Thursday, July 30, 2009

Grilled Chicken, Sweet Corn and Barley Soup from Leftovers

Forgive me but I’m going to take some liberty in forming an opinion of you. You cook. You probably have a passion for it at times. You live a busy life. You have a fridge full of leftovers. If I am correct, let’s chat. It breaks my heart to go into the fridge and throw out something that just 2 nights ago was absolute heaven to eat. Unfortunately though, the flavors are never the same reheated or microwaved. I toss plenty. I hate it. Trying to create new recipes from those leftovers can be a challenge, to be sure, but there are a couple of simple tricks. One of my favorites is soup. Those victim meats that have completely lost their once brimming succulence can be revived with a simple slow simmer in a luscious broth. The Tupperware that contains 2 tablespoons of veggies because you just couldn’t bear to throw them away can also be put to use. Even though I’ll share a specific recipe with you below, that’s not what’s important here. It’s about using what you have, conserving on your grocery bill, and avoiding the lost-in-the-back-of-the-fridge syndrome. You certainly don’t want you refrigerator to double as a Petri dish.

It is not uncommon for me to make 2 completely different dishes; one for Lisa and one for me. I like experimenting with food and she is much less adventurous. So the other day, I had a few different items on the grill. At the end of dinner, I had a mountain of leftovers including 3 ears of grilled corn and several citrus marinated, grilled chicken breasts. These are prime items to morph into a fuzzy blue cocoon in a matter of weeks. Don’t lie. It’s happened to you too. Fast forward a couple of days and I’m doing my usual what-am-I gonna-make-next-? ice box inspection. I see these things and a few others and the lights go off. It’s time for a soup. This would be perfect for the rubbery raw carrots from last week and the last onion in the bag. Oh, and I have some homemade chicken and veggie broth in the freezer that should be good. A quick peek in the pantry produces some pearl barley. Great in soup. This plan is coming together nicely. I dice up the veggies and the chicken, thaw my broth, cut the corn from the cob and that’s pretty much it. Once combined and seasoned, I add a bit of barley and it’s simmer time. An hour later, I have a luscious, fresh tasting wonderful soup that even Lisa scarfed down. I topped it with some fresh basil from the garden, grated Parmesan cheese (because shoes taste good with Parmesan cheese) and a drizzle of olive oil. The basil helped enhance the fresh flavor from the very beginning and you’d never tell that one more day and the carrots might have been able to leave the fridge under their own power.

For me, this was leftover management at its finest. I still often fail and I’m constantly tossing things pretty much daily. In this case though, I was able to conserve just a bit and not only did it feed my family at home, I sent quite a bit over to my father. He loves my leftovers anyway. So if you too have some items wasting space in your fridge and they haven’t begun their smelly morphing phase, one idea would be a soup. Give it a shot. See what happens or try something completely different. Just think before you toss.

Grilled Chicken, Sweet Corn and Barley Soup

4 grilled chicken breasts, cubed into bite size pieces
10 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or a combo of both)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
½ cup pearl barley
3 ears of sweet corn, grilled or roasted then cut from the cob (yes, you could certainly use a frozen)
Fresh basil for garnish
Parmesan cheese for grating atop
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

In a large pot, add the broth, chicken, onion, and carrots. Bring to a slight boil and add the barley. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 1 hour. Serve into individual bowls and top with a bit of basil, Parmesan and a slight drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 8


Anonymous said...

What can you use if you don't have pearl barley?

Louis said...

A can of white beans comes to mind. Rice or Orzo would probably do too. If you like it, it's perfect.

Rick said...

When do you add the corn?