How to Use Your Freezer More Efficiently
There's a humble workhorse in your kitchen, right by the fridge. In It's Always Freezer Season: How to Freeze Like a Chef With 100 Make-Ahead Recipes ($27, amazon.com), you'll learn to lasso its powers, preserving fresh ingredients and complete heat-and-eat meals. Here are just a few brr-illiant ideas from authors chef Ashley Christensen and food writer Kaitlyn Goalen.
Christensen and Goalen warmed up to their freezer big-time after collaborating on a cookbook for Poole's, Christensen's beloved Raleigh, North Carolina, diner. The couple ended up with a gold mine of extra goodies from recipe testing—think béchamel, compound butters, and meat and vegetable stocks. "We froze a lot of those leftovers and spent the next year using them up, which turned into a fun way to make our home cooking much more delicious," says Goalen. In It's Always Freezer Season they share their expertise, and the contents of their shelves. "It's not all waffles and pints of ice cream," says Christensen (though they do offer a mean sage-and-sausage-waffle recipe).
One section of the book is devoted to savvy storage tips—we highlight a handful here—but the bulk is recipes for sides, mains, and even drinks and desserts that freeze beautifully and thaw in the fridge or at room temperature. You'll find everything from pulled pork shoulder to miso-caramel shortbread to Negronis. Devote a quiet afternoon to defrosting (and reading a novel), and a four-star dinner is served.
Christensen and Goalen use colorful, freezer-friendly masking tape to mark items and meals with their names, freezing dates, and expiration dates (the book has a handy chart). You can also note reheating instructions. Make sure contents fit snugly in their containers, whether glass jars or resealable bags, and stash individual portions for solo meals.
Deputy food editor Greg Lofts loves the authors' Freezable Quiche Lorraine, which you can freeze whole after baking and then quickly reheat for brunch. In fact, any dishes that incorporate beaten eggs, such as breakfast burritos and casseroles, freeze like a dream; just bake or microwave them from frozen.
Consider storing these other ingredients on ice, too: Dairy, produce, meat and seafood, and grains and nuts can all be frozen. You can preserve dense cheeses like cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Gruyère, as well as butter, without sacrificing texture. (Milk, cream, buttermilk, and soft cheeses should stay in the fridge.) If you want to freeze produce, blanch vegetables first to nix the enzymes that would otherwise make them mushy. Precooked items like Butternut Squash Soup, stewed beans, and applesauce will taste totally fresh after thawing in the fridge.
To prevent freezer burn when storing meet and seafood in the freezer, the authors suggest vacuum-sealed plastic bags for these, whether raw or cooked. Be mindful when defrosting fish and shellfish; thaw them fully in the fridge for at least 24 hours to avoid mealiness. As for grains and nuts, know that these pantry items last way longer in the cold; the same goes for baked bread (slice it first), croissants, piecrust, and fresh or cooked pasta.
Reprinted From It's Always Freezer Season, Copyright © 2021 by Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen. Published by Ten Speed Press an Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.