Tidewater Kitchen - January 2010

 

Make-Ahead Meals

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

   If you are making the effort to cook, why not cook enough for an extra meal to put in the freezer? When you plan ahead, making a double batch is easy and gives you the opportunity to eat well, even when you don’t have time to cook.
    Make sure you freeze your dinners in something that you can also cook in. That way, while dinner is cooking, you can move on to preparing a fresh vegetable or salad to go along with the meal. I like to take the meal out of the freezer and put it into the refrigerator to thaw for the day so it takes less time to reheat it.
    Here are some make-ahead and freezing tips:
    Buy disposable aluminum foil trays for things like enchiladas. When you’re done you don’t even have the clean-up.
    If space is at a premium in your freezer, spoon or ladle your required portions into heavy resealable plastic bags, seal them, arrange them flat on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen, the bags can be stacked in a minimum of space.
    Of course, it is imperative to label each container or bag carefully so at a later date you don’t pull out an unlabeled container and have no idea what’s inside.
    If you are freezing cookies, breads or cakes, first wrap them in plastic wrap and then place in plastic freezer bags.
    Always thaw your meals in the container in which you froze it to retain as much moisture as possible and to prevent any cross-contamination between foods in the refrigerator.

STUFFED FLANK STEAK with ROASTED PEPPERS and FETA CHEESE
Serves 4
4 cups spinach leaves, cleaned and stems removed
2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
2 t. dried oregano
2 T. Serrano chili, seeded, de-veined and minced
1/3 cup plus 2 T. olive oil
2 flank steaks, butterflied - about 2 lbs.
Salt and pepper
4 jarred roasted red peppers

Cook the spinach in a lightly oiled hot skillet over high heat until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and press out any excess moisture from the spinach.
Combine the spinach, feta, bread crumbs, oregano, chilies and 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor or blender and puree. Set the puree aside.
Open the steak up like a book and season with salt and pepper. Spread ¼ of the puree over the meat. Place 2 of the roasted peppers over the puree and then spread another ¼ of the puree over the peppers. Starting at the long side of the meat, roll the steak up. Tie it with kitchen twine every 2 inches. Repeat with the other flank steak.
Brush the meat rolls with the 2 T. olive oil. Heat a large skillet on high heat, place the flank steak rolls in the pan and sear the meat, browning it on all sides. Remove the meat and cool.
Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap and then in a resealable plastic bag and freeze.
Up to 24 hours before you are ready to use, remove the meat from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Place the meat in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes for medium-rare or to desired doneness. Cool the meat slightly and then slice into ¼-inch slices.

CHILI PIE
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 t. minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
2 t. ground cumin
1 T. chili powder
2-14½ oz. cans diced tomatoes with chilies and the juice
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained and well rinsed
1 cup beef broth
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 refrigerator pie crust
Corn meal
Cheddar cheese for garnish
Sour cream for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425°.
Brown the beef in a heavy skillet over medium heat, breaking up the chunks, for about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.
In the same skillet cook the onion and garlic over medium heat until tender, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cumin and chili powder. Stir while cooking for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, reserved beef and beans.
On low heat add the beef broth, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Cook for a few minutes more. Uncover if the mixture is too liquid.
Pour the chili into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Cover with the pastry and form a crust at the edges. Cut steam holes in the crust and sprinkle with corn meal.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve hot with a wedge of cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.
To freeze: wrap the unbaked pastry-covered pie in plastic wrap and then in a resealable freezer bag or aluminum foil. To cook just remove all wrapping and bake directly from the freezer on a baking sheet in a pre-heated oven for 40 to 45 minutes. If the pastry begins to brown too quickly because of the additional cooking time, gently cover with a sheet of aluminum foil.

WILD RICE and TURKEY MUFFINS
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup chopped shallot
1 t. chopped garlic
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground pepper
¼ t. ground nutmeg
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup cooked wild rice
½ cup Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft – about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and ground turkey. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the turkey meat is cooked, stirring often.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease 12 muffin cups with salted butter.
Into a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and nutmeg together.
Mix the eggs and milk together in a medium bowl and stir in the sautéed vegetables, turkey, Parmesan cheese and wild rice. Pour this over the dry ingredients and stir until just blended. The batter will be thick and lumpy.
Scoop ¼ cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Bake the muffins for 25 minutes or until the muffins are no longer moist in the center or a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the muffins on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or cool completely before freezing.

