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Feature Thu Mar 05 2009
Am I alone in feeling gleefully smug after whipping up an enormous batch of, say, pumpkin soup or meatballs, and then stashing half of what I made in the freezer for dinner a month from now? It's like I've out-smarted the What's-for-Dinner God.
On the premise that everyone - even the most enthusiastic cooks among us - like to pull a fast one on that particular deity now and then, my genius friend Eva hosted a Cook-and-Freeze Party at her place a couple of weekends ago. Her idea was simple, but brilliant: Get five friends together on a Sunday afternoon to cook our favorite freezer-friendly meals, and then share a few portions of our dish with everyone else, so that we'd all go home with a week's worth of healthy, homemade meals to defrost on hectic weeknights.
We all agreed to bring our own ingredients in quantities large enough to make at least 10 portions of our meal, plus any special cooking equipment we'd need that Eva didn't have in her kitchen. This was also a strictly BYOT affair: Bring Your Own Tupperware.
In little more than four hours, over a few bottles of wine and great conversation, we chopped, mixed, stuffed and stirred so much food that we each went home with half a vegetable quiche, six pesto burger patties, seven samosas, two generous servings of spinach lasagna, and a quart of three-bean soup - more than enough for five two-person meals.
What sort of shocked us all is that five cooks in one kitchen somehow did not add up to insanity. We actually had a really good time - so much so that we're already planning Round 2. (If we make this a semi-regular thing, I'm going to move that we give ourselves a bad-ass name, like The Ice Queens or The Freezer Divas.)
Anyway, trust me: You do want to try this at home. When you do, here are a few more tips for a great party:
- Keep the number of guests to five or six. Anymore, and chances are you'll run out of counter space, clean dishes, etc.
- Ask everyone who RSVPs "yes" to send around an e-mail a week or two ahead of time listing any food aversions or allergies that they have. Since you'll be sharing the meals, you want to be sure everyone can eat them.
- Once people know what they can't cook, ask them to send a second e-mail listing their chosen dish. This will help ensure everyone goes home with a variety of foods, and also that it's actually possible to prepare everything in one kitchen during the allotted time. For instance, if all of your guests want to make soup, but there's only room on your stovetop for two stock pots, a few people may need to switch it up.
- Get creative! Soups and stews do tend to freeze well, but so do casseroles, some pasta dishes, pockets (such as samosas and empanadas), patties (think turkey or lentil burgers), and meatballs.
- If your dish is a bit complicated, you may want to prep some of the ingredients ahead of time. For instance, I made the dough and filling for my samosas on Saturday, and spent Sunday afternoon at Eva's stuffing and parbaking them.
- If you're hosting the party, make your dish ahead of time so you can help friends navigate your kitchen drawers, clean up as you go, and, most importantly, refill wine glasses.