I’m a Food & Wine Editor, and Sometimes My Kids Eat Salami for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Those mixed charcuterie packs are my weekday cooking MVPs.

<p>Westend61 / Getty Images</p>

Westend61 / Getty Images

As a working parent with two kids who also likes to eat three (preferably home-cooked) meals a day, every week I inevitably reach the moment when I’ve used up all of the produce and protein that I’ve bought with a specific use in mind. Despite my best efforts to meal-plan for a full week, that moment is usually still a day or two short of the weekend, when my husband and I do all of our shopping for the week. Caught between giving up (aka ordering in) and making do with what I have in the pantry, I try to think of the moment as an opportunity to get creative with whatever ingredients I still have around. I approach each meal like I’m on Iron Chef, with my favorite ‘Secret Ingredient’ at the ready: The pound or so of charcuterie inevitably in my cheese drawer.

Mix-and-match packets of charcuterie have a couple of things going for them that make them a great refrigerator roulette ingredient. Because they’re cured and (very) salty, they’ll keep for a long time. They’re inexpensive, particularly if you (as I do) load up at Costco, and also if you consider that, because they’re packed with flavor and (very) salty, a little charcuterie goes a long way. But most of all, those rounds of salami and genoa and strips of prosciutto, are incredibly versatile far beyond the realm of sandwiches and snacks, and are a great way to quickly punch up all kinds of dishes.

Related: 7 Genius Ways to Use Salami

Inspired by the classic Spam and white rice bliss of musubi, I’ve layered thin slices of mortadella or salami into homemade maki rolls (they’re especially nice with a schmear of cream cheese and batons of cucumber or blanched carrot). Finely chopped, sliced charcuterie also make a tasty, salty filling for onigiri. Tender, savory slivers of salami or prosciutto are also nice in a salad (particularly if I can scrounge up a bit of salty cheese as well).

But it’s in cooked dishes that my salumi pack does the real heavy lifting. For breakfast, I’ll gently fry slices of salami with diced onion, then add beaten eggs for a hearty scrambled egg dish; for dinner, that same base of onion and sliced salami can be stir-fried with frozen peas and corn, and leftover white rice for a simple fried rice, or melted into my favorite jarred tomato sauce or can of tomatoes (laced with butter and onion, natch) for a super basic and quick-cooking riff on salumi Bolognese to serve with spaghetti.

<p>Elena Noviello / Getty Images</p>

Elena Noviello / Getty Images

My favorite discovery of late is that 10 minutes on a baking sheet in a hot oven transforms those whole rounds of salami and those thinly shaved silky ribbons of prosciutto into crispy “meat chips” that are an incredibly easy way to dress up any number of dishes. Those crunchy charcuterie slices can get layered onto slices of tomato and sourdough bread for a satisfying tomato sandwich or step in for bacon in a BLT, where its larger surface area guarantees that each bite of the sandwich includes a snappy, salty crunch. The meat crisps are also an easy upgrade to a charcuterie and cheese board (aka snacks for dinner), and can easily be shattered into large and small irregular shards that make great salad and soup toppings (call them extra fancy bacon bits).

Come the weekend’s farmers’ market, Costco, specialty grocer market day, I know my family and I will enjoy a string of intentional meals — but I always make sure to also restock the charcuterie drawer.

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