Having grown up when microwave ovens looked more at home in the Jetsons’ kitchen than in those of most Americans, I still remember when at least one of our weekday meals comprised leftovers, carefully and even lovingly heated up either on the stove or in the oven. Sometimes the remains of a meal were metamorphosed into an entirely new dish, a pasta, a frittata, even a hash. Other times, especially with stews and casseroles, they were simply brought back up to serving temperature over a low flame or in a warm oven.
The few times I’ve knowingly had microwaved food (I can’t account for every restaurant meal I’ve had), it’s had a strange characterless flavor and even more unnatural texture. The extreme heat of the first bite was quickly followed by cooler and sometimes even frosted morsels. I haven’t even mentioned that weird smell that comes as the food is reheated in one of these modern wonders. When I worked in an office, I recall going into the lunchroom when co-workers were “cooking” their microwave gourmet meals in plastic plates. I wasn’t sure which was responsible for the aroma, the food or the plastic.
Today our microwave is used to soften a stick of butter that we may need for a recipe or to jumpstart the baking of a potato. I can’t think of anything else.
For leftovers, I go back to my roots and, like my mother and aunt, use either my stove or my oven to do the restoration work. The food is always as good and sometimes even better than it was on its debut. Such was the case last night, when I reheated our roasted chicken thighs from Monday night with our ratatouille from Tuesday. I placed both in a heavy bottomed pan, added a small amount of water, and cooked them covered for about 20 minutes starting with a medium flame followed by a low one. As they reheated, I prepared some fresh Basmati rice as a side. When finished, the chicken thighs were infused with the flavors of the ratatouille and the ratatouille was even more delicious than on the first night.
The old way of reheating may indeed take longer than the modern, but the 20 or 30 minutes difference is, in my opinion, well worth it.
Wine Pairing: Dry Rose