Cooking in advance

Happy New Year!

Today is the the day that everyone returns to school and work, the day the holidays are truly over. The Christmas tree has been taken away and I still think the living room looks strange without it.

Although I don’t have any specific new year’s resolutions I do like to keep my weeks running smoothly and one of the best ways I’ve found to cut down on weeknight dinner chaos is cooking in advance. I get “hangry” if I’m not careful – I’m not one of those (probably fictitious) beings who can swan home after work, roll into the kitchen and start dinner from scratch with a beatific smile and gracious bearing, announcing dinner at 8 pm.

Instead, once I’ve quickly scanned a dinner recipe to see if it fits our food sensitivities, likes and dislikes, I mentally file recipes into a few categories:

  • cook completely in advance and freeze in portions – chilis, soups* and stews
  • cook on the weekend and live off the leftovers – roasted whole chicken, roasted vegetables, roasted anything, really
  • make part of the recipe/dinner component and freeze – curry pastes, freezing a piece of meat in its marinade, meatballs, pasta sauces like bolognese

For example, yesterday I made a green curry paste from Nigel Slater’s Appetite (p. 271) and popped it into a freezer bag. There will still be more to do on whichever weeknight we decide to have it – cooking the curry paste with coconut milk and chicken broth, frying small chunks of chicken breast and cooking rice, but at least the task of prepping the curry paste was done, on a Sunday morning, when the cilantro and lemon grass were as fresh as possible (and so was I).

I also made some Thai-spiced meatballs (also from Appetite, p. 372) that were frozen on a cookie sheet and placed in a freezer bag – all that’s left to do some night is fry the defrosted meatballs, heat up chicken broth, drop in some greens and maybe cook rice noodles.

I do a lot of roasting on Sundays – it’s the day we’re most likely to be home anyway so it only makes sense that our TV marathons are punctuated by the oven timer going off. I started roasting large quantities of vegetables after reading An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, although I got a little too inspired on a couple of Sundays and overextended myself, causing Jeff to dub the book “An Everlasting Day in the Kitchen”.

Broccoli, rinsed and ready

Roasted Broccoli

Even though it sometimes does feel like I spend the better part of my weekend days either shopping for or cooking food, the trade-off of easier weeknights makes it so worthwhile.

 

 

*don’t freeze soups with dairy in them – if the soup calls for adding milk or cream at the end, only do that after you’ve re-heated the soup and are about to serve it.

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