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Good Weeknight Family Fare in 30 minutes or Less


Chris Amirault
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Trying to be more efficient post-dinner around here. Spent two hours blanching and cooling brussel sprouts, seasoning, stuffing, and trussing a chicken, trimming and preparing stack of steaks for SV -- then cooling them down to be finished tomorrow, then SVing rutabaga. Should have the base for two or three meals here.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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We also have a 'clean out the fridge' dinner about once a week.

All the various leftovers not already tagged for 'repurposing' get heated and put out, then diners pick and choose as they please.

We do this too -- we call it "fending," as in "Fend for yourselves!!"

We call this "pick and point" as in pick what you want and point at it before anyone else and it's yours. You snooze you lose. :)

We call it "scrounging." :laugh:

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I'm with John Rosevear - if I knew how to do one of those quote box things on here, I would've - get much better use out of your freezer and buy lots of freezer bags.

My wife's Indian so I make loads of curries, along with a big range of other stuff, and I've just got used to making huge batches, then freezing them in 2 adult-portion bags. It usually means we can have quite a feast of slow-cooked foods whenever we feel like it, either just remove the dinner in the morning so it's defrosted by the time you get home, or buy a microwave.

On the rare occasions when the freezer runs dry, there are all the other speedy options the helpful folk at egullet have been providing.

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I haven't read the entire thread yet, but my favorite trick is my silicone muffin tins. I hate them for baking, but they are fantastic for freezing. I make big batches of Mexican sauces (moles, pipians, chili sauces, etc) whenever I make them for a meal, and freeze them in the muffin molds. I usually freeze a more concentrated version (e.g. before you add chicken stock to thin in a recipe). Then, we often will have make your own enchilada nights - black beans, whatever veggies i have on hand, topped with an egg, etc. Topped with your choice of enchilada sauce. Or on top of burritos. Works like a charm. The muffin molds are also used to freeze portions of braised meats, beans, cooked brown rice, roasted tomato sauce etc. Love them for quick meals.

Sheryl Davies

www.breakingbreadblog.com

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I usually freeze a more concentrated version (e.g. before you add chicken stock to thin in a recipe).

This is a great strategy for freezing and refrigerating make-ahead soups, stews, chilis, stocks, sauces, etc. -- anything with a significant liquid component. If you make it with the bare minimum of liquid, or you reduce it, it will take up a lot less storage space. When you go to reheat and serve it as a meal, you just incorporate enough liquid to get it to the right level.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Sheryl - love the idea of the muffin molds - I think I will go and buy them just for that purpose - I have always admired the people who use ice cube trays for similar purposes but I have never done that either. The muffin molds will probably allow single or double size portions of leftovers rather than a whole container's worth in the freezer.

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We also have a 'clean out the fridge' dinner about once a week.

All the various leftovers not already tagged for 'repurposing' get heated and put out, then diners pick and choose as they please.

We do this too -- we call it "fending," as in "Fend for yourselves!!"

We call this "pick and point" as in pick what you want and point at it before anyone else and it's yours. You snooze you lose. :)

We call it "scrounging." :laugh:

It's "foraging" at our place!

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We get a lot of use out of ziplock freezer bags for liquids. Put however much liquid you want in whichever size works best, and then lay them flat to freeze. To get them flat, just lay them on any flat surface that will fit into your freezer. I use the small baking sheet that came with our toaster oven, but you can use anything.

We have everything from the smallest freezer bags for bits of chipotle sauce, or salsa, or highly-concentrated stock base, or fresh lemon or lime juice, or egg whites, or bacon grease, or anything that you only have a small amount of, all the way up to the gallon size for soups, stews, etc. Frozen flat like that, they stack perfectly.

Right now, we've got several flat layers of cream of poblano soup, split pea soup, beef stew (minus the potatoes, which don't freeze well and which I'll add later when I reheat the stew), corn soup, and chili, all stacked neatly, ready and waiting. Fridays are always really busy around here. So tomorrow night around 6 or so, I'll take a flat layer of chili, run hot tap water over the sealed bag to loosen, and then put the chili into a microwave container to heat up for dinner.

