40 days with my freezer

Posted by Anita on 03.11.09 11:49 AM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*Two weekends ago, I nearly lost a toe.

I’d been rooting around in the upstairs freezer (yes, we have two — doesn’t everyone?), looking for some mysterious recipe ingredient, when the Jenga pile that is the meat shelf gave way. Luckily, I jumped back just in time to avoid an avalanche of frozen bricks, but it was a near thing.

With no time to spare, I shoved everything back in as neatly as I could, and added “re-organize the freezer” to my to-do list. It took me a while to get there, but one cold and cloudy morning, I tackled this long-overdue task. I took everything out of both freezers, inventoried the contents, and put it all back in the least-precarious and most-logical way possible. Admiring my newly tidy spaces, I felt so virtuous.

But as I surveyed the inventory list, that virtuous feeling vanished. How in the world had we managed to squirrel away enough food to fill two standard freezers? Just the list of our frozen fodder filled an entire letter-size page!

Happily, this is one embarrassing problem we can literally eat our way out of.

Dark Days Eat Local ChallengeI sat down and quickly mapped out 14 meals we could easily make by combining two or more components of the freezer. (Beef plus chorizo plus buns equals Sloppy Joes. Beans plus pork plus sausage equals Cassoulet.) And that wasn’t even counting the dozen or so ready-to-eat meals — like beef stew, coq au vin, and chili — that we’d set aside. I quickly realized we could go for weeks, eating very well without buying anything but fresh vegetables.

So, just in time for Lent — which we don’t celebrate, but definitely respect — I floated a new house rule: No new meat until we eat down our glut. Which, if we’re diligent, I predict will happen right about Easter Sunday. Cameron happily agreed, with one exception: Bacon. There will be bacon. Because it’s just not the weekend without everyone’s favorite cured meat.

So far, I have to say that our experiment’s been a wild success. We’re clearing out the freezers — I can see shelves! — while we save time and money, which are never abundant, but seem to be in even shorter supply this month. The oldest thing we’ve eaten so far? A bag of Rick Bayless’s ancho beef chili dated 6/07, which tasted surprisingly fine.

One of the winningest put-togethers so far is a new variation on an old favorite: chicken pot-pie. With a bag of pie-crust scraps begging to be used, we decided to take a break from our usual biscuit-topped recipe. I’m glad we did, because the rich, warm flavor of the sherry and the savory pop of mushrooms in this version make it a worthy variation.

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*

Chicken Pot Pie
– adapted from Kitchen Sense

3-1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken (a generous pound by weight)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
6oz small mushrooms, quartered
1 tsp thyme leaves (stripped from the stem)
1/3 cup peas (not in season yet, so we omitted)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sherry or dry white wine
5T all-purpose flour
2 cups poultry stock
1 bay leaf
1T chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 recipe of your favorite pie crust (enough to cover a 9-inch pie pan)
1 small egg, beaten with 1 T cold water

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Melt 3T of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion until soft, the add the carrot and celery and continue cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until the mushrooms give up their liquid. Add the peas, 1 tsp of salt, and pepper to taste; stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Deglaze the pan with half of the sherry; remove the cooked vegetables and their juices to a bowl and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet, then whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the paste takes on a blonde color, Whisk in the stock and the remaining sherry, then add the bay leaf, thyme, 1 tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Simmer until thickened.

Add the cooked chicken and sauteed vegetables to the sauce. Transfer the mixture to a 1-1/2 quart baking dish (such as a deep-dish pie pan) and set aside in a warm spot near the oven.

Roll out the pie dough about 1 inch larger than the diameter of the baking dish and about 1/4-inch thick. Place the dough atop the pie filling, and press the overlap to the outside of the dish. Place the filled and covered pie on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with the beaten egg, then make a few slits to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 20 minutes at 425°F until the crust has risen and begun to take on color. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve.

Dark Days challenge, locavore, recipes



Comment by Genie

Yum…that recipe sounds amazing. I have never made homemade chicken pot pie, but it’s long been on my list of things to try one of these days. This is going on my back burner for post-Lent cooking!

Posted on 03.11.09 at 11:52AM

Comment by Jennifer Hess

I keep telling myself that a packed-to-capacity freezer is more energy efficient, but honestly, we need to take action soon. There are veggies I froze at the end of last summer that need to be eaten, like you we have leftover soups and such, and of course, there’s the meat. You’ve inspired me. And I’m sure Mike will press for the bacon exception as well.

