The Well-Stocked Pantry
February 16, 2004 6:58 PM   Subscribe

What Basic Foodstuffs Do You Always Keep At Home For Delicious, Impromptu, Quick Emergency Meals? A well-stocked pantry/larder/fridge is essential for lazy cooks who can't be bothered to go out for fresh foods and yet are able (and like!) to throw together a wonderful repast at a moment's notice. The list in the link is a bit extreme but nonetheless admirable. But what are the real essentials and what can you do with them? [More inside.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (47 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
According to an old gastronomic legend, "you are what you always have in your larder", because it presumably shows what you absolutely couldn't do without. What are your staples and what can you cook up with them?

No cheating! No fresh (or frozen!) herbs, fruits, vegetables, fish or meat allowed. Ideally, everything requiring even refrigeration is strictly prohibited.

We're talking way-ahead shopping here. Consider a minimum 3-month spread; no spoiling; additional effort or leaving the house. Think canned produce; cheese; preserves; pickles; salted meats and fishes; hardy stand-bys such as garlic; chutneys; dried pasta, et caetera.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:59 PM on February 16, 2004

Easy - the phone number for the local pizza shop. Maybe not a moment's notice, but no more that 30 minutes.
posted by dg at 7:02 PM on February 16, 2004

Doesn't this belong in AxeMe?
posted by keswick at 7:04 PM on February 16, 2004

pasta (and jarred sauce), soup, tuna, and a little Chef Boyardee (i can make pasta, soup, tuna, and Chef Boyardee with them) : >
posted by amberglow at 7:04 PM on February 16, 2004

Pancake mix.
posted by konolia at 7:14 PM on February 16, 2004

Always on hand: dried linguine, olive oil, can of anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes.

With this you can make anchovy pasta which has been anjoyed by everyone who has ever tasted it, even people who hate anchovies (I don't tell them it's in there). Excellent cuisine d'opportunitie and a bonafide hangover preventor (prepared drunkenly before going to sleep) or cure (prepared groggily the following day).

Boil water and get that pasta cooking. Gently heat a couple glugs of olive oil, add four whole anchovies, stirring until they melt into the oil and disappear. Add some red pepper flakes and chopped parsely if you have it, add chopped garlic (adding late means it won't burn). When pasta is al dente add it to the oil along with a quarter cup of cooking water. Mix and warm through, thickening the sauce. Serve as is or with grated cheese.
posted by donovan at 7:17 PM on February 16, 2004

Pork and beans, baby — pork and beans.
posted by jdroth at 7:18 PM on February 16, 2004

refrigeration is strictly prohibited.

Seriously? I've heard that in Europe refrigerators are not as common and not as physically big as in America.. but in the US it is pretty much standard fare for even the most destitute, it's a birth right. Americans do not live without a freezer and fridge, it is as essential as heat in the winter.

The list presented in the link is pretty good and mirrors a lot of what I keep on hand. Since Miguel has suggested to not include cold perishable goods, I will say things like parsley, onions, celery and carrots. Potatoes and rice. Bread. Apples and Oranges. Olive oil. Since I rely on refrigeration so much im having a hard time coming up with a protein other than canned fish.
posted by stbalbach at 7:20 PM on February 16, 2004

I always have a big bag of chickpeas and all the other ingredients needed ot make falafels, with pita bread always readily available (and as often as not some in the freezer.)

Sure you gotta soak them for a day in advance, but if I'm at the wrong end of a grocery cycle and hurting for something for supper it's always a godsend.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:23 PM on February 16, 2004

In order: Olive oil. Onions. Garlic. Fresh herbs are in the garden. Salt, pepper, tabasco. Tinned tomatoes. Pasta, rice and potatoes. Parmesan needs no refrigeration. Tinned fish (sardines, tuna). Flour. Pulses.

Cook pasta. Heat some garlic in lots of olive oil until the smell rises. Toss through drained pasta with pepper. Cheese optional. Who needs sauce?

Some basic culinary rules.

Everything tastes better with melted cheese (except dessert).
Everything tastes better with olive oil (except dessert).
Dessert mistakes can be covered with icing sugar.

Oh, and preprepared pasta sauce is for the weak. As for pancake mix...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:24 PM on February 16, 2004

Space coyote: if you pour boiling water on the chickpeas, you can cut the soaking time down to an hour or less.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:25 PM on February 16, 2004

I usually have most of the following around, in no particular order: pasta, rice, beans of various types, tinned tomatoes, tuna fish, sardines, ryvita, saucisson sec, jams, honey, butter, peas, pot noodles, oils (olive, vegetable, sesame), vinegars (balsamic, rice wine, cider), garlic, onions, lemon juice, dried herbs and spices from various continents, ketchup, kecap manis, sambal oelek, dried chilies, flour, baking soda, mustard (english, dijon, coarse grain), barbecue sauce, worcestershire sauce, hot sauces (tabasco, dave's insanity, maggi, habanero hot sauce from hell, thai sweet chili, etc.), nam pla, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, anchovies, peanut butter, soy sauce, maple syrup, eggs, rice noodles, lentils, split peas, salt, dried apricots, raisins, ground almonds, muesli, coffee (espresso, decaf), teas (jasmine, peppermint, english breakfast, earl grey, mango, turkish apple, camomile), cornstarch, papads, prawn crackers, coconut milk, cocoa, demerera sugar, caster sugar...

