Think creating gourmet meals requires tons of money and slaving over a hot stove for hours? Not so, says Jocelyn Deprez, an official Waste Watcher, and author of a recently self-published recipe book for leftovers.
Interviewing Jocelyn for this story was my first task as an intern at J. Ottman Consulting, publishers of this blog. I was beyond excited. What a chance for a food lover and cook like me to speak with such an incredibly resourceful, eighty-two-year old cooking whiz.
Strategic Food Shopping
Jocelyn believes that a meal should be delicious, simple, and economic. Deprez’s strategies have been honed over literally decades of preparing meals for a family of four children and a husband who were always willing to try her new creations.
She advises cooks to shop for ingredients that can be easily morphed into new leftover dishes. Remembers Deprez, “Back in the day, I always prepared dinners from scratch and then used the leftovers throughout the week for my family. Even when women were working, we were expected to cook in the afternoon. There wasn’t time to go grocery-shopping every day. You make do with what you have.”
With her French-influenced culinary skills (She’s a former French teacher)and mindset to save, for over half a century, Jocelyn has created exquisite meals that are inexpensive and easy to make. Not only does she watch her waste when cooking, she inventively uses every ounce of her ingredients. Even as we were speaking she was in the process of collecting some chopped vegetable peels in yogurt to fertilize the banana and palm trees outside her home in Orlando. Instant and free nutrients! (Do try this at home!)
Three Tips from The Refrigerator Files
Jocelyn’s 190-page mouth-watering guide to resuscitating leftovers, The Refrigerator Files: Creative Makeovers for Leftovers (iUniverse 2011) covers recipes ranging from the ubiquitous French toast to tiramisu made from stale coffee.
Start today to become a gourmet cook on a shoestring! While you’re waiting for your copy of her book to arrive, follow these three simple tips and you’ll be well on your way to transforming drab leftover chicken into a scrumptious pot pie or baking an outrageous orange cake from sour milk.
1. Béchamel sauce, a.k.a white sauce — the ultimate dresser-upper
This sauce can be used for countless recipes and it’s effortless. “You can do all sorts of stuff with it. Just throw your leftovers into this marvelous sauce,” asserts Jocelyn.
You only need three ingredients: shortening, flour, and milk, with a 2:2:1 ratio. You can add this sauce to pasta, seafood, chicken, anything really. You can use it to bake, stuff, or coat whatever you like. It is such a versatile sauce that will make any leftover taste fantastic and gourmet. Here is Jocelyn’s recipe (directly from her book). It’s a must try!
2. Turn last night’s cooked vegetables into tonight’s tasty purée.
Purées are cooked foods, usually vegetables or legumes that have been grounded, pressed, or blended to make a great base to numerous recipes, especially soups. They are perfect for soups like butternut squash, pumpkin (check out her recipe on this blog), or cream of whatever soup. All you need is a food processor or blender and cooked vegetables.
Got some leftover potatoes and carrots? Drop them into a Cuisinart and make a fast, simple soup to warm you up on any winter day (perfect for those of us dealing with the aftermath of Sandy and the Nor’easter).
3. Creatively re-purpose old kitchen gadgets.
Instead of throwing out your dilapidated kitchen gadgets, enlist them for an alternative use. Jocelyn converted her old salad spinner into a makeshift watering can that she keeps in her two-basin sink. When she washes vegetables or lets the water run until it’s hot, she collects the water in her salad spinner until it is full. Then, she runs outside and waters her Orlando flower garden and tropical trees, repeating if necessary.
After hearing about Jocelyn’s fabulous tips, I can’t wait to get home to pair my leftover pasta and chicken with a fresh white sauce. Thanks Jocelyn!
We’re delighted to have Jocelyn as one of our official Waste Watchers. And look forward to more recipes and tips as the months go by. (We hear she’s busy whipping up recipes to put into action for Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers.)
Link here to get a copy of Jocelyn Deprez’s book, The Refrigerator Files.
Link here to see all of her mouthwatering posts to date.