Posted on 03.11.09 at 12:01PM

Comment by Tea

Ha–if It had been my freezer, you’d have the bacon already. I seem to be hoarding it or something!

Very inspiring. I’m doing something similar right now. Yesterday lunch was frozen RG marrow beans, bacon, oven-dried tomatoes from Mariquita (I like them a little juicy, so keep them in the freezer too), and tomato paste of unknown vintage. Beginning to see some space, feels good!

Posted on 03.11.09 at 12:05PM

Comment by Shelly

We’ve been doing that exact thing for the last month and it feels great! After that? The kitchen cabinets will get the exact same treatment.

Posted on 03.11.09 at 2:52PM

Comment by Mangochild

Like Jennifer, I’m starting to realize that it is time to make some headway on the freezer, or else it’ll be May and it’ll still be there – with no room for the goodies in the coming spring/summer. I’m impressed by your inventory process – if I did that, I fear it’d never all get put back properly or even fit (blush) – your example shows how necessary it is though.

Posted on 03.12.09 at 12:25AM

Comment by Elyse

So glad your toe is safe! That’s a lot of accumulated meat. I think it’s such a great pact: no new meat!! And can we talk about this wonderful chicken pot pie recipe?! Totally one of my favorites, can’t wait to make it!

Posted on 03.12.09 at 9:19AM

Comment by cookiecrumb

No New Meat.
Ohgod. We’re brining a brisket now for Tuesday, and bought a chicken today (for pot pie!).
Good luck on your freezer spelunking.

Posted on 03.12.09 at 5:26PM

Comment by Joan

Wow, I’m in good company! I have the same resolution (and, actually, a Lenten discipline for me, along with clearing out the closets). I will make an exception for corned beef on Tuesday. The pot pie sounds wonderful – you can never go wrong with something that involves mushrooms and sherry.

Posted on 03.13.09 at 4:30PM

Comment by Faine G

I’m loving the idea of cleaning out the fridge for Lent (or whatever reason you prefer) – and that pot pie looks nice. Didja see the Egullet Klatsch on A Week Without Shopping? Many awesome ideas for using those giant chunks o’ ice in the freezer…. http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=122070&hl=klatsch

I really have bruised the heck out of my toe on multiple occasions from Stuff in the Freezer. Glad you escaped…

Posted on 03.15.09 at 4:33PM

Comment by Anita (Leave Room for Dessert)

Ohhh, just looking at that lovely pie makes me feel warm inside. I have some chicken in the freezer that would work perfectly for this – thanks for the recipe.

Posted on 03.16.09 at 5:40PM

Comment by Chez Us

A certain someone has been wanting chick pie …. thanks for this great sounding recipe!

Posted on 03.17.09 at 7:48PM

Comment by Paula Maack

Gorgeous crust on that pie, Anita!!

Thanks to you, I too am inspired. My two freezers are completely full and so tragically neglected. I have no idea what’s in there anymore. It’s nice to know I am not alone. It was previously a source of great shame…

Wow girl, Cassoulet as a leftover quickie dish!!! You are amazing! I sit in awe… wishing I were a dinner guest of yours. :)


~ Paula

Posted on 03.29.09 at 12:39PM

Comment by Rachael

That was inspiring. And a reminder I need to go do the same thing. Glad you toe didn’t get smashed!
(And that line about eating your way out of the problem was hilarious!)

Posted on 04.02.09 at 7:57AM

Comment by Kerrie

This is sooo what I need to do. Do you want to come over and help? (yes. I do have two freezers)

Posted on 04.09.09 at 5:03PM

Comment by maris

This was a favorite of mine growing up -my mother used to make one with Bisquick. Sounds delicious!

Posted on 04.18.09 at 7:22AM

Comment by Sean

Just pulled a turkey breast out of the freezer, the only thing resembling food in our house on return from a 10-day vacation. A quick run to the market netted the rest of the goods. This is the pot pie you remember from childhood (only better than Stouffer’s). I cheated and bought the crust from Noe Valley Bakery, cuz you know how I am with pie crusts.

Posted on 11.30.10 at 6:35AM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.