When you can get your stock, soups, sauces and other liquids to stack flat as pancakes, it really saves on freezer space. Or, after they've frozen flat, you can slide them in like we used to do LP records, or thin books in a bookshelf. Not only are these flat frozen bags real space-savers, it's easy to see what you've got and pull out whichever one you want.

______________________

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I usually freeze a more concentrated version (e.g. before you add chicken stock to thin in a recipe).

This is a great strategy for freezing and refrigerating make-ahead soups, stews, chilis, stocks, sauces, etc. -- anything with a significant liquid component. If you make it with the bare minimum of liquid, or you reduce it, it will take up a lot less storage space. When you go to reheat and serve it as a meal, you just incorporate enough liquid to get it to the right level.

I'm definitely stealing that one. And greetings, Sheryl D!

Did a ton of prep last night for two straight meals at home with my parents visiting. For tonight, I blanched some brussel sprouts for a sage and brown butter sauté (maybe some breadcrumbs too), cleaned and cut up some potatoes to be mashed, and cooked steaks sous vide in a porcini rub to be finished a la minute on the grill. For tomorrow night, I've got a chicken larded with pancetta under the skin and trussed with some rosemary & marjoram in the cavity; I'll roast that tonight to be eaten cold with some green beans and brown rice. I think.

This prep the night before after dinner has its drawbacks -- exhaustion is one -- but it is enabling me to enjoy cooking and put some good food on the table quickly upon my arrival home.

I really appreciate all the ideas here, folks. Keep 'em coming!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I usually freeze a more concentrated version (e.g. before you add chicken stock to thin in a recipe).

This is a great strategy for freezing and refrigerating make-ahead soups, stews, chilis, stocks, sauces, etc. -- anything with a significant liquid component. If you make it with the bare minimum of liquid, or you reduce it, it will take up a lot less storage space. When you go to reheat and serve it as a meal, you just incorporate enough liquid to get it to the right level.

I'm definitely stealing that one. And greetings, Sheryl D!

I really appreciate all the ideas here, folks. Keep 'em coming!

The easiest and quickest way to reduce your stock to the minimum of liquid is to do it in a skillet on high heat. But keep a very close eye on it. As the liquid gets low, it goes VERY quickly. I've burned several skillets over the years due to getting distracted at the penultimate moment.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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If you reduced to enable more efficient storage space, when it's time for use - I am guessing you probably would enhance with water as opposed to adding yet more flavor from stock?

Yes, at least speaking just for myself anyway. The mixture has such concentrated levels of flavors, salt and other seasoning that you need to add something that thins it out, rather than adding more. Of course, that doesn't necessarily have to be just water. Sometimes it's milk or wine or a combination of non-seasoned liquids.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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We get a lot of use out of ziplock freezer bags for liquids. <snip>

______________________

I do this a lot too but have found that even with heavy-duty freezer bags and regardless of care in storage most of the bags will have sprung leaks by the time they are thawed for use. No big deal as long as one is aware of the possibility doesn't just stick a bag in the fridge to thaw unfettered.

The Big Cheese

BlackMesaRanch.com

My Blog: "The Kitchen Chronicles"

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"The Flavor of the White Mountains"

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We get a lot of use out of ziplock freezer bags for liquids. <snip>

______________________

I do this a lot too but have found that even with heavy-duty freezer bags and regardless of care in storage most of the bags will have sprung leaks by the time they are thawed for use. No big deal as long as one is aware of the possibility doesn't just stick a bag in the fridge to thaw unfettered.

True that. I usually fetter by laying them on a plate to thaw, whether on the counter, or in the microwave, or fridge.

Usually I just loosen them a bit before folding over to break the frozen stuff inside into halves, and then dump that into another container to heat.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Zipper bags are efficient but it's only a matter of time before you have a catastrophic release. Square containers, if you fill them completely, are almost as efficient and a lot less disaster-prone (also less wasteful).

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Zipper bags are efficient but it's only a matter of time before you have a catastrophic release. Square containers, if you fill them completely, are almost as efficient and a lot less disaster-prone (also less wasteful).

Well, to each his own, and obviously not every solution is going to be the best thing for every person, but I've been doing this for some 30+ years and although I'm sure it's possible, I personally have yet to have a "catastrophic release."

I put the bag into an appropriate-sized mixing bowl to fill. Then make sure it's very well sealed with as much air as possible out of it. Then the bag goes onto my toaster-oven cookie sheet to flatten out, and then it goes, cookie sheet and all, into the freezer to harden.

