Work your Pantry

Alices Book

Alice's Book

Stocking the pantry or ‘larder’ as people used to call it, is an integral part of running a successful kitchen.  Basically, one gets into the habit of keeping a handful of staples around.  Those staples should be items that you find yourself using, or missing when they are absent.  Two example; I love olives, and I always keep a few kinds around, and when I’m out of anchovies, I curse myself for not thinking ahead and replenishing the anchovy stash (curses!).  These are two items that I keep around because I use them all the time.  They are part of my Pantry.  I like to capitalize it for significance.

Below is a long list of items that Alice Waters believes (I happen to agree) constitutes a well-stocked pantry.  This list is a great place to start thinking about how you would like to start, or perhaps remodel, your own larder.  I practiced this exercise with one of my clients a couple of weeks ago, and his cooking has been made (at least potentially!) more fluid for having these items on hand.

Pantry Staples

~  N.B. If multiple types of an item are offered, I’m simply naming several types, one or more of which will often suffice ~

-Olive oil (and at least one other ‘high smoke point’ oil as well)

-Vinegars (cider, balsamic, rice, sherry, red wine, etc.)

-Salt (kosher, flavored, fancy)

-Black peppercorns (whole – and a grinder)

-Spices (anise, bay, caraway, cardamom, cayenne, chili flakes, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, clove, fennel seed, ginger, garam masala, harissa, juniper, madras curry, nutmeg, paprika, sesame, smoked paprika, star anise, turmeric, for example)

-Pasta (short, long, favorites)

-Polenta /cornmeal

-Rice (short, long, wild, brown)

-Dried beans

-Canned tomato product (paste, whole, juice)

-Anchovies

-Capers

-Crackers (a couple of types)

-Flours (all purpose and whole wheat, bread)

-Sugars (white, brown, sanding)

-Baking powder / soda

-Vanilla (beans / extract)

-Yeast

-Jams / preserves / syrups

-Wine (red and white)

-Tobasco and Worchestershire

Perishable Staples

-Garlic (whole heads)

-Onions (white, red, Spanish)

-Shallots (or leeks, or chives)

-Celery

-Carrots

-Olives (several types)

-Fresh herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, maybe parsley or cilantro if it will be used up)

-Eggs (grade AA large)

-Lemons (also limes, oranges)

-Mustards (Dijon, whole grain)

-Cheeses (parmesan, soft and firm types)

-Nuts (almond, hazel, walnut, pine, etc.)

-Chicken broth (frozen homemade, or bought)

-Butter (unsalted sweet)

-Milk (skim, as you wish, heavy cream)

-Bread (as you like it)

-Potatoes (mealy or waxy)

-Lunch meats / Sausages

Pantry Staples are good for a year or so.  Perishable staples are going to the light much more quickly.  Some will keep for months; others will meet their end much more quickly.  Always smell and taste before jumping into a recipe using perishable staples which haven’t been used in a while.

As Lady Alice offers, with these (or similar) items on the shelf, you will find that you have a wide vocabulary of flavors and the building blocks for dozens of dishes to chose from when you are facing down the eternal question; what’s for dinner.

Pantry and Party’n are the same word.  Think about it.  Keep cooking, keep thinking – –

-Scotty

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