I should do some cooking one day.
posted by cbrody at 7:29 PM on February 16, 2004

I would second Donovan - "dried linguine, olive oil, can of anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes. " - and add : sesame oil, dried ginger, black pepper, cumin, tumeric, cans of organic black beans, various types of red, orange and baby lentils, cans of olives, chunky organic pastas, barley, many dried spices, "Tuong Ot Sriracha" thai hot sauce (essential), fresh walnut and other omega 3 fatty acid rich nuts, thai curry (MAESRI brand - green and red curries are my favorite), canned coconut milk, many types of rice - brown, white, long and short grain, basmati, wild, etc., split peas.....oh boy, I'm leaving out all the best stuff, but I'm tickled that Metafilter is back up......
posted by troutfishing at 7:37 PM on February 16, 2004

My pantry is not too far off the list in the original link, though I don't ever have refrigerator biscuits (I am a Southerner... I can make them from scratch in nearly the time it takes to wrestle the prefab ones out of the can) and I can honestly say I don't stock my larder with pirogi or nearly that much cheese.
posted by janespeed at 7:39 PM on February 16, 2004

And most of the things cbrody just listed as well....

Not that this is the "quick" way...

Oh - QUICK, you say? - OK

Cook your rice, pasta, lentils and beans a few days ahead and rotate/consume as necessary to maintain a fresh stock. 'mmmmkay ?

Throw these in with fresh vegetables/meats/fish/tofu/etc


! $$$$ Profit !..........

Ooops - I meant enjoy !
posted by troutfishing at 7:44 PM on February 16, 2004

No fresh (or frozen!) herbs... allowed

Now wait a second; I rely heavily on the herbs growin in my yard; rosemary, thyme, sage, chives, and oregano are hardy year round (at least some varieties) and basil, mint, and tarragon (among many others) are hardy from early March to late October where I live; why can't I take advantage of them? Also, wild laurel/bay is plentiful here, and wild onions are profuse in the spring but can be found in any warm month, adding a garlic/onion flavor when needed. For many staples, especially for flavoring, the easiest way to keep them is to grow them.

On preview: janespeed, would you share your biscuit recipe with us? I love cooking but baking is not my strong point, so I am generally stuck with frozen biscuits.
posted by TedW at 7:45 PM on February 16, 2004

Hershey's Smore's Bars (I've eaten 6 of them today) & Dr. Pepper, any other foodstuffs are superfluous.
posted by jonmc at 7:49 PM on February 16, 2004

Everything tastes better with melted cheese (except dessert).
Everything tastes better with olive oil (except dessert).
Dessert mistakes can be covered with icing sugar.

I forgot where I heard it (probably here on MeFi), but any recipe can be improved by doubling the bacon and adding chocolate.
posted by turaho at 7:52 PM on February 16, 2004

Basil pesto and pasta. The pesto is homemade, and kept in the freezer, but you could keep some store-bought in the cupboard. Popcorn, salt and oil. Baked beans. Lots of stufff from the list, but usually not all at once.

Booze and wine (beer requires refrigeration) perk up even the most pathetic meal.
posted by theora55 at 7:56 PM on February 16, 2004

ingredients for matriciana. mmmm.
posted by specialk420 at 7:57 PM on February 16, 2004

Well, wow me with a feather if American pantries aren't much more similar to European larders than their cuisines! It's like a coming-together or something.

Here in Portugal, we shop every day. Shops are within walking distance, fresh produce and fish arrive daily (except Sundays and Mondays) so we enjoy going out with a really small basket to buy minute quantities of whatever arrived that day. The objective is to use everything for lunch and dinner.

We all have fridges, btw, but they're mainly used to cool things which aren't good warm - beer, Coke, wine - and keep left-overs. We also have stand-alone freezers (even the poorest) but these are used for emergencies. For instance: really fresh fish you can't all eat on the day is instantly frozen. Also, when we cook an elaborate dish that freezes well, we make a large quantity and freeze what remains, in convenient portions.

It's fascinating that the American pantries here and their contents are practically the same as ours (though, of course, we always have "bacalhau" (salt cod) and lots of "enchidos" and "fumeiros" (preserved, salted or smoked meats and sausages).

