Cooking under Quarantine: What’s in this freezer bag?
Or cooking in self-isolation and “what’s in this bag at the back of the pantry?!” Post your current culinary successes, failures, hacks, and other thoughts related to foodstuffs already in the house, your meal planning strategies, and gustatory experiments resulting in triumph or fiasco.
The one thing I’m running low on is milk, which I consider essential. I’m thinking of opening my stash of powdered milk that I keep for emergencies like this. I might head for Food Basics on the weekend for some dairy, if I think it’s safe enough (and if they’re open).
Otherwise, I’m well stocked with meat, cheese, fish, veg, et cetera. Today I opened a sealed bag of gyros patties that had been in my fridge since January, just waiting to be eaten. They were fine.
We found a chunk of corned beef that we’d cured last year and frozen with the intent of eating it later in the year. Once we trimmed off the small freezer burned area, it was good as it ever was. We ate it for dinner last night and lunch today, and there’s probably enough for one of us to have it again for dinner.
I’m gonna boast here - we defrosted the chest freezer a couple of weeks ago (not because of an anticipated crisis, just coincidence - it was sorely needed) and we catalogued the contents when we put them back. So, for the first time in years, we actually know what’s in the freezer. How 'bout that?
Several of the entries are just Green Stuff - spinach or some other greens. We’ll find out when we get desperate.
Based on this thread, we defrosted a big bag of frozen cherry tomatoes from last fall. I more or less followed Rachel Ray’s recipe for Pasta with Cherry Tomato Marinara but with modifications, such as dumping all the herbs (dry, not fresh) in the pan at the same time, using frozen cherry tomatoes, adding chicken sausage, using chickpea “pasta,” and for lovely wife, non-dairy cheese.
We had a freezer-thaw potluck party during a major power outage last summer so nothing frozen is older. Certain spices and grains-in-jars can’t predate 9/11/2001 so there’s that. Our dried ancho chili peppers might go back to the first Gulf War. But frozen stuff? It’s all relatively young. Some will go in the Instant Pot tonight, even if PG&E cuts juice again. Lines are down in this neighborhood because heavy snow; a PG&E truck carrying a new power pole crawled down our rugged mud road an hour ago.
The worst frozen stuff, usually brownish, hides in little unmarked bags. Freezer Roulette, anyone?
Hysterical! Just what I was about to talk about. We have a running list of crappy little jobs around the house we never get to in normal times. but we’re doing now. One was taking everything out of both freezers, cleaning them, and sorting thru the stuff. (Another is removing all the refrigerator magnets and cleaning the front of both appliances. That keeps getting pushed down on the list for some reason)
We really didn’t find too much weird stuff, 3 small baggies of corned beef ends, I might have mashed into a spread, but nah, they’re gone. One problem now is well wrapped but getting old fast packages of lunch meat. Yes, lunch meat can be frozen, you’ll probably have to squeeze the moisture out of it use, but it’s normally fine, I’ve done it forever. But short freezer life.
I like playing Chopped in my own kitchen, but husband for some reason prefers real dinners made from actual recipes.
I will say that baggies of frozen chicken breast and baggies of frozen banana puree look mighty similar after a while.
My freezer’s too small for any mystery, and my post is about freezing whole chickens and why it makes even more sense under quarantine.
The butcher skins and quarters the bird, cutting four fillets from the two breasts and separating the wings from the body and the thighs from the drumsticks. All but today’s meal is frozen in a big ziplock bag, with quartered sheets of baking (parchment) paper between the pieces so that I can pry them apart later, as needed.
Here’s what I do:
[li]With the carcass, I make a giant pot of stock that I use for soups, risottos, etc. [/li]
[li]The frozen breast fillets are brined overnight, then cut into pieces and fried with cornflake breading (better than breadcrumbs).[/li]
[li]I usually stew the thighs and drumsticks but would roast them, too, if I had an oven. [/li]
[li]With the wings, I make a smaller batch of stock, and there’s enough meat for 20 or more croquettes.[/li][/ul]
That works out to 16 copious meals, which is about a month’s worth of chicken from one bird
Something my wife learned in her sous-chef days is always to write the contents and the date on any container or bag you put in the freezer, with a sharpie. It saves a whole lot of uncertainty several months down the line.
The other day we had a delicious lamb stew made from meat my gf found in the freezer. It was really good! When I was cleaning up (my gf is a messy cook) I found the wrapping paper from the meat and saw that I had written (in sharpie) “dogs”.
No, it wasn’t dog meat, it was lamb scraps I collected when I helped my buddy butcher some lambs.
Good advice. I always do this now, after many embarrassing past mishaps.
The other day I excavated a quart of frozen homemade French onion soup that must have been 18 months old. Melted it down, heated it up, made croutons out of baguette slices and dill Havarti (no Gruyere in the house). Absolutely delicious.