October 18, 2016

The Cook From Your Fridge Challenge

cook from fridge challenge

It’s been a long day, and you’re hungry for dinner. What can you make using just the things you already have in the fridge and pantry?

That’s the challenge we put to three CIA chefs. But before we reveal what they would make from our mystery basket of ingredients, let’s talk about one of the keys to cooking creatively and without a recipe. And that’s a well-stocked kitchen. Professional chefs always have basics like spices, fresh and dried herbs, condiments, rice, pasta, beans, bread, flour, stock, canned or fresh tomatoes, carrots, celery, salad greens, and aromatics like onions and ginger on hand in their home kitchens—and so should you. Because when you have all the supporting characters at the ready, you can make a meal from just about any three main ingredients.


The Challenge

“Imagine you are in the home of an intermediate-level home cook. Assume he or she has a well-stocked kitchen with all of the usual ingredients, herbs, spices, and condiments. Then, choose three of the 10 ingredients below and explain what you would do with them to make a meal with the help of that well-stocked kitchen.”




The Results

Chef Brad Barnes

cook from your fridge orange


So here is my dish. I would wrap the unpeeled orange in foil and cook it at 325 degrees F until it is very soft. I would then emulsify the cooked orange with some basil and olive oil. This is the sauce.

Split the broccoli into lengthwise quarters, slice the cauliflower into 1/2-inch slices, and marinate both in olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper. Marinate the chicken in a mix of lemon juice, olive oil, paprika, sea salt, and black pepper.

Grill all of the above on a very hot grill, place over bitter greens or arugula, and dress the whole thing with the orange purée. Top it with some Italian parsley leaves and cracked toasted nuts.


Chef Dave Kamen

cook from your fridge beer


I see a bottle of beer and right away I think tempura.

I would make a quick beer batter with the beer, flour, and baking powder, then take the shrimp, beans, cauliflower, and broccoli (OK, I used more than three ingredients), batter them, and fry into a nice vegetable fritto misto. Some lemon juice or orange juice is all you need to finish it off.


Chef Dave Bruno

cook from your fridge ginger root

My dish is a shrimp and chicken curry salad-stuffed tomato.

Marinate the shrimp and chicken in chopped ginger, a touch of soy sauce, and olive oil for 20 minutes. Grill on a hot grill until cooked and cool.

Chop the chicken and shrimp to a medium size, add some mayonnaise, curry powder, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, fresh lemon juice, and salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Cut a large tomato in half and remove some of the seeds. Fill each half with shrimp and chicken curry salad, and serve on a bed of greens simply dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.


Now It’s Your Turn

Take our challenge with what you have on hand, go to your culinary happy place, and start cooking! Share your creations with us by using the hash tag #CookFromYourFridgeChallenge and tagging the CIA on Twitter (@CIACulinary) and Instagram (@theculinaryinsituteofamerica).