I’m giving you a chicken recipe. I don’t want to sound like a diva, but I do not do questionable-if-it-passes-the-smell-test-it’s-probably-okay with raw chicken. In fact, I don’t even keep raw chicken in the fridge. I’m all about cutting down on our food waste and finding ways to repurpose food instead of throwing it away, but it seems like a really bad idea with raw meat. If you’re looking to cut down on your raw meat waste, I suggest only buying meat you know you’re going to cook and eat. If you aren’t stocking up with extra, there won’t be anything to throw away when the time comes.
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 T. thyme leaves, minced
- 2 cups bread crumbs (Ina suggests panko, but I used sourdough)
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 2 T. olive oil
- 2 T. butter
- ½ cup dijon mustard
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 3.5-4 lb. chicken, cut into pieces
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine garlic and thyme in a food processor and zip a few times until the garlic is in small pieces. Add the bread crumbs, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter to the food processor and keep zapping until the bread crumbs reach a consistent level of damp-ness.
- Whisk together mustard and wine. I used a tarragon dijon mustard and it was phenomenal but it turned the chicken a weird shade of green. Just, ya know, FYI.
- Submerge each piece of chicken in the mustard/wine mixture and then press into the breadcrumbs on one side only. Arrange on a baking sheet with the breadcrumb-side up. You can make this whole recipe ahead of time and put the chicken in the fridge at this point. When you're ready to go, just preheat the oven and pop in the chicken.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 350, then turn the oven up to 400 degrees and bake another 10 minutes or so, until the crust is nicely browned.
*Carbs are my fave food so I definitely eat all the bread but what’s the point of living with a man if I don’t get to blame him for eating everything?