Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen, the married, North Carolina-based team, have a new cookbook out called It’s Always Freezer Season: How to Freeze Like a Chef With 100 Make-Ahead Recipes. And boy, is it good.
Ashley is the talented chef behind Poole’s Diner, the iconic Raleigh restaurant, where she quickly gained fame for her mac ‘n cheese, pimiento cheese, and “refined comfort food” vibe. Poole’s is reopening, along with Poole’side Pies, her pizzeria, after 13 long, shuttered months. Kaitlyn, the executive director of Ashley’s restaurants, has co-authored many cookbooks and is a writing, research and culinary powerhouse in her own right. The two joined us over Zoom to talk freezers (a hot topic right now!)
Both Ashley and Kait grew up with moms who relied upon the freezer to an extraordinary extent. For Ashley, whose parents gardened, it was a lot of “putting up bumper crops during different seasons.” Kait’s Mom returned to grad school while she was in school and froze meals in advance so her family would always have homemade food to eat. When the couple started noodling about this book, they reminisced about how their mothers used the freezer, and how the regular home cook could employ their own more wisely. Here are three of our favorite tips from their online chat with Houston chef Chris Shepherd.
As Kait says, “We talk about this a lot in the book: Your biggest enemy, the thing that causes freezer burn and the thing you’re trying to avoid, is exposure to air. The more you can take air out of the equation, the better quality you’re going to have with whatever you’re going to freeze.” One element that plays into that is choosing a vessel that fits what you’re storing, she notes. “If you have two and a half quarts of chili, don’t put it in a six-quart vessel that has a ton of exposure. You’ll have too much room for air.” Find a size vessel for your dish that makes sense, like these handy-dandy freezer-safe OXO glass and plastic containers.
2. Create an “Eat Me Soon” Section
Ashley and Kaitlyn noticed that at home, they’d have bits and bobs of recipes leftover from testing. When they thought about it, they realized plenty of home cooks have bits and bobs they don’t want to waste. (It’s better for the environment!) Ashley suggests, “Make a little nugget of space in your freezer for stuff you think you’re gonna eat pretty soon.” Maybe it’s the bones from a roast chicken, plus the tips and base of celery from crudité that will be “beautiful in stock.” Commit to making that that stock in three Sundays. Put it on the calendar. Little bits may not seal up all squat and pretty for stacking, but if they’re always in the same portion of the freezer, you’ll use them. (They won’t be tasty in a year!)
During our chat, Ashley made some of the biscuits for which she is rightfully famous. (Tip: Don’t overwork that dough!) She loved the Zwilling Fresh & Save Starter Set we introduced her to as a way to get biscuits ready to go for Mother’s Day. As she laughed, ““When you want biscuits, you don’t want to make them!” Biscuits are an ideal food to make and freeze in advance, in part because many can go straight from freezer to oven. So make a bunch of biscuits at once! If you’re cooking full-on meals to serve your family, consider whether you can freeze one, like Kaitlyn’s mom.
As Kaitlyn wisely points out, Even if you love to cook, “there are days when you’re in the mood to cook, but there are days when you’re not… but you still have to eat.” Let the freezer rescue you.