Sunday, February 6, 2011

Don't Panic!

I've been freezer cooking since about a month and a half before Code-man was born over 10 years ago.  Every time I made a meal for supper that could be easily frozen, I would double or triple the recipe and put the extras in the freezer.  The idea was that I would have lots of ready-to-go meals in the freezer when we were in the fog of those first few weeks of parenthood.  It worked.  I don't think I cooked for the first 6 weeks of Code-man's life, which was literally a life-saver: I think we would have starved otherwise.

Over the years, I've continued to double and triple recipes to stash in the freezer, but my selection of go-to freezer meal recipes has diminished.  It's become much more difficult to find meals that all five of our family members will eat, and I don't see the point in cooking something unless someone is going to eat it.

So I was interested when my sis mentioned a cookbook that she wanted to take a look at, Don't Panic--Dinner's in the Freezer: Great-Tasting Meals You Can Make Ahead.  In this cookbook, there are recipes for appetizers and beverages, breads and muffins, soups, poultry, beef and pork, pasta and more, desserts, brunch items, and side dishes, as well as hints and tips about the "don't panic" method of cooking.  Chip and I both requested it through our libraries' inter-library loan programs and were excited to try some of the recipes and tips. 

The other day Chip made Sour Cream Muffins (just because she was stuck in the house and had all the ingredients on hand), and was surprised at how good they tasted--she wasn't so sure about the addition of sour cream to the batter, but Chip said they were moist and delicious.

Last night I made Chicken Breasts in Phyllo.  Here's the recipe:

1.5 c. mayonnaise
1 c. green onion, chopped
1/3 c. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced (I always use my garlic press to quickly and easily mince garlic)
2 t. dry tarragon
12 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
salt & pepper to taste
24 sheets phyllo dough (this can be found in the freezer or refrigerated section of most grocery stores)
1.5 c. butter, melted
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

On cooking day:
Combine first 5 ingredients to make sauce.  Lightly sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Place 2 sheets of phyllo* on working surface.  Quickly brush each sheet with melted butter (about 2 t.) and stack on top of each other.  Spread about 1.5 T of sauce on each side of chicken.  Place breast in one corner of buttered phyllo sheets.  Fold corner over breast, then fold sides over, and roll breast up in the sheets to form a package.**  Place in ungreased baking dish.  Repeat with remaining chicken breasts and phyllo sheets.  Brush packets with remaining butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Wrap each chicken packet in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag and freeze.

Serving day instructions:
Thaw completely before baking.  Bake at 375 degrees in ungreased baking dish for 45-50 minutes or until golden.  Serve immediately.

Cream cheese may be used in place of mayonnaise.

* It is really hard to lift up and move the phyllo after it's been buttered (it's paper-thin), so I buttered one piece, put the other piece on top, then buttered the top piece.  Remember to keep the rest of the phyllo covered while you're working so it doesn't dry out.
** This method of folding did not work for me, so I just placed the chicken near one of the short sides instead of in the corner, folded it over, then folded in the sides, and rolled to make a package.

The recipe claims to make 12 servings, but I made 19 packets using 6 pounds of chicken breasts.  I don't know if you've noticed, but chicken breasts these days are just huge, so I cut the breasts into serving size portions (one serving of meat or poultry is about the size of a deck of cards).  I had enough sauce, phyllo, and butter to have made an additional 3 or 4 packets, but I didn't have any more thawed chicken, so I stopped.

As I was wrapping, I mentioned to Hubby, "I sure hope we like these, because we're going end up with a lot of them!"  Oh, it was so, so delicious, and they looked pretty impressive, too!  The phyllo was crisp and buttery and the chicken was tender and seasoned perfectly.  In fact, Logo said he liked the chicken better than the crust, which is saying something--he generally prefers grains to proteins.  I was worried about the mayonnaise, because I don't like mayo, and up until my first bite, was second-guessing my decision to not substitute cream cheese, but I cannot imagine these being any better than they were.  These would be perfect to serve at a dinner party with a Caesar salad and steamed veggies.  Mmmmm, yummy!  Now I'm even more excited to try more of the recipes from this book.  Chip told me she thought she was going to buy a copy for herself, and I think I am going to have to do the same :)

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