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Dang, leftover half-of-a-porkchop! What the devil am I going to do with you?  I am a modern conscientious meat eater, and therefore I feel bad throwing away any part of a noble animal that was sacrificed for my palate. Not only that, but since I try to buy sustainable, you’re freaking expensive– you might not be enough for a meal, but you’re still probably a couple of bucks worth of meat!

I guess I could chop you up and toss you in some rice or soup or something, but surely there’s something more interesting I could do with you– some way I could stretch you out over a few more meals. Wait a second… I know what we should do. We should turn you into a seasoning!

INSTANT UMAMI in a tiny glass bowl

This is a great trick that gives you a little something that adds instant umami to any dish. It’s especially nice if you’re trying to cut down on your meat intake and want to add a little meaty flavor to a dish.  The nicest thing is that it contributes to the ethos of ‘waste-not, want-not’– it’s perfect for small-scale quantities of leftover meat that you might otherwise have thrown away.

Next time you make pork or beef* and you have just a little left over, either before or after a meal– grab your chop and slice it crosswise really thin– about 1/4 inch. When you’ve used the entire portion, you can dredge the individual pieces in seasonings, or just leave as-is, depending on your preference. I dredged mine in a mixture of 1 part sea salt, 3 parts chili powder.

Arrange your slices on an oiled rack on an oven pan of your choice, not touching:

Now, here’s the deal: what we’re trying to do is to dry these guys out, but not to the point where they turn into jerky. We want them to have the consistency of a dry hard cheese.   What this means is that we’ll need to pay attention to the process and check frequently. This isn’t just something you can stick in the oven and walk away from, because it’ll be different for everybody depending on the initial done-ness of the cut, the seasonings you used, and the vagaries of your oven.  This is one of those cases where being specific in the recipe instructions wouldn’t necessarily give you the desired results.

Here’s how I did it:

1. I did not preheat the oven. Once I’d prepped my pan, I placed it in the oven on the second-to-lowest rack and set the temperature to “low broil.” If you don’t have a “low broil” setting, you can probably get away with about 500 degrees.

2. I checked the meat every ten minutes.

3. Since the meat was in the oven as the temperature increased, it lost its liquid very slowly, and allowed me to adjust as needed until the meat was at the perfect consistency. It took about 45 minutes to get where I wanted it– again, about the moisture level of a nice, hard chunk of parmesan, with no charring. This is important.

Because, now that you’re done, you have these nice, hard little nuggets of meat, and you take your microplane grater (if you don’t have one, you’re crazy, but could use the fine side of any old cheese grater), and shred those nuggets down to a dust!

“Would you like some freshly grated pork with that?”

The nice thing is that, since you’ve come pretty close to dehydrating the cut, this stuff’ll last quite some time. You’ll be able to use it on salads, in soups, on rice, on pasta. It’s as spicy as you prefer, and adds a lovely undertone of savory umami to anything you add it to.

Best of all, it means not wasting any of that expensive meat you bought down at the farmer’s market. Sure, you could just buy bacon bits, but those are salty, expensive and overwhelming. You’ve already got a quarter of a cut of pork roast your kid didn’t finish, so why not use it all?

*Theoretically this could work with chicken or fish, but we haven’t tried it yet, so won’t recommend it.