- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Rodale Books (August 17, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1605294691
- ISBN-13: 978-1605294698
- Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,396,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cook & Freeze: 150 Delicious Dishes to Serve Now and Later Paperback – August 17, 2010
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About the Author
DANA JACOBI is the author of 10 best-selling cookbooks, including The 12 Best Foods Cookbook and Amazing Soy. She is a a culinary instructor and lecturer and writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column, Something Different. She has appeared on national media as a spokesperson for several companies. She lives in New York City.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
everything you need to know
Serving dishes from the freezer saves time and money. Doing it successfully depends on what you make and how you store, defrost, and reheat it.
Not all dishes freeze equally well or should be handled the same way after freezing. I have experimented to find what works best. The result is dishes that win raves when you serve them immediately and are still delicious when you serve them from the freezer. To assure this, the recipes in this book include directions for each step--from freezing and defrosting to reheating- -that are perfected for each dish. As a result, your Double Chocolate Layer Cake and other baked goods will remain moist when the freezer wants to dry them out. Soups and stews will have lively flavors, meats will stay tender, and vegetables will remain appealing when reheated.
This book also includes many casseroles, which are freezer favorites, in recipes that offer a unique choice. When condensed soup is called for, you have the option to replace it with a homemade and natural equivalent. These creamy "souper sauces" I have created also happen to be gluten-free.
how freezing works
As foods freeze, the water in the cells of vegetables, meats, and other foods turns to ice crystals. The ice preserves food by slowing down deterioration caused by microorganisms, including bacteria, that leads to decay. These microorganisms must have water to function. Turning the water to ice prevents them from growing and creating reactions that make food spoil. It is important to note that depriving microorganisms of water does not kill them. This means food must be kept solidly frozen at 0°F or lower to be safely preserved.
The more quickly foods freeze, the smaller the ice crystals that form. Compare serving grainy refrozen ice cream to the creamy original and you will see why the smallest crystals are desirable. Fine ice crystals maintain better flavor, as well, because they do not rupture cell walls. As food defrosts, the ruptured cells collapse and moisture flows out. Think of the watery collapse of a defrosted strawberry and you'll have a good picture of the effect of ruptured cells.
To store food properly, your freezer needs to be at 0°F, and even colder when you are adding food to be frozen. Most freezers have a thermostat dial you can turn down. Others have a "fast freeze" function to switch on when adding foods to freeze. Once the new items are frozen, you can return the freezer to around 0°F. A freezer thermometer helps you make sure the freezer is reaching and maintaining the proper temperature and costs $20 or less. I like Maverick's RF-02 digital refrigerator/freezer thermometer for a combination refrigerator/freezer or Taylor's thermometers for freezers.
air is the enemy
When air reaches frozen food, it causes freezer burn, gray patches that are hard and tough. Food with freezer burn is dry and off-tasting. The air can be from the outside or inside. Air pockets in a container of frozen soup, for example, allow big ice crystals to form and then evaporate, causing freezer burn. Sealing food airtight requires both the right packaging and good technique.
freezing is not forever
While freezing preserves foods, they still deteriorate over time. We have all heard about a roast that languished in the freezer for years. If it was not covered with freezer burn and was still edible, odds are it tasted like a defrosted ice cube.
Since flavors fade long before frozen food becomes inedible, the storage times I recommend are the result of checking dishes after different amounts of time in the freezer. Stored longer, they absolutely will be edible; however, they just will no longer have maximum flavor and optimum texture.
the right materials
Packaging should preserve food's moisture content while protecting its nutrition, color, and texture. Plastic freezer bags, plastic wrap made for freezing, and heavy-duty aluminum foil provide the easiest and most space- saving, effective protection. I am also in love with my Food Saver, a machine that vacuum seals food, but let's come back to that later.
Heavy-Duty Plastic Bags
Heavy-duty bags with a zipper seal made specifically for freezing in 1- quart and 1- and 2-gallon sizes are indispensable.
Excellent for storing any liquid and semiliquid, including soups, stews, sauces, and any dish that flows.
Also good for holding individually wrapped baked goods.
Unwrapped foods like meatballs and cookies, and plastic-wrapped items such as cake layers or casseroles, can get icy and dry out inside a bag.
