Williams Sonoma test kitchen alum Amanda Frederickson had the brainstorm for her popular Instagram series #fridgeforaging after one too many friends complained. Opening the fridge after work, they were daunted by the idea of cooking from what they saw there, and ordered takeout or delivery—even dashing to the supermarket—instead of using what they had. No judgment, particularly after the year we’ve all had, but “regardless of what’s in your fridge,” says Amanda, “I guarantee there’s something edible!”
Amanda, whose new-in-2020 cookbook Simple Beautiful Food is as spectacular as she is, was kind enough to show us her best tips in a Zoom class this week. Also the owner of Nashville fast-casual chain Radish Kitchen, Amanda quit her corporate world job back in 2013. She attended cooking school, wowed us at WS, and started devoting herself to the “easy, delicious food for the home cook” she learned here. These days, every Wednesday sees her hopping on Instagram stories to reveal the belly of her fridge contents—she never buys anything new; just uses what she has—and cooks a fast, tasty weeknight meal from there.
For our virtual class, her fans chose turkey lettuce cups, and we snagged some great tips. Here are a few faves—particularly for home cooks for whom more than a few ingredients is just too many!
1. Consider Frozen Shrimp and Scallops
Ack, how did you forget to defrost meat last night again? Amanda is right there with you. “I will inevitably forget to defrost!” she laughs. No problem if you keep lots of shrimp and scallops in the freezer. The latter can defrost in 30 minutes or an hour, max, in a sealed plastic bag set in a bowl of lukewarm water at room temperature.
2. Also Ground Turkey and Chicken
Some of us get into a funny rut wherein we buy bone-in this and bone-in that, and even whole birds. They’re delicious when you have time, but they take longer to cook than ground turkey and chicken, which are arguably some of the most flexible protein cuts around. Think: meatloaf, larb, and lettuce cups, says Amanda.
3. Wilted Kale and Chard Can Revive
When asked which vegetables one should keep on hand, Amanda shouted out kale and chard, which don’t go bad as quickly as you’d think. “When they soften, you use them differently,” she points out—in soups or sautéed with garlic and olive oil hit with lemon (instead of fresh, in a salad).
4. Try to Keep Fresh Herbs Handy
Whether you’re a cilantro person, a basil person, an oregano person or a parsley person, try to keep some sort of fresh herb handy. Adding it to a fast dish can boost flavor in a big way with very little effort, says Amanda.
5. Don’t Overthink Your Gear
“You can do a lot with just a knife and a cutting board,” says Amanda. (You don’t necessarily need a garlic press, for example.) She swears by one great piece of Staub enameled cast-iron, a really good Japanese chef’s knife, a nonstick pan, and a solid cutting board. “Start small, see what you like,” and then invest in more of the brands and items you love.
6. Pretend You’re on “Chopped!”
Amanda laughs that she encourages folks to think of using what they have a as fun challenge, and not to pull your hair out if you think you’re getting it wrong. Half a dozen ingredients, and you’re going to turn them into a delicious dinner?! Embrace the chaos.
We couldn’t agree more.