A minister has to be able to read a clock. At noon, it's time to go home and turn up the pot roast and get the peas out of the freezer. Garrison Keillor
Just because my freezer has been empty most of my adult life doesn't mean that I don't appreciate a well stocked larder. All the same, a quandary is present whenever I consider the order and the down right science that comes with freezing food.
My heritage is deplete of positive freezer therapy. One grandparent kept a gigantic freezer chest in an isolated hallway. Once the heavy top was flung back for all of its worth, I could peer inside to preview the cavity contents, darkened with net bags of unshelled pecans and rump roasts that were on special from the Jitney Jungle. This would leave me in a cold sweat.
But that was then and this is now. Today the thing that holds me back from enhancing my food preservation skills is my friend, the freezer genius. The contents of her appliance can provoke intimidation and down right tears of envy. Masterpiece comes to mind.
For many years she has tested various concoctions in icy suspension. Knowledge of her special powers have grown exponentially and she is now a trusted source for many who prefer consulting a live expert with their freezer queries.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that she is a sublime chef. Even so, the roles of exalted cook and freezer artist entail separate gifts. Her freezing penchant requires a obsession with being prepared, putting her in the category of Martha Stewartness. Only my friend doesn't have a staff. She prepares and freezes every single morsel on her own. Joyfully, I might add.
Anecdotal evidence is strewn about the country. Ask anyone who knows her and has experienced duress. She is often the first to assuage a furrowed brow with delivery of a complete meal, instructions taped to the top in her small, neat script. And by complete, I mean - main dish, sides and dessert.
I admire that her family is able to shop her stash - appetizers, casseroles, breads, and desserts. Her legacy is without equal. She has a deeply practical grip on life, most likely gifted to her by who else, but a grandmother.
She recently honored me with a peek at the family jewels, beautifully wrapped and labeled plates of food - gourmet TV dinners. With that I knew that I had no choice but to gather some self respect, up my game and learn to freeze like the artist.
The fact that this dish freezes for up to 3 months makes it the perfect vehicle to stow away. (Thaw in the refrigerator, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for 45 minutes more.) All ingredients can be interchanged for whatever is in season, creating an ever changing way to utilize the items that come with your CSA or with your farmers' market purchase.
3 pounds new potatoes (about 30)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chopped onions or frozen pearl onions, thawed
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (or beef chuck)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low sodium chicken broth (or homemade)
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
Heat oven to 350.
Place the potatoes in a large pot, add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch, and bring to a boil.
Add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
Drain and return the potatoes to the pot; add the milk, butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and mash.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 5 minutes; transfer to a medium bowl.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the Dutch oven.
Add the lamb (or beef), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking the lamb (or beef) up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 5 minutes; mix in the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce.
Sprinkle with the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Add the broth, squash, peas, and onions and bring to a simmer.
Transfer the lamb (or beef) mixture to a 9 by 12 inch (3 quart) baking dish and top with the potatoes.
Bake until the potatoes are golden, the filling is bubbling and the squash is tender, about 45 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Bountiful Blessing Farm: Pam and John Dysinger : Potatoes and Butternut Squash 654 Dry Prong Road Williamsport, TN 38487 931-583-2701 Winter CSA
I made tripled this recipe Sundays ago, froze for a week and then unheated on Sunday to serve over 40 people "Shepherd's Pie" at church dinner. I used Glendale Farm lamb and mixed in some leeks for half the potato topping. It was delicious! We finished with ice-cream Sunday's for a pun-complete meal. Thanks for the great recipe!