Bottom-of-the-Barrel Kitchen Creativity

First off, a bit of history. As most of you know by now, I read extensively. History is a favorite, as are spirituality, classic cozy mysteries, biographies (and autobios) and recipes.

This history is about the expression “Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel.” In order to use the post heading that I used for today, I had to be able to tell you what it means, historically! According to the forums on the Stephen King dot com page, scraping the bottom of the barrel is …”An old English nautical phrase which has passed into common parlance. It’s origin lies with the ship’s cook, who would literally have to ‘scrape the bottom of the barrel’ to make his supplies last to the end of a voyage. Nowadays, the phrase is often used to refer to a desperate last resort.” Now we can go forward with our regularly scheduled programming! (yes, I know there are other possible meanings. But I like this one, and it’s my blog!)

It is the end of the month. As with many folks, we always end up with too much month at the end of the money. So, standing in front of the pantry, alternating with standing in front of the refrigerator( and freezer,) I had these items on the counter for dinner.

  1. Four Idaho potatoes, medium sized
  2. One shortbread dessert crust
  3. One-third of a sleeve of saltines
  4. two eggs
  5. half a jar of honey
  6. four takeaway packages of mustard
  7. three-quarters of a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast
  8. half a head of garlic
  9. fresh rosemary from the garden
  10. salt and pepper
  11. a quarter of a jar of Rock Hill Lavender Herbes De Provence De Sonoma (Buy it Here)
  12. Olive oil
  13. half a bag of bread flour
  14. my ingenuity (okay, okay, that wasn’t in the cupboard, it was in my head…more or less)

I scrubbed the potatoes and put them in a pot of water to boil. After they were done, I refrigerated them until they were totally cool. (not as in kewl, boss, neato or keen, but as in no longer having heat…) I cut the chicken into two-bite pieces, washed them, and dredged them in flour. (salted and peppered flour, with a soupçon of Herbes De Provence De Sonoma) Set that aside as well.

In one bowl, I broke up the shortbread crust, and smushed* it, with the back of my favorite wooden spoon, into crumbs. In another, I did the same thing with the remaining saline crackers (this is about 10 crackers or so.) In a third bowl, I beat the dickens out of one of my two eggs. (**etymology below main blog posting, don’t wanna overwhelm you with too much history!) I took the potatoes out, left the skins on, and sliced them medium-thin.

I took out two pans, a deep dutch frying pan, and a ten-inch regular frying pan. I put olive oil in both pans, and put and put the dutch pan on to heat. As the dutch pan heated, I added three cloves of garlic, chopped fine, and one tablespoon of freshly washed, finely chopped rosemary. (Hint, put the leaves (not the stems) in a deep small bowl, and snip with scissors until fine enough for your taste.) I let the oil in that pan (dutch) get nice and hot, with the chopped garlic popping around the pan, but no smoking of the oil, and then added the potatoes.

Turning next to the other pan, I put it on to heat, and began dipping the chicken pieces, first into egg, and then into the shortbread crumbs. Since I wanted to use all of the shortbread crumbs, I saved the saltines for a second batch. As I took the chicken out of the crumbs, I popped it into the pan, in a single layer. I continued egging and shortbreading until the crumbs were gone, and then did the same technique with the egg and saltines. As the chicken browned, and cooked through, I removed the pieces to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. I stirred the potatoes to keep them browning and lo and behold, both the chicken and the potatoes were done at the same time! I mixed two tablespoons of honey with the four packages of take-out mustard for homemade honey-mustard sauce, and voilà!


* Smushed a lovely word that Jersey Shore has given a whole new meaning. Sigh. MY meaning is to crush, mash or push…

** “Dickens” is a euphemism for “devil” as in “‘what the dickens,’.an expression common centuries before Charles Dickens was born, having been used by Shakespeare in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’.” 
It’s very much in the same style as deuce, as in old oaths like what the deuce! which contains another name for the Devil. It may be an altered pronunciation of “devilkin”

Source(s):”Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins” by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).


About ReaderWoman

Professional reader and researcher for writers - Reviewer and Editor for online book review sites - AVID reader (well, duh!) writer, crafter (sewing, jewelry, fiber art) photographer, herb gardener, love to learn new things - Married 3842 years, 2 "kids" (now 34 and 36) and two grands (13 and 15) Born and raised California Girl, with stints in Tennessee, learning to speak Southern, and Arizona, learning that living in a trailer is NOT fun! Enjoy conversations with wine and chocolate, long walks and being with hubby and family. Life is good!
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