Fridge diving (aka “kitchen scrounging”) should not be underestimated as a handy skill, particularly for an everyday or last-minute dinner. It can take a bit of creativity, flexibility, and technical skill to put together something delicious from what you happen to find around your kitchen, but often to very good results! Maybe you find a head of cauliflower beginning to live out its last days in the back of your refrigerator, a stale butt of a baguette, and half a bag of pasta. (Penne with roasted cauliflower and garlicky bread crumbs, anyone?) Or maybe it’s an open can of coconut milk. A few spoonfuls of leftover salsa. Unidentifiable grains scooped out from the bulk bin at the grocery store.
All those scraps and dregs and bits – the things that scream out “toss me” – can sometimes make the best meals, especially together with some pantry staples (don’t underestimate the power of canned tomatoes, beans, and tuna). And even if you’re not feeling creative, there are plenty of dishes created for just this sort of thing. Think of all the classic uses for stale bread – croutons, bread crumbs, bread pudding, panzanella salad …
After declaring “we have no food in this house” one night last week I was able to scrounge together all the ingredients and a variety of tasty garnishes for a pan of chipotle chilaquiles with fried eggs. Chilaquiles are like the Mexican version of a hash – stale tortillas, crisped and then quickly cooked together with whatever ingredients you might have around and a green or red or cream sauce. Eggs are often included in some form, and pre-made tortilla chips are commonly used instead of freshly fried stale tortillas. Chilaquiles is a hearty dish, full of flavor, and perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Almost every ingredient and garnish I used to make this dish was the last bits left in the can or the bag or the jar, together with some of the items we almost always have in the pantry or the fridge. And there’s a lot more I could have added here – cooked veggies (frozen or fresh corn or peas would have been particularly good here), meat (like shredded chicken or pork), a can of beans … the combinations are pretty endless.Print
Bowen Close believes that food should make people happy and healthy, and loves bringing together people with creative, delicious food made from the heart. She loves making farm-inspired, flavorful dishes with sustainable ingredients - whether that's a big plate of roasted veggies, a towering chocolate layer cake, or a cocktail utilizing backyard ingredients - and collects recipes and other food-related stories on her website, Bowen Appétit. She is a chef, cooking instructor, and food writer living in Southern California with her husband and fully stocked pantry.