Every week, Bon Appetit associate editor Christina Chaey writes about what she’s cooking right now. Pro tip: If you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll get the scoop before everyone else.
Some people do closet edits. Others, like editor-at-large Amiel Stanek, do “freezer edits,” and ever since he told me about this annual ritual, I do them, too. Last weekend, in the interest of cutting down on my grocery store trips as much as possible, I decided to take a peek in the old icebox—and ended up eating out of the freezer for a week straight.
Here’s how it worked: I took all the items out of my (very chaotic, shelf-less!!!!) freezer and placed them on my kitchen counter to assess age, value, and potential for future deliciousness. I tossed anything that couldn’t be salvaged (goodbye, half-empty bag of very freezer-burned shrimp, we hardly knew ye); thawed a couple of surprise gems (more on those below); and, most importantly, made a list of all the properly labeled items left in the freezer. That note now lives on my fridge door. I also took a photo of it—an extra-pro Amiel tip—for grocery store reference later.
Here, a list of my favorite freezer finds of the week:
A raw chicken back
Okay, technically this was my roommate Emma’s chicken back. I assume it was leftover from a bird she had spatchcocked to roast for dinner months ago. She’d stashed the back in the freezer, though I’d call her a “someday stock”-maker. So I gently asked if she had big plans for the chicken back, and when she couldn’t even recall freezing it in the first place, I made a stock. (I didn’t even thaw it first and, guess what, IT WAS FINE.) I used the resulting warm, soothing stock to make, among other things, the highlight of my entire week: a personal-sized version of BA’s Best Chicken and Dumplings topped with crispy chicken skin crumbles, which I made in my very favorite tiny pot that I wrote about this week for the Healthyish Guide to Being Alone.
A container of marinated galbi
I brought these Korean-style short ribs back with me from the last time I had dinner at my parents’ house. I thawed these in the refrigerator overnight, then broiled them for dinner with a pot of rice and a simple scallion salad bulked up with lots of thinly sliced raw bok choy leaves. If you’re feeling inspired to give a surprise meat gift to future you, a batch of this Basic Bulgogi would freeze very well, too.
A package of storebought dumpling wrappers
These keep for months (the date on my homemade date read 9/2, as proof!) and just need a quick thaw in the fridge before you can get folding. Then, once you’ve made a batch of dumplings, you can freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet until they’re solid, then slip them into a bag for future dinners and emergency snacks. I’ve started playing a game called “What’s the weirdest acceptable dumpling I can make with ingredients I already have?” This most recent batch had tofu, shiitake mushrooms, chopped sauerkraut and kimchi, carrots, green garlic (spring!), and ginger. Were they the best dumplings I’ve ever made? No. Did I eat all of them and now find myself in a slight panic that my dumpling stash is gone? Send help—or just more wrappers.
I’ve since filled the void in my freezer with a new crop of items: cooked brown rice (for future fried rice), lots of good cod, halibut, and shrimp from Pierless Fish, and a few more quarts of chicken stock (yes, I am making and hoarding chicken stock like it’s the end of times right now). The next time I go to the store, I might try a trick from my friend Anna Hezel, who’s been quickly blanching torn hardy greens like kale in salted boiling water, then squeezing out the excess liquid and storing the (now teeny-tiny) greens in reusable plastic bags in the freezer. It prolongs the life of fresh greens (though no shade to frozen broccoli, ilu) while simultaneously freeing up precious room in the fridge. I’ll let you know how that goes—lord knows I need that fridge space. But that’s a story for another newsletter.
Stay home and stay cooking,