Once upon a time, home cooks used everything from their meats and vegetables: stems and peels and bones and fat. We’ve been conditioned to believe this is garbage. But that’s because we are the unknowing victims of the industrialized food system. Yes, it’s a conspiracy.
So here are 10 typically discarded foods that can be used to augment your cooking, reduce your carbon footprint and stick it to the man.
1) It’s a rip off to buy chicken parts. If you buy the whole chicken, you not only get the meat, but also the bones, from which you can make stock. If you ever did a side-by-side tasting of homemade stock and commercial stock, you’d see why.
2) It’s a shame to buy carrots without the greens. Carrots were originally cultivated for the greens, not the root. They make fabulous pesto (pick off the leaves and blanch first) and can be used as a fresh herb.
3) It’s a waste to throw out beet water. When you boil beets, wash them first. The ruby water is fabulous. You can drink it straight and warm (kind of health foodie), add vodka (kind of repulsive, but I am a gin drinker) or make granita with it, which is incredibly tasty and holds forever in the fridge.
4) It’s a mistake to buy duck breasts. Buy the whole duck! Once you learn how to cut it up (not that complicated), you’ll have two breasts, two legs, the bones which make fantastic stock and the fat, which you can render and use to make confit another day.
5) It’s a bummer to discard the shells of oranges after you juice them. The rinds are gold! Before juicing, zest the rinds with a vegetable peeler and dry them on a cookie sheet. That’s the fundamental flavor of homemade orange bitters, key to a really intoxicating Old Fashioned.
6) It sucks to throw out the vinegar in the bottom of the pickle jar. Boil vegetables and dress them with the pickle juice, make vinaigrette with it or use it as a whiskey back. Pickle juice is flavored vinegar: Why buy it when you probably have some in the fridge right now?
7) It’s silly to buy the fillet of a fish when you can buy the whole fish. Cutting the fillet off a flat or round fish is not complicated. I mean, there are not a lot of parts to a fish. So you get the fillets, but then you get the bones, too! And the bones, thrown into a pot with some herbs and savory vegetables, make a beautiful stock.
8) It’s dumb to throw out the marinade in the bottom of the marinated peppers or artichokes jar. That stuff is pure flavor. Brown some chicken and finish cooking in the marinade and you’ll never throw it out again.
9) It’s a tragedy to throw away those corncobs. They are packed with sweetness. After you’ve cut off the kernels, pop the cobs in a stockpot with water and bay. They make a lovely aromatic broth in less than an hour, which is the base for a corn or vegetable soup, or good for poaching fish.
10) Don’t throw away lobster heads and shells. Where do you think lobster bisque comes from? And lobster butter and lobster reduction? Boil those heads with water and bay leaf, and open all the windows. In an hour or two the resulting stock will be divine. In four hours the resulting reduction will be like a demi glace. And you know what to do with that. Yes, just a spoon.
Eugenia Bone is author of several acclaimed cookbooks, including The Kitchen Ecosystem: Integrating Recipes to Create Delicious Meals.