Cooking during lockdown - using leftovers
Updated: Apr 28
My dear friend,
My letter will probably not reveal many “news”, since the confinement has made daily activities often repetitive and, about those, I have already told you enough in these last few weeks of correspondence.
Although we have been in good spirits, there have been times when my youngest daughter has been sad and unenthusiastic. She no longer wanted to pretend play we are in kindergarten, or invite all of her "classmates" to our morning sessions, or watch princess movies. She misses her past "normality", "freedom", the contact with her peers. Fortunately, those were short episodes and, with the typical resilience of children, she has returned to battle boredom and monotony using her imagination and liveliness. But I will not tire you with those details that excite parents so much, but not so much childless friends or friends with older children, I will only tell you that, among other things, she has become more and more interested in helping me in the kitchen and has developed skills that have surprised even me.
And I cook and cook, as the vast majority of us do now. The other day I read a tweet in which the person who wrote it said that his days revolve around what he is going to eat and that, at lunchtime, he was already thinking about what he was going to eat for dinner. Talking to friends, apparently the same thing is happening to all of us. Every day I think about what I can prepare to keep my family happy and well fed.
Confinement, however, has changed my approach to cooking. I no longer go out to look for the ingredients to cook whatever we are craving, but I cook whatever I can (following a recipe or inventing a new creation) with what I have managed to get in the supermarket near home, the few times I have gone out. I don't know what the store shelves look like there, but here, fortunately, supermarkets are continually being supplied with local products, but of course, rarely with imported ones. That's why you can imagine my surprise the last time I went, while walking the aisles (trying to keep the proper distance, wearing my gloves and my mask - now a requirement to enter the store), to see fresh packages of coriander and basil, ginger, hot chili peppers and limes. What a treat! What a thrill!
I kept them in the fridge hoping I could use them for something special, something out of the ordinary. The moment came when I didn't know what to do with the leftover breast from a chicken I had baked the day before with herbs and vegetables. Not a breast lover, I was having a hard time coming up with ideas: reheat it and eat it with some gravy? Make a sandwich with the meat? And then I remembered the Yunnan shredded chicken salad. Do you remember? We learned how to prepare it at that school in the hutongs near the Lama Temple in Beijing, where, from time to time, we took Chinese cooking classes.
I chopped the coriander, basil, mint, chilies; I prepared a sauce with the minced garlic, the juice of the limes, sugar and salt, and; then I mixed everything with the shredded chicken. What a flavor! I ate the salad with the chopsticks I brought from China and, for a moment, I relived those moments we spent together in that past reality. With the leftover carcass I made a slow-simmered stock, which I used as a base for a broccoli and cheddar soup the next day.
I am attaching the card with the recipe, although you surely have it stored in your phone like all the other recipes of the dishes we learned to prepare in those classes. You all take good care and I hope to hear from you soon.