Naturally, though, everyone is free to look through all of these ideas and suggestions and select the ones that appear to be most appropriate for their individual situations.

_______________________

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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This one?

For tomorrow night, I've got a chicken larded with pancetta under the skin and trussed with some rosemary & marjoram in the cavity[.]

Those were whole chickens. I put some sliced pancetta stresa under the skin of the breast, thigh and leg meat, along with a few rosemary needles. I then stuffed the cavity with the herbs and some pancetta end pieces. Let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days and then roasted it on a stainless sauté pan in a 350F oven for 90 min or so, rested for 40. It was terrific.

This weekend I spent a ton of time preparing food for the work week. I prepared several more chicken breasts using the method above, made a massive batch of posole, prepared several servings of butternut squash, cooked a few artichokes, prepped a batch of pancetta that was done curing, made two pollock meals in the Sous Vide Supreme -- one for later -- and prepped some short ribs for dinner Wednesday. Apple picking, too. Trying to settle into a groove....

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Inspired by this thread - and particularly appalled at what passed for dinner on a couple of occasions this week - I spent today batch cooking.

We now have 4x4 portion ziplock bags of Italian slow cooked sausage sauce (River Cafe cookbook); the same of Georgio Locatelli's bolognese; and another four meals worth of Moroccan beef tagine, all in the freezer.

I also slow roasted a leg of lamb and made Nigella Lawson's Ginger jam bread and butter pudding for dinner tonight.

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Chris, I'm wondering, do you have help in the kitchen, or is it just you? When I was growing up, my parents always had my brother and I doing minor prep work for as far back as I can remember. Homework waited until dinner was done. "Many hands make light work" and all that. Or is everyone else already engaged?

Or, like me, do you prefer to work alone in the kitchen with the music on?

Right now I'm starting to train my husband in the kitchen, as I'm planning to start grad school part time next year. He doesn't cook at all, and never learnt growing up, as he had a stay-at-home Mum. Along with a full work schedule, I won't be able to be the primary cook anymore, and I figure by the time I need him, he might be able to turn out a meal in under an hour.

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You will all be proud to know that I portioned, seasoned, and froze several meals worth of chili and chicken breasts this weekend. I also made onion confit, roasted a ton of garlic, and made two cups of salad dressing. I'm tryin', folks, I'm tryin'!

No, this one. Thanks.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Oh, those old things. I prepared a seasoned blend with some smoked Tellicherry peppers, salt, Aleppo pepper, and used that on some; then I made another one with S&P, onion powder, and some dried porcini mushrooms I'd blitzed in the spice grinder. One whole breast (two halves, actually) per bag with the rubs and some schmaltz; now they're in the freezer for a quick sous vide dip later this fall.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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We get a lot of use out of ziplock freezer bags for liquids. Put however much liquid you want in whichever size works best, and then lay them flat to freeze. To get them flat, just lay them on any flat surface that will fit into your freezer. I use the small baking sheet that came with our toaster oven, but you can use anything.

Right now, we've got several flat layers of cream of poblano soup, split pea soup, beef stew (minus the potatoes, which don't freeze well and which I'll add later when I reheat the stew), corn soup, and chili, all stacked neatly, ready and waiting. Fridays are always really busy around here. So tomorrow night around 6 or so, I'll take a flat layer of chili, run hot tap water over the sealed bag to loosen, and then put the chili into a microwave container to heat up for dinner.

When you can get your stock, soups, sauces and other liquids to stack flat as pancakes, it really saves on freezer space. Or, after they've frozen flat, you can slide them in like we used to do LP records, or thin books in a bookshelf. Not only are these flat frozen bags real space-savers, it's easy to see what you've got and pull out whichever one you want.

______________________

I've been doing that for some years and got tired of them falling out of the (top) freezer and of having to shuffle through frozen ziplocks to find what I wanted, so as a refinement on the technique, I do two things. When I have multiple zips of this or that, I slide them together into a larger zip which makes them easier to find and/or into a plastic container which holds them neatly together upright, as you suggest, like cd's or books. That way I can keep soups together, sauces, etc, and no longer have to duck the missiles raining from the freezer.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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