Sometimes you just can’t get to a grocery store, which is why keeping a few staple ingredients on-hand is key to whipping up a delicious meal at a moment’s notice. The contestants on Wall of Chefs will learn that lesson when the show premieres; in the second round they’re challenged to create a dish using three ingredients from the home fridge of one of the chefs. So what are some of those staples? Read on to find out.
What does chef Marysol Foucault always have on hand? “Sardines. Eggs. Pickles. Not necessarily together!” Thank goodness. In the meantime, we’d dive into a nice Eggs Benedict any night (or morning!) of the week.
Chef Alex Chen always has bacon, rice, eggs and gai lan vegetables (Chinese broccoli) on hand. And while those ingredients sound like they’d make a killer stir-fry, there’s something nice about being able to whip up bacon and eggs whenever you want. Or, if you want to do something a little more game-changing, how about throwing them together into delicious turnover pockets?
Chef Hugh Acheson, of Iron Chef Canada fame, says that he always stocks four things in his household: “tofu, broccoli, rice, and hot sauce.” Sounds like the makings of a delicious (and spicy!) stir-fry. Or, if you wanted to switch things up a little, check out these light and healthy Tofu Lettuce Wraps.
“I can always make a satisfying rice and beans dish with onions, peppers, garlic, beans and rice,” says chef Corinna Mozo. Simple, yet delicious. How about taking those beans and rice and throwing them into a pantry-approved Mexican casserole?
Fish is a low-calorie, high-protein option that’s also quick to cook up. It’s no wonder that chef Guy Rawlings and his wife, Kim, always have that and peas in the freezer. They prefer rainbow trout in particular. “They both defrost quickly and don’t take long to cook,” he says. “The kids love them.” Lucky kids.
Garlic is such a small ingredient to store, and if left unpeeled, it can last up to half a year in the cupboard. Considering how much flavour it packs in a dish, that makes it a no-brainer to always have on hand. “I always have a few cans of San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, good olive oil, a loaf of sourdough and local Asiago cheese; these can become a pasta or soup, or add to some chickpeas for a hearty stew,” chef Renée Lavallée suggests.
For chef Jesse Vergen it’s all about ingredients that take a base dish to that next-level of deliciousness. That means, “Aromatics like onions, garlic, ginger, chilies and herbs.” The best part about most aromatics is that they tend to freeze well, which makes them easy ingredients to store. Get your ginger on with this aromatic Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Ginger dish.
Chef Todd Perin has a few random staples that he likes to stock his kitchen with, including eggs, kale, mushrooms and of course, avocado. Nature’s mayonnaise is a great addition to many meals, snacks and smoothies, but we particularly love how it pairs with shrimp—which keeps easily in the freezer.
Just because a chef can whip up fresh pasta doesn’t mean he or she always wants to. Chef Mark McEwan says he always has, “Great quality dried pasta and canned San Marzano tomatoes” in his pantry, along with some good Parmigiano Reggiano, pancetta and eggs. “A delicious pasta dinner is always easy to make with these ingredients,” he adds. “I can make a quick carbonara in the amount of time it takes the pasta water to boil.” Not in the mood for carbonara? McEwan makes a mean Marinara sauce, too.
A Taco Kit
Okay so Chef Nick Hodge owns a taco restaurant, which would explain why he always has the taco basics on hand: tortillas, refried black beans, pico de gallo, grated cheese and homemade ranch sauce. But sometimes even tacos can get a bit easier, which is where our Instant Pot Taco Night comes in handy.
What does chef Nick Liu reach for when he’s in need of a base to create something delicious? The answer is one of our favourites. “I always have homemade wontons in the freezer,” he says. “I can make many different dishes with this one item… wonton soup noodles with hundreds of different varieties, garnishes, plain wonton soup, Hakka brown wontons, crispy deep fried wontons…” Okay, we’re in.
If there’s one fromage to always have on hand it’s parmesan, says chef Christie Peters. “I always have Parmesan cheese in my fridge because it makes everything delicious. You can use it to make multiple pasta dishes, finish salads, or just eat it drizzled with honey.”
A tiny can of chickpeas packs a big punch of versatile protein. Warm or cold, mashed or whole, chickpeas are a great thing to have in the cupboard, says chef Meeru Dhalwala. She keeps them along with onions, tomatoes, fresh celery and any other canned white bean or rice at all times. “I first sauté the chopped onions and celery, and then add tomatoes,” she reveals. Or, you could also enjoy them on their own, like in our Tuscan Mashed Chickpeas recipe.