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5 Useful Things You Should Keep in Your Freezer

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In honor of the holidays and the Genius Recipes cookbook pre-sale, we're asking some of the geniuses in question about their favorite things.

Today: Melissa Clark -- cookbook author and New York Times columnist -- shows us how to cook better, by freezing smarter.

My freezer is a strange and wonderful place, filled with the ends of some happy food memories and the beginnings of others. I say, freeze liberally -- even a few tablespoons of leftover stew can be repurposed into a fantastic base for a pasta sauce a month later when there's nothing in the house for dinner.

The trick is to remember what you've got in there, and to rotate things often. If you haven't used it in 3 months, toss it and make room for something else. And always, always label everything. It's amazing just how much your leftover black bean chili can resemble chocolate sauce if you're rifling through unmarked containers when a chocolate craving hits.

Here's a peek at my current inventory:

1. Animal fats of all kinds. Chicken fat and skin packed into a ziplock plastic bag for making into schmaltz, naturally. Leaf lard for pie crusts, bacon fat for gingerbread cookies. Leftover brown butter.

2. Heirloom tomatoes in a plastic bag leftover from summer. I thought about canning them, then gave up. I will use them for soup or stew at some point in the depths of winter when I'm desperate for summer.

3. Kaffir lime leaves. Buy them fresh, store them frozen.

4. Bones: A ham bone for soup. A picked-pretty-clean leftover roasted chicken carcass for broth. A prime rib bone waiting patiently for a hungry dog.

5. Freshly milled emmer flour from the farmers market because it keeps better there.

Tell us: What useful things are stashed in your freezer right now?

Photos by James Ransom


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Tags: Weeknight Cooking, Holiday, Freeze, Tips & Techniques, Lists, Everyday Cooking