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May 29, 2010 09:49 PM


I've often heard that some dishes (stew, curry, cassoulet) can be 'better the next day'. So the sequence is: cook, rest (cool and covered), re-heat, serve.

What surprised me recently was that the same seemed true of some pork chops. Only half got eaten, and the next day the 'leftovers' were actually better (more integrated taste, better texture), both cold and briefly re-heated.

Can anyone advise on this practice and its scope? E.g. I guess that with pasta it might work for the sauce but not the spaghetti. With miso soup it might work with the dashi but not the miso itself. I'll try it, e.g. re. resting temperature.

The model I'm used to is that you get the ingredients, cook the dish, and serve --- but cooking-for-tomorrow could be interesting, and convenient for dinner parties.

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  1. in addition to the complex, long-cooking dishes you mentioned like stew, it's also a great way to proceed with things like hummus, bean dip, baba ghannouj, and blended soups (pureed vegetable soup, bisque, gazpacho)...really anything that's been pureed with multiple components or seasonings. letting it sit for a while allows for a more harmonious flavor - you get a more subtle layering of the overall flavor of the recipe as opposed to tasting numerous separate ingredients that just happen to be in same dish.

    7 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Harmonious is exactly the way to describe it. I worked in a small restaurant for a number of years, and it drove me crazy to have to serve certain things not only the day it was made, but within the hour it was finished. The garlic, the salt, the soy, the chiles . . . they were like little armies clashing on the tongue.

      The four I mentioned above always like a nap, as do beans, and pork (leftover brisket . . . mmm). Dishes like red beans and rice are always made in abundance in my house, because not only do the flavors come together after a time, but the rice becomes creamier, and takes on the fat and the spice.

      Poultry and beef (outside of those cooked in liquid), seem to be the exception for me.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Many thanks. --- So resting has at least a few applications! Any guidelines on time & temperature? I suppose cooking-ahead by 1/4, 1/2, 1 day are all feasible. As for temp: fridge, larder, room temp? (I'm not suggesting that there need be exact rules here.) I'm a little wary of chilling things too much, as I'm not sure they always recover.

        BTW, I encountered this effect also in making home-made body lotions. You get an inert base (like Simple) and add essential oils, say 3. It then takes about 3 days for the blend to integrate, and then you can get something which has its own identity, beyond the 3 ingredients.

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          Many thanks for the examples and your description of harmonisation. I'll try these things, though I'll need to experiment with (approximate) time and temperature.

          1. re: umamihound

            12-24 hours usually does the overnight is the easiest way to give something sufficient time.

            in terms of temperature, you should obviously store the finished product in the refrigerator. when it comes to serving, however, i'm of the opinion that pretty much the only things that should be served *cold* are frozen desserts. i like to take dips & purees out of the fridge about 30-45 minutes before serving to allow enough time to remove the chill. and soups should be served hot - best done in a pot on the stove.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I wonder about the demise of the larder. --- We can do hot-resting (meat in foil), ambient-resting (on the countertop), and cold-resting (in the fridge): but what about cool-resting? After all, wine and cheese like cool rather than cold temp. If we define resting as 'a process of maturation which occurs after an item is prepared and which enhances flavour' then they are resting just like the other items. And it seems that some starches don't like to get cold. Anyway, it would be interesting to compare the effects of cool and cold resting in cooking.

              On my definition above, freezing is a form of storage but not resting, since no maturation occurs. Are there exceptions? Does anything get better through freezing?

              1. re: umamihound

                "Does anything get better through freezing?"
                besides ice cream, sorbet, and gelato? nope.

                1. re: umamihound

                  <Does anything get better through freezing?>

                  I think tofu does, but with regard to texture, not taste. Pressing and freezing tofu makes it sturdier (and thus easier to stir fry) and also helps it absorb marinades.

          2. While it is said that the flavors have more time to comingle, I also suspect that it is to refresh your palate after your nose/mouth becomes acclimatized to the smell/taste. There are some flavors (smoke for instance) that after you smell/taste them more than a few times you get used to it and become unable to detect it. Thusly, giving your senses time to refresh themselves will make the dish taste better.

            However, in Eric Ripert's "A Return to Cooking", he mentions how many subtitles are also lost when letting something sit for a prolonged period of time. (He said when he was working for Joel Robuchon, that he would have to make a separate set of sauces both for lunch and dinner because Robuchon could tell that the freshness of the sauce had dissipated.) This must also be taken into consideration.

            2 Replies
            1. re: AndrewK512

              Many thanks. ---If the cook (and people around the kitchen) get an olfactory rest, they de-habituate and the dish has more impact when served, right? Point taken too about items which weaken through resting.

              1. re: AndrewK512

                Interesting about not-resting the sauces. I bet that many sauces would rely on volatile elements that would (by definition) dissipate even in an hour or so: aspects of wine, lemon, vinegar, citrus zests, etc.). There's a reason we splash a bit of lemon on some dishes at the last minute.

                That said, I share the original poster's sense that many things are better after rest--even in the shorter term. My favorite way to cook bone-in pork chops, for instance, is to apply a heavy spice rub with salt, let them sit an hour, grill them to just underdone, and then let them sit up to 30 minutes wrapped in foil, so residual heat and time work to finish them optimally.

              2. What a fun idea! Besides the very real issue that some items need a rest, stews, items that need a re-hydration {like a hummus}, some items seem best, a second after outa the pan.