Here is a typically Italian pantry link which seems to be a bridge between American and Southern European food.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:59 PM on February 16, 2004

*tremendous, monstrous envy of all those who have herb gardens*
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:01 PM on February 16, 2004

Korean Food.

And vinegar, if it hasn't been mentioned.
posted by hama7 at 8:06 PM on February 16, 2004

Space Coyote, with a pressure cooker you can cook chickpeas in 15-20 minues. An hour soaking works for me - put the chickpeas in the pot with water, bring to a boil, turn off heat, let soak for an hour, drain, add fresh water, cook. Lentils are the best - no soaking needed and under 10 minutes cooking.

Unrefrigerated things I always have on hand: Garlic, onions, olives (jarred), anchovies (jarred), canned tomatoes, rice (short grain white and some whole grain), lentils, shoyu and tamari, rice wine vinegar, sesame seeds, olive and peanut oil, konbu, bonito flakes, peanut butter.
posted by TimeFactor at 8:09 PM on February 16, 2004

eggs, butter, milk and flower. Together with some basic sugars etc, I can whip up nearly anything with that, like the applecake I just made as my apples were getting a tad on the old side.
posted by dabitch at 8:09 PM on February 16, 2004

Always in the cupboard: canned tuna, olive oil, garlic, dried spices, pasta (Rossi Pasta is the best), peanut butter, Tabasco green sauce, cornflakes, popcorn, tea, rice, black beans, canned corn, pasta sauce.

Always in the fridge: Milk, Cheddar and Romano cheeses, often salad, mushrooms (either fresh, or I saute huge bunches in wine and olive oil and add 'em to soups and everything else), bread, veggie burgers, soy crumbles.

Often: Turkey meatballs, eggs, bacon.
posted by Vidiot at 8:19 PM on February 16, 2004

*tremendous, monstrous envy of all those who have herb gardens*

any fool with a sunny window can have an herb garden. fresh tarragon from my kitchen windowsill, especially in the dead of canadian winter, is one of my personal joys.
posted by t r a c y at 8:32 PM on February 16, 2004

any fool with a sunny window can have a herb garden.

t r a c y : hey, thanks for the great, practical, for-dummies link! Although I live in an apartment, I have seven sunny windows and I'm definitely taking this up, specially as, apart from coriander and parsley (which are basically free in Portugal if you buy something else), herbs like thyme, tarragon, basil, rosemary, chives, chervil and marjoram, though inexpensive, are quite difficult to find here in Lisbon. If they all die (it might just be too sunny here!) or my cats bliss out on them, expect at least one healthy online curse! :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:45 PM on February 16, 2004

From the First Church of Alton Brown:
"Good Eats: Pantry Raid" 1, 2, 3, 4.
posted by wendell at 8:52 PM on February 16, 2004

Always on hand: dried linguine, olive oil, can of anchovies, garlic, red pepper flakes.

Interesting... I'd say those are also some of my pantry staples, in addition to tinned tomatoes and dried herbs which sort of makes a great pasta puttanesca without the olives or the capers. It's one of my favorite meals which I often make.

In addition my pantry has a lot of Asian staples: rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, rice wine, cornstarch, chili garlic sauce, and ramen.
posted by gyc at 9:01 PM on February 16, 2004

miguel - those would be Metafilter pantries.....

Not really very representative. Only 5% of Americans (I'd guess) eat decently.

Or, to quote AdamGreenfield - "95% of everything is crap" (!)
posted by troutfishing at 9:07 PM on February 16, 2004

gyc - beware those ramen (hydrogenated oils, boo hiss)
posted by troutfishing at 9:09 PM on February 16, 2004

I live in London. Why does Miguel think everyone here is in the US?
posted by cbrody at 9:11 PM on February 16, 2004

Wishful thinking, cbrody! ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:24 PM on February 16, 2004

Basic staples:

- Frozen boneless chicken breasts (you know, the 4-pound bags, I've got like 3 of them in my freezer right now)
- Trader Joe's Oraganic Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pesto (The one in the tall, skinny jar, it's the best sauce they carry)
- A large asortment of various ethnic and pseudo-ethnic sauces (eg. Plum sauce, tangine, teriaki marinade, curry sauce... too many to count, really)
- Alfredo sauce in a jar (just about every pasta sauce gets a tablespoon of alfredo thrown in for creaminess)
- 1 can each of cream of chicken, cream of celery and cream of mushroom soups, and one small tin of homestyle biscuits. (These things, along with some of the above-mentioned chicken and a day in the crock pot make the yummiest chicken'n'dumplins *ever*)
- Canned seasoned crushed tomatoes (good base for almost-fresh pasta sauce, great thrown in with any cut of meat in the crock pot, etc...)
- No Pudge brownie mix (I don't need to have milk or eggs or anything, and if I don't have any yogurt on hand, the mix only needs 6oz, so I can always pop over to the corner store and get a little single-serving container of yogurt.)
- Frozen berries for smoothies (A whole bunch of berries, french vanilla yogurt, and a bit of cinnamon... and what guest will say no to homemade smoothies?)

