Sunday, May 22, 2005

Bijoux du congélateur

The snooty sounding French title for this post sounded a lot nicer than "dinner from crap I dug out of the back of the freezer." Since dinner turned out remarkably well, I thought I'd be a little pompous here and use the French for "jewels from the freezer".

I made a mango shrimp stir fry and raspberry strawberry cobbler and pretty much everything that went into both recipes was either frozen or a basic staple (flour, milk, etc.). I never would have made the Mango Shrimp recipe before reading Mark Bittman's wonderful article in the NYTimes validating frozen food (you can't access the article on the NYTimes website for free, but you can read it here). And my shrimp recipe is heavily indebted to Trader Joe's which sells decent frozen food at reasonable prices.

Without further ado--here are the recipes:

Mango Shrimp Stir-Fry Recipe:
12 oz frozen Rock Shrimp (TJ's sells them in 12 oz bags, a little more or less would be fine too)
2 C frozen mango chunks (about 1/2 a bag of the frozen TJ mango chunks)
1 1/2 C frozen multi-colored pepper pieces (TJ sells bags of frozen red/yellow/green pepper mix)
3 scallions (horrors! a fresh ingredient!), sliced on the diagonal
1 T grated ginger (the jarred stuff from the Indian grocery store works fine, obviously fresh is fine too)
2 large cloves of garlic, squished through a garlic press or minced fine
1 T cornstarch
2 T canola oil
2-3 T soy sauce
1-2 T bottled Chinese oyster sauce (optional)
1 T tabasco (optional)
1 T toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper

cooked rice, to serve it over (brown rice is particularly nice since it is kind of nutty tasting)
  1. First defrost your frozen stuff: put the shrimp in a colander and stick them under the tap with a lukewarm stream of water flowing over them. While they are thawing this way, stick the mango in a bowl and nuke it for about a minute; check and see if it is thawed, nuke some more if it needs it. Put the peppers in a separate bowl and nuke them--I started them on the defrost setting and finished with about 30 seconds regular power. Try not to over-nuke the peppers because they will get mushy. Drain them if they exude some water.
  2. Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel and toss in a bowl with 1 T cornstarch and some salt and pepper.
  3. Now that all your ingredients have shed their icy coatings, heat up a large non-stick frying pan (or wok) and add the 2 T of oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add the ginger and the mashed garlic. Let it sizzle for about 30 seconds until it starts to smell good then add the mango. Stir fry till the mango is warmed up (about a minute or two), then add the peppers; shove all the mango and peppers to one side of the pan and dump the shrimp in the other side. Stir the shrimp gently and let them cook for about 1 minute then mix the shrimp, mango and peppers together.
  4. Add the scallions, soy sauce and oyster sauce (optional) and stir fry for about another minute or two till the shrimp look cooked.
  5. Take off the heat, add sesame oil and tabasco sauce (optional).
  6. Serve over rice.
Ta da! The only thing that is slightly sub-standard about this recipe is that the peppers do get a little mushy, so substitute fresh if you have them. But for convenience, speed and idiot-proofness, frozen is fine.

Since it took almost no energy to prep the ingredients for the stir-fry, I decided to make desert too. In digging around the freezer, I found about 4 C of frozen raspberries leftover from a picking binge last summer at Makielski's berry farm. I thought about making a raspberry pie or tart, but making a crust was too labor intensive. So I made a raspberry cobbler. I also had about 1 C of fresh strawberries that looked like they would start molding soon, so I sliced them up and chucked them in too.

Raspberry Cobbler Recipe:
4-6 C frozen or fresh raspberries (or a mix of berries. I ended up using 4 C frozen raspberries and about 1 C fresh sliced strawberries. Blueberries would be good, or some peaches.)
1/2 C sugar
1 T cornstarch
1 t cinnamon
1/4 C butter
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C milk
1/4 C buttermilk (optional, substitute another 1/4 C milk if you don't have buttermilk on hand)
1 C all purpose flour
1/4 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
heavy cream or vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In an oven-safe 2-quart dish, toss raspberries with 1/2 C sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon.
  3. In a small bowl, blend flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a bowl or a mixer, beat the butter and 1/4 C sugar together. When they are creamed and a little fluffy, add the buttermilk and milk (or all milk) and the flour mixture. Mix together until sticky and sort of biscuit-like. Drop by tablespoons over the berries in the baking dish.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes (a little longer if using frozen berries, a little less if using fresh). The top will be browned and the berries will be bubbling up underneath it.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of heavy cream, or vanilla ice cream.
If you happen to have a lemon on hand, a little lemon zest grated in with the berries would be nice. But since that requires you to have a fresh lemon around and we are celebrating the riches of the freezer here, think of it as completely optional.

Don't you want to go dig around in your freezer now and see what is hiding? Try not to get beaned on the head by a bag of frozen bagels, like I did...


Anonymous said...

You are inspiring. And as you know, I love mango!

Re: the Bittman article, I've also heard that frozen vegetables often have more vitamins than fresh ones that have been sitting in the crisper for a little too long, so there's another bonus.

Elliot loves to cook (for a long time he wanted to BE a cook; then a cook on a spaceship; now he's branched out into paleontology). Whenever I get him involved in the meal prep it's fun for both of us, so why don't I do it more? he would love to help me make that cobbler...

Any suggestions for good cooking-with-kids books? We have the Mollie Katzen and like the Williams-Sonoma ones.

Thanks so much for the recipes!

Kate said...

Oh how I envy you your small kitchen companion! I have very little experience with kids' cookbooks mostly beacue Ian doesn't really like food and thinks of eating as a chore (is this my child?). I have tried numerous times to get Ian to cook with me and he just isn't interested--I checked out the Mollie Katzen book and he was bored silly.

I once invited his lovely food-obsessed friend, Saul, over to bake bread with us and I was so amazed at what fun it was to cook with a kid. With Saul as bait, Ian actually stayed in the kitchen while we mixed dough and was willing to fashion some rolls in the shape of his name, but you could tell he was only doing it for Saul.

I'm hoping this year we might make some progress. He has promised that he will expand his food repertoire when he turns 5 (June 28th). I'm also trying to get him to help me with my garden; he recently learned about photosynthesis and likes talking about how plants make their food and produce oxygen for us so I'm going to take the scientific approach to food and cooking. I've requested a whole bunch of Kitchen Chemistry and Kitchen Science books from the library. Maybe if he thinks of the kitchen as a labratory, he'll be more likely to spend a little time there with me. I'll keep you posted if any of these work...

(I feel guilty to admit it, but I haven't even tried cooking with Fiona, mostly because she is a little chaos-maker and I don't have a whole lot of tollerance for flinging flour or rubbing honey into one's hair...I'm thinking next fall when Ian start Kindergarten she and I can try to cook together.)

Anonymous said...

that looks yummy! i love mango stuff...have u seen this site?
its 1 of my favorites for indian food (hehe cuz its free) n also they seem 2 be updating it every day