Tools for a little cooking

The most frustrating thing of cooking for two is shopping and discovering you have to buy more than a single serving of /whatever/. For this reason I highly recommend the first tools you look at be storage. My number one suggestion is the freezer. While Tamara recently pointed to Natasha Gardner’s suggestions, those are meant largely for the large group cook. Well, except that there are times when you have absolutely zero choice about cooking a larger dish, at which time making it with the intent of freezing part is a good deal.

In fact, let me touch on that a bit more with a cooking term: par-cooking. Cooking whatever it is till it’s just short of being done. See, the thing is that there’s done and there’s overdone. But you can do a lot of tricks by partially cooking things ahead of time and then just finishing them at the time you want them. While it’s usually used for feeding large groups or timing a lot of finicky and somewhat delicate dishes so you can serve them all at once, I’m going to tell you it’s absolutely critical for intentional freezing meals for later.

Let’s take a lasagna for example. If you pull it straight out of the freezer and stick it straight into the oven it’s going to take about 20 minutes to get hot. Half of that is just thawing, but the rest is flat out cooking – slightly lower temperature, but cooking. So there’s ten minutes to sacrifice from ‘done’ for the dish you’re going to freeze. Pro-tip, add another five for carry-over. That’s the time every dish continues to cook just because it’s hot.

Interestingly, that 15 minutes is also good if you’re going to thaw first before you cook. Which is, by the way, what I’d actually recommend for cooking the frozen stuff. It helps reduce uneven cooking and sogginess in some dishes that can develop from the way the ice crystals melt.

But I’ve digressed. The real advantage of the freezer in my mind is the fact you can go ahead and purchase a lot of ingredients at ‘normal’ (ie service for four to eight) sizes. You will want to learn how to pack for the freezer to reduce freezer burn. I already wrote that, I’ll save some time here while you read that one.

Yes, it’s a bit of work. You have to not just purchase and put away, you need to separate and pack and label. But it’s probably the number one tool I recommend for the single shopper.

More later, I assure you.

Have fun.

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