CHICKEN and GREEN CHILI ENCHILADA PIE
12 fresh 6-inch corn tortillas
1 T. butter
1 10-oz. can green chili enchilada sauce
3 cups cooked chicken meat, shredded
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 4-oz. can chopped green chilies
2 cups grated Monterrey Jack cheese
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 head iceberg lettuce for garnish
½ bunch fresh cilantro leaves
Salsa, sour cream and black olives for garnish

Place the corn tortillas in a buttered pie plate. Cover the plate with plastic wrap and steam them on high in the microwave for 2 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a 9x13” glass dish. Pour the enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl. Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of the glass dish. Dip a tortilla in the sauce and place it on the right half of the glass dish. Place 2 or 3 pieces of chicken on the tortilla and season with salt and pepper. Add some of the chopped green chilies, some of the cheeses and then top with another tortilla that has been dipped in the sauce.
Repeat the layering process until you reach the 6th tortilla. Finish with a layer of sauce and cheese. Make another enchilada pie on the left side of the dish with the remaining ingredients.
Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through. Meanwhile, chop the lettuce and combine it with the cilantro in a medium bowl. Remove the enchilada pies from the oven and cut them into wedges to serve. Garnish with lettuce, salsa, sour cream and olives.
To freeze: make the pies in disposable aluminum freezer pans, cover tightly with plastic wrap and then wrap in aluminum foil or seal in airtight freezer bags. To serve, remove the aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Re-cover with foil and bake while still frozen. Increase the baking time by 15 minutes.

MEXICAN LASAGNA
2 lbs. hamburger meat
1 can diced tomatoes
1 jar salsa
½ cup onion
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can black beans
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 egg
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 pkg. lasagna noodles

Cook and drain the hamburger in a pan. Mix tomatoes, salsa, onion, taco seasoning in a food processor. Place in a bowl. Add washed black beans to the mixture. Mix the ricotta cheese, egg and garlic together.
Layer sauce in a 13x9” pan, then noodles, meat and chilies, ricotta, shredded cheese, sauce, noodles and a final layer of cheese.
Bake at 350° uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes.

HERBED RICE
Serves 4 to 6
2 T. vegetable oil
3 scallions, cleaned and chopped
2 T. parsley, chopped
2 T. dill, chopped
1 t. thyme
1 cup uncooked rice
1 10½-oz. can chicken broth, double strength
1 can water

Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan, add the scallions and sauté them for a few minutes without letting them brown, then add the rest of the ingredients and combine well. Bring this mixture to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat with the cover on. Turn off the heat and let rice stand for another 5 minutes.
To freeze: Allow rice to cool, then place in freezer bags or containers, seal and freeze up to 6 months. Reheat frozen rice, covered, in a 350° oven or microwave.

GROUPER GOURMET
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 T. butter
3 T. mayonnaise
2 t. chives
3 T. chopped green onions
¼ cup lemon juice
8 oz. grouper fillets
Black pepper to taste
lemon slices and fresh chives for garnish

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl, stir well and set aside.
Place fillets on a lightly greased rack in a broiler pan. Drizzle lemon juice over fillets and sprinkle with pepper.
Broil 6 inches from heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove fillets from oven and spread tops with cheese mixture. Broil an additional 2 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Remove fillets to a serving platter. If desired, garnish with lemon slices and fresh chives.
You can make the cheese mixture ahead of time and refrigerate it.

SHRIMP and RICE
2 lb. fresh or frozen raw shrimp
2 T. butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup sherry
2 t. Paul Prudhomme’s seafood magic
2 t. chili powder
dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in pan and brown the onions, then add the garlic.
Place all ingredients listed in a 2-quart, greased casserole. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350°, or until the rice is done.
Note: this recipe can be prepared and frozen. Defrost in the refrigerator and bake.

CHICKEN CASSEROLE with SAUSAGES and MUSHROOMS
Serves 8
½ lb. bulk pork sausage
½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
2 T. butter
4 whole chicken breasts, cooked, boned and cut into 2-inch chunks

Cream Sauce:
4 T. butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock
2/3 cups heavy cream

Topping:
½ 8-oz. bag of herbed seasoned stuffing
½ stick butter, melted

Roll the pork sausage into tiny balls or chop finely. Brown well and drain on paper towels. Sauté the mushrooms in the butter and drain.
Cream sauce: Melt butter in saucepan and stir in flour, salt and pepper. Slowly add chicken stock and cream. Heat, stirring constantly, until thick.
Topping: Combine the stuffing with the butter.
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a 13x9” casserole layer chicken, sausage and mushrooms, in that order. Top with cream sauce. Spread topping evenly over all. Bake for 45 minutes or until heated through.
You can save time by substituting precooked sausage links. Cut them into ½-inch slices and brown.
This casserole can be prepared and then frozen.