Just Call Me Freezer, M.D.
Great results from a deep dive
Nick recently returned to us after a long Covid isolation. There have been multiple articles written about what the hell people who live in apartments (namely in NYC) are supposed to do when a family member tests positive. Masking around each other feels so sad, but in some situations, it’s necessary. What about the light switches? What I thought about most, perhaps, was the toothpaste. If you share a toothpaste tube with someone, how do you not share everything?
We were lucky enough to have the resources to send Nick away (hotel points = many free nights; Mark and Kathleen leaving for a trip = empty house roughly an hour away) so we could all be comfortable and push along. And, somehow, Holden and I stayed negative. (And he stayed in school!!! Such a win.)
When a partner leaves for a meaningful amount of time, all the things that they do on a regular basis become glaringly clear. Honestly, the thing I missed most was toilet paper: he always buys the toilet paper, and this time, I had to! It was very irritating. The other thing: our freezer.
We have a lot in our freezer — tons of Sitka fish, Glynwood meat, various stock, Holden’s chicken nuggets and Dr. Praeger’s, Ipsa. And while Nick was off recovering/waiting for a negative antigen test, our freezer stopped working. Our super came by to check on it; he said he could have someone come by in a couple days (!!!) — it was a holiday — but that maybe we just had too much stuff?
So I threw a few things away, and lo and behold, the freezer recovered from its troubles. What was slowly but very surely thawing was now back to its happy solid form. But the ordeal gave me a chance to look over the freezer contents, and I decided to cook.
It took a long story to get here, but I’m pretty thrilled with the meals that came out of my freezer dive, and, I’m sorry to say, I won’t not be filling our freezer to the brim anytime soon. However: I will try to keep it from dying a slow death, even if that means one less container of precious vegetable stock.
So here we have a beautifully simple shrimp dish (I used Southeast Alaska spot shrimp from Sitka, and it was a transcendent experience — they’re so sweet you won’t believe it, sort of like mini lobsters), a meatball staple, and my new favorite chicken thighs. Plus, a fantastic way to use kimchi (this was my one stray from the freezer — a friend gave me a bunch of kimchi that we’ve had in our fridge for a while, and I used a decent hunk of it for this). Enjoy.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes
Grilling or broiling shrimp with their shells on saves you time on peeling and imparts more flavor while protecting them from getting overcooked. Plus it’s fun to peel at the table before dipping into a seasoned mayo. If you prefer, you can skip the dipping sauce and just serve the shrimp with lemon wedges.
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons seasoning: curry powder, chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, smoked paprika, or Old Bay
Salt and pepper
1½ pounds any size shell-on shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Prepare a grill or turn the broiler to high; put the rack 4 inches from the heat. Put mayonnaise, seasoning, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper (note: I used Old Bay, so skipped the salt and pepper) in a serving bowl; stir to combine.
2. Put the shrimp on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
3. When the grill or broiler is hot, cook the shrimp, turning once, until they’re lightly charred on the outside and just cooked through, 3 or 4 minutes per side.
4. Serve with the mayonnaise for dipping, letting people peel the shrimp at the table.
— Recipe from How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food
We’ve posted about Mark’s Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs at least once, but, due to the extreme joy that they bring the newly-six-year-old Holden, they have become a staple in our home — when we have excellent beef, usually from Glynwood, I make them. And so, from here on out, at least for me, they shall be known as Holden’s meatballs. I haven’t checked with Mark, but I’m 99% sure he’d approve.
Braised Chicken Thighs With Greens and Olives
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes
I actually made two non-Mark dishes this week (I know!!!!!). I was combing through my mostly old Pinterest page and stumbled upon this Colu Henry chicken. I almost didn’t make it because of the raisins (I do not like hot raisins, and yes, I know I could have skipped them, but that’s too easy, right?) but felt like the green olives (Castelvetrano forever) made up for them and, I’ll admit, might even complement them.
Also: I’m trying to get more comfortable with letting chicken brown (and with not being totally OCD about splatter) and this was my first real success — I left it long enough such that it really did come up with no problem when I turned it. And — spoiler alert — the raisins and olives really do make the dish spectacular. I’ll definitely make this one again.
