Monday, December 27, 2010

A dose of summer after a gluttonous Christmas...

Baby new potatoes, peas, lemon, olive oil, green onions, Italian parsley, mint.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dinners from the Fridge and Freezer -- Turkey Pot Pie (Day 5)

I know it looks like I skipped some days, but like I mentioned here, I had dinner plans with a friend on Wednesday. On Thursday, I ate the remainder of the split pea soup.

But last night's dinner was straight out of the freezer, boy! And it was gooood.

This is why after Thanksgiving or Christmas, no matter how sick of turkey or ham (or whatever) you may be, it's really important to make something cool out of the leftovers and freeze them in that prepared state. That way, you're not just reheating random bits and bobs that aren't appealing and don't really have a good place to go. You're reheating a dinner. A dinner that's new and enticing and not exactly the same thing you were eating before.

Last October, after I had eaten my fill of roast turkey, stuffing, gravy and mash, I decided to dice the leftover turkey, mix it with leftover gravy, frozen peas, frozen corn and even the last of the leftover stuffing, then transferred that to a freezer-safe pyrex container. Then I dolloped leftover mashed potatoes over top and smeared it cover the top, like a shepherd's pie. Then I slapped the lid on and froze it. You could also sprinkle with cheese.

Potatoes don't actually have a reputation of freezing very well, but I find if there's enough fat in the mix, they do OK in the freezer especially if after reheating in the oven, you throw the whole thing under the broiler to brown for a few minutes. 

Crispiness fixes everything.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dinners from the Fridge and Freezer -- Split Pea Soup with Smoked Sausage (Day 2)

So have I mentioned that I'm a bit of a soup genius? Because – not to toot my own horn or anything – I sort of am.

OK, maybe not a genius, but it's something I enjoy making and playing around with quite often. And I'm pretty good at it. 

Seriously – enter me into the World Soup Championships (and if there are no such championships, we should change that) and just watch. I might not win, but I would definitely get an honourable mention or something.

Take Tuesday's dinner, for example. I knew I had dried split peas in the cupboard, some kielbasa in the fridge, stock in the freezer and some veggies in the fridge. So this is what I did:

I rinsed 2 cups of split peas through a sieve and then simmered them, along with 4 bay leaves, in 2 L of water for an hour.

Then I added 4 cups of chicken stock, 2 large onions, 3 stalks of celery, 3 carrots (all finely chopped), 4 cloves garlic, minced and 4 red potatoes, cubed. Simmered that for 30 min.

Added 1 tsp. of poultry seasoning (it has all the perfect herbs for pea soup already in it!) and about 12 oz of diced smoked sausage. Simmered until the peas and potatoes were falling apart, about another 30 min.

Removed bay leaves. Seasoned very aggressively with salt (I think I used about a tablespoon for that amount of liquid... soup needs a scary amount of salt to taste good) and freshly ground black pepper. Splashed in about a tablespoon of cider vinegar. 

Aaaand... soup!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dinners from the Fridge and Freezer -- Day 1

It was while I was trying to cram an accidentally-purchased third bag of peas into my freezer that an idea came to me:

This week, I will not buy any groceries and only cook with what I already have on hand in the fridge or freezer!

Firstly, I'm not really a frozen food person. My freezer is where perfectly good food goes to die. 

But, really, I have loads of prepared food in the freezer, so that alone could/would/should carry me for a month. But rather than just reheat leftovers, I'm going to attempt to bust out my creative skillz with my re-purposed food. Ew, that sounds horrible. Second-hand? Gently-used? I'm going to stop now.

Tonight, I decided to revisit some braised short ribs in tomato sauce that I had leftover from Saturday night. The short ribs, although time-consuming, were dead easy:

  • Brown salted and peppered short ribs in a mixture of olive oil and butter; transfer to plate. 
  • In leftover fat in pan, fry up some mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, celery) until softened. 
  • Deglaze with a 28-oz can of tomatoes (crushed slightly) and 3 cups beef stock. Stir in a small can of tomato paste and minced fresh rosemary.
  • Add ribs and any juices back to pan; bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 2 to 2-1/2 hours. Thicken with a little beurre maniĆ©*, if needed.
  • Season with salt, pepper and a sploosh of balsamic. Done. 

Sorry there's not photo for that part, but you see... this is an afterthought. Just stay with me.

Originally I'd enjoyed these short ribs over smashed potatoes. Enjoyed is probably an understatement, actually. But after two meals of short ribs and potatoes, I was ready for something new. 

So tonight, as night 1 of Dinners from the Fridge and Freezer (in my best "Pigs in Space" voice), I took the leftover saucy ribs, added a package of frozen spinach and reheated until bubbly. I then tossed this mixture with hot cooked kamut penne. 

Why kamut penne, you ask? Because I had some that had been sitting in my cupboard for about 7 months and in the spirit of "use it up", decided to... well, you know.

Also, there was shaved Parm.

Behold! Kamut penne with short rib sugo, spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano. Sounds all restaurant-y doesn't it?

So good! Seriously! I shocked myself! Exclamation point!

Stay tuned for (hopefully) more fridge and freezer fun. Please note that Wednesday night, I'm having dinner out with a friend and will not be eating from my F&F. Don't judge.

*Beurre maniƩ is a mixture of equal parts softened butter and all-purpose flour that can be added to sauces and stews near the end of the cooking process. Sort of like a roux for forgetful people. Not that I'm forgetful, but I'm just sayin'. Just add a little knob of the mixture to the hot sauce and stir until smooth. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to cook out the raw floury taste and fully thicken the sauce.