Sunday, February 13, 2011

Garde Manger

Most upscale restaurants have a position called Garde Manger - which loosely translates to "keeper of the food" or "protector of the food." This person generally makes sure that there is as little waste as possible. For example, using meats that are nearing the end of their productive life to make a pate.

Around here, we have broadened the term and use it in many ways. As a verb, "I am going to garde manger this leftover chicken." As a noun, "We have lots of garde manger items we should use up." As an adjective, "This two week old meat is beyond garde manger. It needs to be tossed to the groundhog." You get the idea. We just mean use up our food and throw away as little as possible. Often our desire to minimize waste is much maligned by the children, especially when we are cleaning out the fridge before a trip. I found Maggie surveying its contents prior to our last trip to Florida mumbling, "There is nothing to eat in this house. I hate garde manger."

So yesterday Tim was at work and I was in the midst of several garde manger projects at once. Now, I should know better than to have three things going at the same time but I did anyway. First was the potato-broccoli-cheese soup made with leftover broccoli and chicken stock and some potatoes that were nearly beyond the pale. Cooking simultaneously, a pasta sauce with some sausage nearing its expiration date and canned tomatoes opened a few days back for pizza. And lastly, steaks on the grill for Tim's lunch the next day.

What better to do when you've got three things rolling? That's right. Call your mother in law to wish her safe travels the next day when they left for South Africa. The soup and sauce made it out alive but I forgot all about the meat. When I remembered, it was well beyond the McK preferred 122 degree internal temperature. I looked at the probe - it was a balmy 157 in there. Yikes.

I took it in and cut the steak open, hoping all the while that our trusty thermometer, which is always spot on, was today dead wrong and the meat would be perfectly done. Nope. I had cooked the hell out of the meat. But in the spirit of garde manger, I knew we would have to eat it in some capacity.

Right about then Morrigan came down and excitedly asked for steak. I had a choice to make here. If I told her it was overcooked, she would be against it from the start. So I thought maybe if I didn't mention it, she wouldn't notice.

It was becoming clear to me that I was really hoping for the impossible allot this afternoon. My kids love meat bordering on downright rare. Mooing if possible. They always have. Morrigan used to sit on Tim's lap and eat half his steak and she was so darn cute that we just let her and made a snack for ourselves later.

So I didn't mention the slightly over-roasted nature of the beef. Fooling, as it turns out, exactly no one. Morrigan tok one bite and asked "Why is this meat so hard?" Maggie came over to investigate and pointing at the plate asked, "Eww - what is that?" Perhaps I will need to be just a little less aggressive in my garde manger endeavours.

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