Plastic Freezer Wrap
Made to be airtight, freezer wrap is heavier, clings tighter than regular plastic wrap, and protects flavor while sealing in moisture better, I recommend pressing it directly onto the surface of sauces, casseroles, puddings, and other dishes. This is particularly helpful when the contents do not completely fill a baking dish or plastic container.
Wide width requires cutting for smaller items.
Press-and-seal type does not cling to dry foods such as burritos and cupcakes. It also makes eliminating all of the air difficult. However, for short-term freezing of individual chicken breasts, chops, and burgers, I recommend it highly.
Aluminum Foil and Pans
Using heavy-duty foil to over-wrap plastic-wrapped food assures it is well protected and helps keep its flavors fresh.
Use heavy-duty foil because freezing makes regular foil brittle.
Heavy-duty foil baking pans go easily from freezer to oven to table.
Does not seal surface of foods as well as plastic wrap.
Folding required to seal is bulky.
Foil baking pans do not conduct heat as well as other materials.
Protect crushable foods, including pies, cupcakes, and cookies.
Allow a neatly organized freezer.
Unless made to use for freezing, plastic containers are brittle at low temperatures, so do not use take-out containers or ordinary containers from packaged foods.
Look for the snowflake symbol, which indicates containers are appropriate for use in the freezer.
Take up more space than plastic bags for storing liquids.
Airspace at top allows freezer burn. To minimize this, be sure the sealing system is airtight and fill containers fully (see "Pack Like a Pro" on page 10).
Here's How: Ladle food into the container. Press plastic freezer wrap onto the surface of the food, then open-freeze to freeze the food quickly (see page 8). When the food is solid, seal the container, leaving the plastic freezer wrap beneath the cover if there is a gap between the top of the contents and the cover. Return the container to the freezer.
Glass and Ceramic
The most attractive choice.
Conduct heat well. Before using a dual-purpose dish made for both freezer and oven, always check with the manufacturer to make sure if it will tolerate the sudden temperature change of going directly from freezer to oven.
Costly because freezing ties up multiple baking dishes.
Require the most room in the freezer unless frozen food is unmolded, wrapped, and then returned to its original dish for reheating.
More difficult to wrap with an airtight seal.
A system using heavy plastic bags and an appliance that sucks out the air and then heat-seals the bag. This is the optimal way to freeze certain foods at home.
Removes all the air and makes an airtight seal. The best way of protecting flavor and avoiding freezer burn.
Ideal for many dry foods and already frozen dishes.
Requires a special appliance that is costly and takes up room.
Bags are costly.
Foods containing liquid, including soups and skillet dishes with sauce, must be frozen and then sealed.
Pressure crushes even some frozen items, such as cupcakes and waffles, unless you buy special containers.
Scotch tape, masking tape, and paper labels do not stick when cold, and any writing on them is not indelible.
I like Label Once Erasable Food Labels because they stick to any packaging and are indelibly waterproof. When you use a permanent marker and the special eraser in the starter kit, they are easily and truly erasable and reusable.
the big chill
Following a few rules is essential for good results in freezing. Here is the first and most important one.
Think Ahead, Think Small
Once most dishes are frozen, the entire amount must be defrosted. You cannot thaw one portion from a quart of soup or half a frozen lasagna. And thawed food cannot be refrozen, so forget about returning leftovers to the freezer. Instead, think ahead and consider freezing foods in one- or two- portion amounts. Even in a large household, this allows flexibility to suit changing schedules and individual preferences. Another benefit is that small amounts freeze, defrost, and reheat much faster.
SEVEN COMMANDMENTS FOR FREEZING
. Cool food to room temperature and then chill it in the refrigerator before freezing. This preserves the quality by helping foods freeze faster. (Baked goods are the exception. Most are frozen without chilling.) I recommend chilling dishes on a wire rack set on a plate on the bottom of your refrigerator--its the coldest area. This cools the food more rapidly while catching spills. . Use wide, flat containers as much as possible. This exposes the greatest surface area of the food to cold air. Do not use plastic containers from take-out or commercially prepared foods, which may crack in the freezer. . Use containers that are just large enough for the food you want to freeze. Headspace is necessary as foods expand in freezing, but empty space encourages freezer burn. With experience, you will know what is just right. . Freeze foods on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or wax paper. This prevents plastic bags and other containers from sticking. Chill the baking sheet before adding the food to speed freezing. . Place only food that is already firmly frozen on wire racks in the freezer. Forget once and you will always remember prying off a bag of soup that sagged into the spaces of the rack. . Allow space so cold air can circulate around food while it freezes. Once frozen, stacking packages tightly to save space is fine. (To protect baked goods from crushing, shelter them in plastic containers; see page 4.) . Avoid UFOs (unidentified frozen objects) by labeling everything with the date, contents, amount, and directions for defrosting and reheating (see the opposite page for labels to use).
