The Low End Theory

I’m busy, so I have a backlog of posts that I want to write but haven’t found time for yet. This is something from a few days ago, and illustrates a principle that may be my very most favorite of all kitchen truisms: that charcuterie and a well-stocked pantry and freezer can make seriously high-quality food appear as if by magic in next to no time at all.

In this case–and in the above order–it was guanciale, little black lentils, and mirepoix from the garden that I froze in September in 1-cup bags. Combined with a black radish from the fridge and some herbs from the pots in the dining room, all of the above simmered into a thick, healthy soup of both substance and style. To complete the meal, both texturally and nutritionally, I took the heel of that rectangular loaf of whole-grain sourdough that had good and fossilized on the counter and cut it into rough cubes with the big-ass $6 Chinatown cleaver that I use for winter squash and this sort of operation. I toasted them in a pan with olive oil, salt, paprika, garlic, and pepper until they were brown and fragrant, then dumped them hissing into the soup bowls and finished them with a dribble of more olive oil.

The best thing about this was that I didn’t even need to defrost any stock; the mirepoix, pork, and lentils made a luscious one all by themselves. For less than the price of that cleaver, we had a perfect winter dinner for three. And all of the above ingredients are completely interchangeable depending on what is on hand; just make sure you have something from each category and you’ll never be at a loss for high-end food on short notice.

I linked this up with Simple Lives Thursday, because I’m all about the frugality and yet ironically, at the same time, the Benjamins as well.

2 comments to The Low End Theory

  • This looks absolutely delicious – thanks for posting. I am ashamed to admit I had to google both guanciale and mirepoix; knowing what they are make the soup sound even tastier. Do you make your own w.w. sourdough?

  • Peter

    I do; the very next post is all about bread.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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