I’ve been thinking a lot about freezer meals. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a morning routine that I really love. I get up before the sun rises, work out and cook lunch or dinner. I guess that makes me a morning person. But I have a long commute and my job keeps late hours, so there’s no way I’ll be up for making dinner after 8 at night. My little routine has worked out really well for us so far.
All that is about to change. I know there’s no way I’ll be able to cook in the mornings before work with a newborn. So, it’s going to be all about weekend cooking and freezer meals. Or salads, sandwiches, omelets and other super-quick dinners. Luckily, I love leftovers and think that some foods benefit from some time in the freezer. Especially soups.
The trick to making freezer meals is making sure it’s a well-rounded one. Sure, braised meat freezes well, but then I have to think of a side dish and I want something easier. Thick hearty stews and chowder fit the bill and this one is especially tasty.
For the chowder, I browned some onions, potatoes, Mexican chorizo and chicken with dried guajillo chile peppers. I added some fire-roasted tomatoes, corn and chicken stock and let the whole thing simmer until the potatoes were tender and the chicken was falling apart. Stir in a little lime zest and some cream and that’s it. The chowder is richly flavored – spicy, smoky and creamy. The lime zest and cilantro add a brightness that I think every freezer meal needs. A wonderful thing when you’re starving and your fridge is bare of anything but condiments and juice.
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 lb. red potatoes, diced
1 – 2 dried guajillo peppers (or your favorite dried pepper)
2 links Mexican chorizo (usually in the fresh sausage case)
1.5 lbs. chicken breast, diced
28 oz. can of Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups (24 oz.) corn (I used frozen this time of year)
zest of 1 lime
1 cup cream
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Set a large pot over medium heat. Once it’s hot, toast the dried peppers for 1 – 2 minutes on each side, or until they become dry and fragrant. Remove.
Heat the canola oil and saute the onions for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the potatoes and continue to saute until both are golden, about 5 more minutes. Chop the dried peppers and add them back to the pot.
Remove the casings from the sausage and add to the pot along with the diced chicken. Saute until starting to brown. If the meat starts to stick, add the diced tomatoes. When the meat is cooked through, add the chicken stock and corn. Bring to a simmer and reduce to medium-low. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the stock reduces a bit and the potatoes and chicken are tender.
Remove from heat and stir in the lime zest and cream. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serve with a sprinkling of cilantro, or place into freezer-safe containers and sprinkle with cilantro.
Makes 8 servings.