Freezer Recipes: Just as Good Frozen as Fresh
Over the summer, I spent time at what my family liked to call “Camp Caryn,” aka, my aunt’s house. I had an internship (as many students do) at a wildlife center, and she had work (as most adults should), neither of which really matched up in hours. That being the case, my aunt was a professional at making meals that were just as delicious fresh as they were after being frozen. So, those nights when she was going to be back late (or vice versa), I could always count on a delectable and satisfying meal supplied by my wonderful aunt and her glorious freezer. Here are some of the recipes that really stuck out to me as being the perfect meals both fresh and frozen:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 cups uncooked leeks, large, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- ½ medium uncooked fennel bulb (white part only), chopped*
- 2 medium uncooked carrots, diced
- 32 oz canned clam juice *
- 14-½ oz canned diced tomatoes *
- 1/3 cup white wine, dry *
- ½ jigger liqueur (any type), Pernod *
- 1 Tbsp. thyme, fresh and chopped
- 2 tsp. orange zest, grated
- ½ tsp. saffron, threads, crushed
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 6 small uncooked red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 pound uncooked halibut filets, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ pound uncooked shrimp, large, peeled and deveined
- ½ pound uncooked shelled mussels, scrubbed, debearded
- ¼ pound uncooked scallops, or shuck oysters
1.) Heat the oil in a large nonstick Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the leek and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7–10 minutes. Add the fennel and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2–3 minutes. Add the clam juice, tomatoes, wine, Pernod, thyme, orange zest, saffron, and cayenne; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the flavors blend, about 10 minutes.
2.) Add the potatoes; return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
3.) Add the fish fillets, shrimp, mussels, and oysters; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the fish and shrimp are just opaque in the center and the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that don’t open. Yields 1 2/3 cups per serving.
4.) Made with fish, shellfish, onions, garlic, tomatoes, wine, and herbs, it is traditionally served with French bread. A touch of orange zest and Pernod (anise-flavored liqueur) provide extra zing, and a few potatoes make it a complete meal.
5.) After buying mussels, discard those with broken shells or shells that do not close tightly when gently tapped. Since mussels can be sandy, soak them in a bowl of cold water for 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat, using fresh water, until there is no more sand in the bowl. Then scrub them with a stiff brush under cold running water. The hairy filaments that protrude from a mussel are known as a beard. To remove, pinch the filaments between thumb and forefinger and pull firmly.
*Caryn Tweaks: My aunt uses sherry instead of white wine and Triple Sec instead of Pernod. Also, she uses fresh chopped tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes, and always uses a full fresh fennel bulb rather than just a half. She also harbors over how important it is to find a good quality clam juice, as it really does make a huge difference. Maybe even the difference of a good and bad freezer recipe? Who knows? What I do know is that this fish stew of sorts was perfect after a long day of feeding raccoons.
Scallop Miso Bowl with Soba Noodles and Spinach
- 2 tsp. dark sesame oil
- 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. ginger root, fresh, peeled and minced
- 5 cups vegetable broth, fish broth or bottled clam juice
- 2 Tbsp. miso
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 6 oz uncooked soba noodles
- 1 pound uncooked scallops, (about 24 to the pound)
- 6 oz fresh spinach, baby leaves
- 3 medium uncooked scallions, thinly sliced
1.) Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth, miso, and cayenne; bring to a boil. Add the soba noodles; return to a boil. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are partially cooked, about 3 minutes.
2.) Add the scallops and spinach; return to a boil and simmer until the scallops are just opaque in the center and the noodles are cooked, about 4 minutes. Serve the soup, sprinkled with the scallions. Yields 6 scallops with 1 cup broth and noodles per serving.
While my aunt did not have any huge tweaks to this recipe, she still emphasizes how important a good broth is to soup and stew recipes, such as this one. Regardless, this was probably one of my favorite recipes she made, as it had a perfect balance of both salty savoriness, that some know as “umami,” and an interesting tang. This is one meal that I was always excited to find waiting for me in the freezer.
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 4 tsp. curry powder, mild variety
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. Durkee Ground Cumin Seed, or other brand
- 2 Tbsp. ginger root, fresh, finely chopped
- 2 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 large tomatoes, ripe, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 10 oz spinach, baby leaves
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 cups water
- 2 Tbsp. cilantro, fresh, chopped
1.) Place 1 tablespoon of oil, curry powder, coriander, cumin, ginger and garlic in a large nonstick skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.
2.) Add remaining tablespoon of oil and chicken to skillet; stir to coat with spiced oil.
3.) Add tomatoes to skillet; cover skillet and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover skillet and stir to combine.
4.) Add spinach to skillet; cover and cook for 5 minutes more. Uncover skillet and stir to combine.
5.) Add salt, water and cilantro to skillet; simmer for 1 minute. Yields about 1 1/2 heaping cups per serving.
6.) Round out this classic Indian dish with a simple yet flavorful rice recipe: Cook brown basmati rice with 1/2 a diced onion, a small piece of a cinnamon stick and 1/2 a bay leaf. Just remove the spices before serving.
While this recipes is stepping away from the stew and soup route, there is something about this flavorful Indian dish, probably the mix of spices and spinach, that keeps it tasting just as comforting and delectable fresh out of the freezer as does fresh out of the skillet.
Spicy Cranberry Chutney
- ¼ cup dried apricots, finely chopped
- ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 cup of water
- 3 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 Granny Smith apple- peeled, cored, and sliced
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1.) In a medium saucepan, mix dried apricots, dark brown sugar, raisins and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
2.) Mix in cranberries, apple and lemon zest. Simmer 10 minutes.
3.) Mix in lemon juice, crystallized ginger and red pepper flakes. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
This homemade cranberry chutney is a keeper around Thanksgiving time in my family, and what’s even better about this tart and tangy chutney is that it keeps just as well in the freezer. What’s better than being able to eat this with your Thanksgiving turkey, than to be able to take it out of the freezer on a random Thursday for your turkey sandwich? Nothing.
Side note: These recipes are from my aunt; therefore, I am not sure what cookbooks and/or websites she received the recipes from!
Cover photo source.