1 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
1/2 red onion or 2 to 3 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Pinch of red-pepper flakes (optional)
1 to 2 bunches sturdy greens, such as dandelion, escarole, Swiss chard or kale, roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
1 ½ cups chicken stock, plus more as needed
1/3 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley (optional)
Flaky salt, for serving (optional)
1. Season chicken thighs well with salt and pepper. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin-side down, and cook undisturbed until nicely browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and brown the other side, about 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
2. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan and return to medium-low heat. Add red onion, and cook until it begins to soften, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes, if using, and cook for 30 seconds more.
3. Add chopped greens to the pan and stir, tossing to coat in the residual chicken fat. It may seem like a lot of greens, but they will cook down. Add the chicken thighs and any juices that have accumulated back to the pan and lay them on top of the greens. Pour in enough of the chicken stock to come up to the chicken about halfway. Bring the chicken to a gentle simmer. Partly cover and allow the chicken to finish cooking through, about 20 minutes more.
4. Stir in olives and raisins and cook uncovered until they are warmed through, and the raisins are nicely plumped, about 1 minute more. Garnish with parsley, if using, and serve. Season with flaky salt, if desired.
— Recipe from The New York Times
Kimchi Grilled Cheese
Makes: 1 serving
Time: 15 minutes
I’ve been wanting to try grilled cheese with kimchi for a long time, and this didn’t disappoint. I used Ali Slagle (we are a fans over here!)’s recipe from the Times, but it’s grilled cheese, so you can really do it however you normally make it; just add the chopped kimchi and you’re good. I used excellent bread from She Wolf Bakery, because I was too lazy to make my own this time.
2 slices bread, either soft sandwich bread or large rustic slices, not more than 1/2-inch thick
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated mozzarella, Cheddar or other mild, semifirm cheese
1/4 cup drained and coarsely chopped kimchi
1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Thinly spread 1 side of each slice of bread with 1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise. Place the bread, mayonnaise-side-down, in the skillet and divide the mozzarella evenly over the slices.
2. When the cheese has just melted (no individual shreds of cheese remain), 6 to 10 minutes, add the kimchi to one side. Use a spatula to top with the other slice of bread, cheese-side-down. Press with the spatula to meld, then let cook, covered, flipping as needed to prevent burning, until the bread is crusty-brown and the sandwich is warmed through, 2 to 4 minutes.
— Recipe from The New York Times
I cook for one and live in the countryside without a car. I rely on friends who persuaded me to live here to get around. That said, you can see why I purchased a small, three drawer freezer. (Buy a drawer freezer as it keeps the cold in the freezer when you open the door.) Between it and the large freezer in the 'fridge, I have more than enough for me. I very quickly found that I needed to organize it. Here are my rules.
1.Buy freezer tape and label everything that goes into the freezer with the item and date I put it in the freezer. Other data is on the label. Keep it simple.
2. I labeled each drawer/shelf in the 'fridge freezer and the small freezer. I just labeled them A, B, C starting with the 'fridge freezer and then carried on with D, E, F for the small freezer drawers.
3. I started by writing down what was in each freezer drawer and hung it on the 'fridge door. Eventually, I typed it out so it would be easier to update. Each freezer item has a drawer letter and the number of items in that drawer. I can remember how big the item is so I don't bother with that. Here's an example: Parmesan C1 D2 is what's on the list. It means I have one block of parm in the C drawer and two in the D drawer. I already know that the biggest block of parm is in drawer D.
4. The next improvement was to separate the freezer contents list into 8 categories: Bread, Broth and Sauces, Cheese, Fish, Meat, Other, Sweets, Vegetables and Fruits, but they go wherever they fit in the freezers. It made it easier for me to scan the list.
I attach a pencil to the 'fridge so I can cross out things as I pull them from the freezer and then update the list when it gets too messy with cross-outs and additions. This way I can glance at the list an know what I have in the freezer.
I'm happy to share a sample of how the list is organized if you'd like to see it.
I’ve had a jar of kimchi in my fridge from before Covid. Forgot about it in all the excitement. So tonight it’s kimchi grilled cheese. Wow, Kate, great column.