                Meats do need a bit of a rest, but, how long? Yes, a Rare standing rib roast is probably not the better of them after a chilled to the bone then reheat. But a 10=15 minutes rest, I think so.
                What a grand experiment can unfold, test a recipe; save half and reheat after a solid cool down. I think a few pastas might work but not most, but if you can do hot fresh pasta with a reheated sauce, welcome the try.
                Miso, I think is a No, It is SO simple and so fresh that a reheat would be, not as good. But then I do used on occasion, instant miso soup packs, so ymmv.

                1. back in the 90s, a once popular now defunct modern italian restaurant here in manila once served my date some nuked lasagna. when we told friends about it, one commented that baked pasta benefits from "resting" and most restaurants did the same. i was dubious and consulted one of my mentors, an italian expat who retired here and he was adamant how such practices would never fly in italy. gordon ramsay also detests nuked frozen food. i personally prefer the texture of freshly cooked food though i do make batches of sofrito or thoroughly caramelized "meer-pwah" earlier in the day if i would need it for lunch or dinner.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: epabella

                    Actually, lasagna, was the one pasta dish I thought was very much better with a full reheat, And I still think so.

                    No DO NOT confuse reheat with micro-wave to make it hot. Nasty bad and not the same ever. And mind ya, I use my micro alot,

                    1. re: Quine

                      I agree that our family recipe of lasagna (tomato and meat sauce rather than white sauce) is at least as good reheated as freshly made, even when brought back from frozen. Of course, the reheating has to be in the oven and done carefully.

                      I'm not sure that a white sauce lasagna would perform the same way.

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        Depending on how you look at things, you could say that mousakka is a white sauce lasagna with eggplant substituted for pasta. It's one of those dishes that gets better with time, but when reheating it should not be brought up to "cooking temp." It's best served a bit above room temperature, but the trick is getting the temperature consistent all the way through, so a looooong slow warming time is the key..

                        In my experience, things that don't reheat well are things with starches in them such as pasta, rice or potatoes. Long grain rice is the worst because unlike medium or short grain, it rehardens in the center and reheating doesn't often domuch to reverse that. Some pastas and some potatoes store and reheat better than others. And freezing, as opposed to refrigerating, can also modify starch textures even more. When I freeze stews, for example, if they contain potatoes, I remove them, then add freshly cooked ones when serving, unless I choose to use some other starch, or none at all.

                      2. re: Quine

                        i'd never doubt a hound so i'll concede some foods improve with a reheat but i'll keep my blinkered view that as in italy, my own lasagna never gets reheated because it's eaten soon as it's served and truthfully, i'm afraid i'll end up drying it out or worse, burning it in a reheat.

                        1. re: epabella

                          Try this: make a pan of lasagna. Chill it so you can cut it in neat squares. Wrap each square in Saran then in a plastic bag taped shut. When you want to eat it, unwrap it and put it in a suitable dish then pour marinara sauce over it (I am partial to Trader Joe's Organic Marinara because it doesn't have a ton of salt and artificial flavorings) . Cover this and heat in microwave. It won't dry out. With a household of only one or two, such large-quantity pleasures as lasagna and moussaka are impractical without some such method of preservation and reconstitution, and also there's such a thing as convenience.

                      3. re: epabella

                        jfood is not sure how this will fly but here goes.

                        when he makes his lasagne, he always makes way more than needed. then he freezes with his bag sucker in individual portions. to reheat he places the bag and contents into simmering water for ~25 minutes. never burnt at all and always available for a quick hug-meal.

                        1. re: jfood

                          That water approach sounds ideal to me, but I gather that you have one of those foodsaver systems with vacuum? I have nothing but ziplock backs, which I would not trust for immersion heating.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            yes double-B...jfood has been using vacuum systems for over 30 years (remember seal a meal in the 70s?)

                            if there is one tool jfood recommends over most for a gift is the foodsaver freezer system.

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              i figure ziplock bags are good enough for immersion reheating, in an f-word episode gordon ramsay even went as far as cling-wrapping sea bream to 'suevee' them. also, alton brown used a straw to suck out air from a ziplock bag when a vacuum sealer wasn't handy.

                              1. re: epabella

                                I thaw items in ziplock bags immersed in cool water, but I avoid heating things in those bags, first, because I don't trust the seal with steam pressure inside, and, second, because I am unsure what happens with the plastic under higher heat (some plastics leach nasty stuff).

                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                  hello again, there're enough threads here and on other food boards about poaching plastic wrapped foods to sink a battleship but i checked - google provided around six or seven reputable links. and i'm not even a fan of the 'sussed-bidet' (inside joke among my other gastronaut pals) cooking method but for reheating it seems to have more merit. it depends what temperature you'll want to warm your food to. i'm ok with 60-70 centigrade (sorry for metric) and am confident ziploc bags will be safe soaking in a 90 degree water bath for maybe 20-30 minutes. many thanks to jfood for springing the idea, i'll be doing this alot from now on.

                                  1. re: epabella

                                    glad to help. in the winter there is usually portions of lasagne, canneloni, different sauces, braised short ribs, etc in the freezer.

                            2. re: jfood

                              great idea! leftovers is a great excuse for me to ape heston and hung and 'suevee'.

                          2. To umamihound: A whole new world is about to open to you because curry etc not only improves by sitting but you will enjoy the convenience of having the stuff ready when you want it because you can cook not only for tomorrow but but for next month. Six weeks ago I served Carbonade Flamande at a party and am happy to say that I had five pints of it left over to freeze---a rich dark stew of beef, beer, onions,and Portobello mushrooms. So five times since then it was quick work to pair it with potato or Spaetzel and I am so sorry that we've now finished it. Yes, do prepare stewey things in advance. One caveat: the texture of potato isn't very nice after it's been frozen---but, say, a curry made with chicken, onions, and green peas is fine.