Cooking School

Yum! January 2006: Company's coming

Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

Yum! January 2006: Company's coming

Company's coming
With our busy lives, it's often hard to find time to entertain, especially during the week. These dishes are handy to have in the freezer for impromptu occasions so you can spend time with your guests (not in your kitchen).

Casseroles and pies are the best choices for entertaining because they look impressive and generally serve large groups. Since these dishes also take longer to prepare and reheat, they are better suited to weekends or evenings when the urgency of eating quickly is secondary to conversation and relaxation.

Casseroles and pies that freeze well:
1. Chicken Enchiladas
2. Meatball Lasagna (or Mini-Lasaganas)
3. Flaky Seafood Pie
4. Chicken Pot Pie
5. Tourtière

Avoid freezing:
• Creamy pasta (such as macaroni and cheese) or bechamel sauces.
• Rice dishes (such as paella, pilaf or risotto).
• Casseroles with raw meat (such as unbaked cabbage rolls); cook either the meat or the casserole before freezing.
• Pies or casseroles made from watery vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers spinach and zucchini. For vegetable lasagna, cut pieces small and cook before adding to tomato sauce.

Storing and reheating:
• Insert knife into pie or casserole to test internal temperature. The knife should be hot to touch.
• If pastry or top of casserole browns too quickly, cover with foil partway through baking.
• Cool foods completely in the refrigerator before freezing. Leave space in container for expansion during freezing.
• Defrost foods in refrigerator before reheating. Once defrosted, foods should be eaten immediately and not refrozen.

The best of what's left
Roast recipes provide excellent leftovers for freezing when thinly sliced or chopped and stored in their own gravy. Plus, it's easy to roast two chickens at once or make double the gravy to have enough for leftovers or to turn into Shepherd's Pie (see recipe below).

Roasts in sauce/gravy:
1. Hickory Pulled Pork
2. Perfect Pot Roast
3. Classic Roast Chicken with Gravy
4. Garlic Horseradish Sirloin Roast
5. Pork Roast in Onion Gravy

Avoid freezing:
• Cooked ham becomes rubbery and watery.
• Cooked fish becomes dry or watery.
• Cooked beef ribs and pork ribs dry out.

Storing and reheating:
• Cool foods completely in the refrigerator before freezing. Leave space in container for expansion during freezing.
• For large roasts: Remove meat from the bone (remove stuffing from poultry and pork roasts) and thinly slice. Freeze in gravy or sauce.
• Defrost foods in refrigerator before reheating. Once defrosted, foods should be eaten immediately and never refrozen.

Leftovers Shepherd's Pie:
• Combine about 4 cups (1 L ) diced cooked meat (such as beef, chicken or turkey), 1 cup (250 mL) each cooked diced carrots and peas and about 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) gravy; freeze. Defrost in refrigerator. Reheat, covered, in ovenproof dish in 400°F (200°C) oven until hot, about 30 minutes.
• Meanwhile, prepare 5 cups (1.25 L/ or about 2 lb/1 kg) freshly mashed potatoes. Spread over top and broil until crusty and brown, about 7 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Yum! Jan. 9: Foods that freeze
Lamenting the amount of prepared dinners you buy? Or is one of your resolutions for 2006 to cook more and take out less? Then stay tuned over the next three weeks as we make cooking a little easier with tips and recipes for foods that freeze well.

To regain control over weeknight meals, the first step is to develop a repertoire that you can prepare ahead, especially dishes that can be slow cooked on weekends or easily doubled on weeknights then frozen. In the first installment, you'll see that foods cooked in sauce are ideal for freezing.

Saucy foods freeze well:
1. Just-Like-Moma's Pasta Sauce
2. Braised Beef and Rosemary Pasta Sauce
3. Really Good Beef and Bean Chili
4. Jerk Pork Stew
5. Chicken Braised with Sweet Peppers

Avoid freezing:
• Cream sauces can split or curdle after being frozen and reheated. For dishes such as Beef Stroganoff Toss for Two, freeze without sour cream and horseradish; stir in when reheating.
• Vegetables with high water content can become mushy after being frozen. Sauces with eggplant, green beans, potatoes and zucchini are best eaten fresh or refrigerated and reheated.

Storing and reheating:
• Stock up on plastic containers with tight-fitting lids (some, such as Gladware, even make the transition from freezer to oven). Depending on your routine, single-portion containers can be handy.
• Cool foods completely in the refrigerator before freezing. Leave space in container for expansion during freezing.
• Use foods within one month, discarding anything that has freezer burn.
• Defrost foods in refrigerator before reheating. Once defrosted, foods should be eaten immediately and never refrozen.

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Yum! January 2006: Company's coming

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