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Food + Cooking

Freeze Frame

With houseguests on the way, executive editor Doc Willoughby asks the intrepid cooks in the Gourmet Test Kitchen for their favorite freezer-friendly recipes.
frozen food

My sister and her husband are coming to visit from North Carolina, which is very exciting. There’s just one thing: Unlike many New Yorkers, they are not used to eating in restaurants every night, which means I’ll need to provide weeknight dinners. So I figured it would make sense to cook some meals ahead and freeze them. Since this isn’t something I ordinarily do, I asked the food editors for some recommendations. I got a torrent. Here are some of the top choices:

Soups and stews, of course, are prime freezing candidates. Kitchen picks include Kemp Minifie’s Black Beans, Curried Red Lentil Stew with Vegetables, and Venetian-Style Bean and Pasta Soup, all from our April 2007 issue. Ian Knauer’s Pozole Rojo from the September 2007 issue is also high up there, as is Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez’s lamb stew with spring vegetables from April 2002.

Lasagna is another big freezer favorite—but there is some controversy about whether it’s better to bake it first, then cut it into servings and freeze it, or freeze it unbaked, then thaw and bake. Ruth Cousineau, who is of the “freeze, then bake” school, created a vegetarian version that works particularly well with this method. And lasagna is just one among many baked-in-a-pan main dishes that take well to freezing. Melissa Roberts bakes her kibbeh (November 2002), for example, and freezes it, then later heats it up in the microwave for a super-quick dinner.

In addition to these complete dishes, many of the food editors freeze components of dishes or meals, which makes the final cooking super-easy. Melissa’s family loves Maggie Ruggiero’s yellow rice with pigeon peas from the Puerto Rican dinner in our September 2007 issue, so Melissa makes big batches of the sofrito for this dish, freezes it in small amounts, then takes it out when it’s time to make the rice. Lillian Chou freezes the leftover broth (often referred to as “master sauce”) from her mother’s Velvet Chicken from the May 2004 issue, then reuses it in future velvet chickens; it gets richer and more flavorful each time. Maggie Ruggiero freezes containers of the roasted vegetable gravy that ran in our November 2004 issue for later reheating; she serves it to her “gravyholic” vegetarian boyfriend, she says, when she wants to manipulate him. Shelley Wiseman likes to make a big batch of the “seasoning paste” for the stir-fried pork with long beans (May 2008), then freeze it in small containers and pull it out to make the quick stir-fry with pork and long beans or string beans.

For a quick little bite that will surprise people, try this trick of Lillian Chou’s: Make a batch of sushi rice, spread it out on a sheet pan, press it down, then cut it into squares and freeze them. Just before dinnertime, take out a few squares and slap a little oil on them; top with a teriyaki glaze if you feel like it, then throw them on the grill. When they’re golden-brown, remove them from the heat; top them with a scallion salad, a little tuna, or maybe just some nori, and you’ve got a great starter or side dish. Lillian has even made a breakfast snack by topping these squares with fried eggs and ham.

I think my sister is going to eat well.

Whether you’re entertaining guests or too busy to cook for yourself every day, you’ll find relief with our freezer-friendly recipes.