Well, if you’re a regular here, you know we have a real passion for leftovers. It is damn near criminal to waste good food and it happens way too often. To some degree, this is our fault, ‘our’ being foodies and bloggers who exhort others to cook. I say that because a lot of what I find in out there are recipes offered in quantities that demand leftovers. And it goes without saying that restaurants in the US routinely offer ridiculously huge portions, the lions share which is thrown out as well.
So something needs to be done about it, right?
You can do your part by learning to scale recipes when they’re designed for more folks than you’re going to reasonably feed. Scaling is especially useful if a recipe is complex or involves expensive ingredients; in any case, most of the time, you just don’t need or want to cook at larger volumes. While it sounds easy, it isn’t always such, (I found this out taking a homebrew recipe to barrel volume…) Scaling definitely involves a bit of art in addition to straight math.
Take, for instance, a recipe that catches your eye, but is shown for 10 when you need it for 4.
Knocking it down mathematically is straightforward: You take the quoted measure of each ingredient and divide it down to where you want to be. So in this case, we’d divide 4 by 10, yielding 0.4; each of the stated measurements would then be multiplied by 0.4 to reach your goal.
Lets say the recipe calls for 4 cups of all purpose flour. Take the 4 cups, multiply by 0.4.
4 cups × 0.4 = 1.6 cups of flour for your 4 person conversion, and so on down the line of ingredients.
As a guitar maker, I can tell you that I spend a fair amount of time converting fractions to decimals, so don’t feel even a little bit bad for squinting at 1.6 cups for a second or two. Truth be told, for the vast majority of home cooking, eyeballing 1.6 cups is going to work out just fine. Yes, things like a teaspoon are gonna end up 0.4 but again, almost a half, more than a third; you’ll get the idea.
For any and all of this that seems to funky to do, drop over here to this handy Cooking Conversion Tool at About.com. For those of you who actually use your smart phone or tablet for cooking as I do, there’s a very decent app called Kitchen Calculator Pro that works great.
One of the things we do here is to test conversions for you. As I mentioned, scaling recipes isn’t always as simple as the math. Sometimes things have to be tweaked to come out just right. That said, this is often a case of personal taste; it’s nothing to worry about on the big picture view, but if you’re wanting to impress your new date with a great home cooked meal, you might wanna test that conversion first, right?
A lot of the secret of cooking well has to do with ratios; it could be reasonably argued that, next to good ingredients, nothing is more important. Author and Chef Michael Ruhlman has put out a few tools and books about this stuff. I own both his Bread Baking and ratio apps for iPhone and iPad, and I use them both. They’re good common sense stuff and a handy reference when you’re experimenting.
Now, all that said, there are times when you’re going to build food at larger volumes. You’ll notice that a lot of what we do here starts out fairly basic; consideration of multiple meals is a primary reason for that. We, like most of y’all, are not exactly wading in spare time, so prepping one primary meal that can become two or three saves work and is much more efficient.
When you’re doing that, you may well build dishes that are sized for much more than your one-meal needs. Of course quite a few things like soup, stew, chili, roasted or broiled meats, potato dishes and many veggies, really do taste better the next day. It makes sense if you think about it; good ingredients, well married, seasoned and cooked – It should taste better, right?
To close this post, we’ll give you a lightning round example of what we’re talking about.
Day 1; we’re both off, so we bought a big ol’ pork roast and paired it with gnocchi, seedless red grapes and a nice salad.
Day 2: Sky’s the limit; we could do cold sandwiches, Mex, what’ll it be? It was a bit nippy, so digging into the fridge, we found some great veggies, soaked and added some beans and made a wonderful soup. The prep for this took maybe 15 minutes, then we just stuck it in the pot to get happy. Paired with sourdough garlic bread and some more grapes, life is good.
Day 3: We sure could have soup again, but why not throw 30 minutes prep time into the mix and make a pot pie, right? Kitchenaid pie crust recipe, 15 minute rest, blind baked in a baking dish, thicken the soup with a little roux, and off you go…
There’s three distinct, easy meals from one pork roast. Efficient, fun, and delicious.
What are you gonna make tonight?
E & M
4 thoughts on “Scaling, Converting, and Planning for Leftovers”
Wow, just in time. I’m doing the potpie thing with leftover chicken.
I LOVE it when a plan comes together!
Hey, just got a batch of whole 6 lb organic chickens for the freezer. Have one fresh that I’m roasting for tonight. Got more ideas for leftover chicken (and turkey–it’s that time of year)? We’re ok with potpies, etc., but are thinking more zip and spices and something more exotic, so I think we’re asking the right person.
OK, first, ya gotta do Mex, and in this case, we mean chiles rellenos a la oaxaca; so, we’re gonna do a blend of chicken and fresh queso blanco in a poblano chile, with some nice heat from a few jalapenos. Make a nice, fresh tomato sauce, and set the relleno down in that for presentation.
Next, ya gotta do curry, si? here’s the deal:
GREEN CURRY PASTE:
4 small green Thai chilies, OR substitute 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers
1/4 cup shallot OR purple onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-size piece ginger, grated
1 stalk fresh minced lemongrass OR 3 Tbsp. frozen or bottled prepared lemongrass
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 to 1 tsp. shrimp paste
1 (loose) cup fresh coriander/cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. lime juice
And for the guts:
1 to 1.5 lbs. (about 0.7 kg) boneless chicken thigh or breast, cut into chunks
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp. grated lime zest
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise several times, then cut into chunks
Generous handful fresh basil
2 Tbsp. coconut oil or other vegetable oil
So, got that?