THREE MORE COMMANDMENTS
. Keep an inventory list on or near the freezer and use it. Include the date the dish was frozen. . Place only plastic-covered racks in the freezer, as packaging can stick to cold metal. . Group similar dishes together, such as main dishes, soups, or desserts. This speeds searching and avoids frozen fingers.
Three Methods for Freezing
Beyond these overall rules, some dishes are best frozen before and others after cooking. Some dishes should be wrapped before and others after freezing. In each recipe in this book, I'll tell you which method is best for that dish. Choosing the best way to freeze a dish also depends on how many portions you expect to defrost.
The most rapid method. This is ideal for freezing an entire casserole, individual portions of some dishes, and single pieces like meatballs, dumplings, and cookies.
Here's How: Foods that hold their shape, small or large, from meatballs and meatloaf to cookies, cupcakes, cheesecake, and pies, can be open-frozen on a baking sheet, then double wrapped or vacuum sealed.
Casseroles, lasagna, and other dishes that need help holding a shape are frozen in their baking dish, then unmolded and either double wrapped or vacuum sealed.
Liquid dishes like Sunday Red Sauce and Golden Cheese Sauce can be open- frozen in a container, then unmolded and wrapped or vacuum sealed.
Soups, stews, chili, sauces, and other liquid or semiliquid dishes freeze and store well in a plastic bag.
Here's How: To fill plastic bags easily, create a "stand." A cut-off half- gallon plastic milk bottle or empty coffee can works well. Fold the top of the bag out over the container and ladle in the food.
To seal the bag, zip it almost closed and then lay it flat on the counter. Stroke the bag from the bottom up, spreading the contents to fill the bag evenly up to the top and pushing out air bubbles, then seal the bag completely. Reopening and repeating this may be necessary to remove all of the air. The chunkier the food, the harder this is, and it may take a minute or two of repeated stroking. Sometimes, gently pushing a rolling pin over the bag from the bottom to the top is helpful.
When an amount does not fully fill the bag--perhaps 1 cup of chili, sauce, or soup--after the air is pressed out, folding the bag over further seals the empty part and reduces the risk of freezer burn.
To vacuum seal liquids such as soup or a dish with sauce, seal the bag with a clip until the food is frozen, then heat-seal it.
For secure protection, either wrap food first in plastic freezer wrap and then in heavy-duty foil or foil-wrap, then slip the wrapped food into a resealable freezer bag. I find plastic plus foil protects flavors better, although I store some individually plastic-wrapped desserts, including cupcakes and Almond Tortoni, together in a plastic bag.
Double wrapping can be used before freezing foods or after open-freezing. It protects food in a casserole or baking dish or on its own (see "Super Space Saver," on page 10).
Here's How: Center the food on a length of plastic wrap long enough to cover the top twice. Smooth the wrap tightly against the food from one side, then the other, pressing it onto the surface, particularly for casseroles, pasta, and other dishes. Press the plastic neatly down the sides and smooth the ends under the food.
Next, center the food on a length of foil long enough to bring two opposite sides up to meet over the top. Holding both sides together, make a 1-inch fold along the length of the foil, then roll down until you can press the foil tightly against the food. Mold the foil against the sides, then fold the ends up and over, flattening them to seal the package.
Cut foil to a smaller size for small items like a single portion of lasagna, a stuffed pepper, or a brownie.
Super Space Saver
To save room and not tie up baking dishes, pie plates, and other bulky or costly containers, freeze casseroles and other dishes, and then for storage, lift the food out of the original container. When ready to serve, drop the frozen dish back into its original container and defrost or reheat to bring it to the table.
Here's How: Coat the inside of the baking dish with nonstick spray.
Fill the baking dish with food. Depending on the recipe directions, either open-freeze immediately or cook, then cool and freeze.