I know there's more, but not much else is coming to mind...

And my secret to making anything taste a little more exotic when I have to cook for company on short notice... A pinch of cardamom. Into just about anything. It goes with most of the flavors I use in my kitchen, and it adds that little bit of unexpected spiciness without being overbearing.
posted by antimony at 11:02 PM on February 16, 2004

Gently heat a couple glugs of olive oil, add four whole anchovies, stirring until they melt into the oil and disappear.

Am I the only one that was disturbed to discover that anchovies will melt?
posted by pineapple at 11:55 PM on February 16, 2004

I've heard that in Europe refrigerators are not as common and not as physically big as in America.. but in the US it is pretty much standard fare for even the most destitute, it's a birth right.

exactly. same for running water (that's why we smell so funny) and electric light (candelight is so much more romantic, isn't it, and oil lamps are just perfect for reading -- this having to do with light temperature and stuff). they're all not as common as in the US indeed.
but except for the humidity, I really like my European cave, thank you very much. and my dinosaur-operated Internet broadband (think the Filntstones and you'll get an idea) definitely kicks ass.
posted by matteo at 1:33 AM on February 17, 2004

Or, to quote AdamGreenfield - "95% of everything is crap" (!)

That'd be Theodore Sturgeon, and 94%, I think it was.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:45 AM on February 17, 2004


Although my version uses 98.25%.
posted by DaShiv at 1:53 AM on February 17, 2004

   I've had to stock pantries a couple of times (when I moved places), and I always buy:

- Long-grain white rice, soy sauce (Pearl River Bridge brand), sesame oil, cooking oil (vegetable, or lately, grapeseed), Chinese noodles resembling linguine.

- Canned Chinese food such as fried wheat gluten (mi ti), Chinese-style pickled cucumbers (jiang gua), Buddha's Feast (bamboo shoots, cap mushrooms, quail eggs, and more mi ti), Chinese-style sardines.

   I would also have Chinese shredded pork jerky (rou song). These (except the noodles) would all go to make Chinese porridge, something I can eat for days. If I tire of rice, I put the condiments in the cooked noodles. Three teas are also necessary: Chinese green and black teas (from Ten Ren or Foojoy), and a European black like Earl Grey, Darjeeling, or orange pekoe. Finally, these items are technically perishable, but I always need fresh ginger and garlic, and oyster sauce. On the Western side, I like to keep spaghetti fixings, tuna, and (regrettably) Vienna sausages.
posted by halonine at 2:13 AM on February 17, 2004

ingredients for matriciana. mmmm

It may be good, but Amatriciana it ain't.

/pasta nazi ;)
posted by romakimmy at 3:45 AM on February 17, 2004

Sturgeon was an optimist.
posted by dg at 6:21 AM on February 17, 2004

One of the things I least look forward to when I move is the prospect of attempting re-stock my larder it when I arrive at my new place. Without fail, my first few weeks will consist of me going to make something assuming I have an essential ingredient, only to find that I haven't added it to the store yet.
As I've moved 6 times in 5 years though, I've honed a reasonable list of essentials, most of which echo what others have already said:
essentials: olive oil; garlic; chilli powder; wholegrain mustard; balsamic vinegar; black pepper, onions; soy sauce; tofu
carbs: linguine/spaghetti and conchigle/penne; egg noodles; brown short grain and white long grain rice; rice flour and/or polenta; oats (for porridge, flapjacks and muesli); plain flour;
demerara sugar; honey; custard powder;
canned stuff: lots of chopped tomatoes; baked beans; peaches/apricots; kidney and cannellini beans; tuna; sweetcorn

If I can afford/remember to keep them stocked up: olives; sundried tomatoes; porcini mushrooms, almonds, cashews, dried fruit

I mostly live on fresh stuff though - the larder is just a continuous basis/flavouring!
posted by Skaramoosh at 7:00 AM on February 17, 2004

migs is back ! yay !
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:43 AM on February 17, 2004

Olive oil, garlic, and dried pasta. Aside from spices, I buy everything else fresh when I need it. That was one of the big attractions that drew me to Seattle, actually...
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:06 AM on February 17, 2004

My pantry is the local store. During an emergency, I would be eating ice or leftovers if any left. With me, going to the store is part of the fun/process of home cooking.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:34 PM on February 17, 2004

Two kinds of bourbon - Maker's Mark and Wild Turkey 101 - and several cans of Planter's Cocktail Nuts.
posted by drobot at 2:42 PM on February 17, 2004

« Older A Family Proposal   |   Bill Hicks Tribute Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments