Kitchen Intuition: About those leftovers

Authored By aliceodea

In last week’s column, I wrote about food substitution and affinities, and how it’s good to have a reference when you’re trying to improvise in the kitchen. Right after I pushed the “publish” button on that column, I found an article about what sounds like the ultimate tool for kitchen experimentation: Chef Watson. Watson is the IBM artificial intelligence creation that gained some fame a few years ago when it was a contestant on “Jeopardy!” It has also recently been getting acquainted with the recipe database at Bon App├ętit magazine, and the result is an app that lets you create recipes on the fly.


Chef Watson demo

I’ve just started tinkering around with it, and since today’s a food holiday, I thought it would be fun to see what ideas Chef Watson could come up with to help us use up the remnants from our Fourth of July feasts. We’re bound to have leftovers that we can’t stuff in the freezer, so what would Watson do? For the menu producing the leftovers, I assumed a classic American summer holiday cookout would include hot dogs, baked beans, corn on the cob and watermelon.

The first thing that came to my mind when thinking about how to use up hot dog buns was to make croutons or breadcrumbs. Watson had a lot of suggestions, but the one that really jumped out at me was the hot dog bun pudding (as with all the Watson links, click through and then use the “take me to the app” link in the upper right to get to a place where you can tinker with ingredients, make substitutions or see the recipe on which the idea is based).

For all those leftover hot dogs, I was amused by the idea of a frankfurter shepherd’s pie, but I was drawn by the simplicity of the pan-seared frankfurters with a beer sauce, which is based on a recipe for filet mignon with cabernet sauce but dressed down just a little. It’s as though we wanted a nice dinner but just didn’t feel like changing out of our jeans and grungy clothes, so the tender cut of beef turned into something a little bit more mysterious-and the fancy wine was set aside in favor of summer’s most refreshing beverage.

My favorite thing to do with leftover baked beans is to spread them on bread and then sprinkle that with some kind of yummy vinegar, which is something of a family tradition. But if I wanted to get more creative, I could do as Watson suggests and make a taco. If I wanted to get fancier still, the baked beans spaghetti was also pretty intriguing.

When looking up ideas for the leftover corn, I decided to try the feature where I can exclude an ingredient from consideration. If you have an aversion or allergy to a particular food, it’s simple enough to keep it from showing up in any of the suggested dishes. I typed “corn” into the main ingredient field, and in the first optional ingredient field, I replaced the auto-supplied word with “potato” and then clicked the “x” that appeared right next to it. And just like that, any recipes containing potatoes disappeared. Corn curry, anyone?

And finally, although I’m tempted to leave that watermelon alone (because the best thing to do with watermelon is to just eat it plain), Watson tempts me with its watermelon smoothie. That might be what’s for breakfast tomorrow-a nice antidote to the holiday excess. Thanks, Watson.

Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.