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Freezer Scraps

May 16, 2018

Cooking. I love to do it. The idea of taking raw ingredients and transforming them into something entirely different is almost like a kind of magic.

I can’t remember when I last made a pot roast. It must have been some time this winter. But you start off with a large raw piece of beef. Mine probably was some form of chuck roast. On it’s own, the cut is tough, and super fatty. That’s one reason why it’s good ground up into hamburger.

But you can also sear it to develop flavor, deglaze the pan with onions, deglaze those browned onions with stock, wine, tomatoes, or all three, and throw in some other aromatics for good measure. After hours of very slow simmering, you’re left with something so meltingly tender, rich, and delicious, the idea of turning it into hamburger feels like a crime.

Ant that’s coming from someone who love hamburgers.

So, when I cook, I make things in quantity. The chuck roast I started with was sizeable. It fed my family for several days, in many forms. But I guess we didn’t finish it all. Because last night, in a fit of panic trying to put together a quick dinner, I found a small chunk of it buried in the back of the freezer.

It felt almost like striking gold.

How can a rock-hard six-ounce piece of frozen braised chuck roast feed a family of four in thirty minutes or less? I’m glad you asked. Part of the secret is keeping a whole bunch of reserved fats on hand. The other is pantry staples.

First things first. This beef had to become edible, and delicious, stat.

Thankfully, I have a giant cleaver and a solid cutting board. And yes, the cleaver can totally hack through frozen meat. Just be careful of those fingers. Should dinner be a fail, you can always order pizza. A trip to the ER is going to put a much more serious damper on the evening.

Once the meat was chopped up in bits, I added some saved beef tallow to a cast iron skillet, threw in the frozen meat, sprinkled on a little salt, and covered that bad boy up over medium-low heat. Not only did that do the trick, but it made the house smell amazing. Could you use another cooking fat? Sure. But the beef tallow really helps restore long frozen pot roast to its former glory.

When Mrs. Fussy walked through the door and was greeting by the aroma of long and slow braised beef, she entered a happy place.

Right. So there’s still the problem of this only being about six ounces of meat to feed four people, one of whom is a teenager, and another who is a runner.

The answer: burritos. Tacos would have also worked. But in this house, we do burritos.

We keep a whole bunch of burrito staples on hand thanks to some of the amazing convenience foods available at Trader Joe’s. Whole wheat tortillas, Hatch green chile salsa, shredded “Mexican” cheese blend, and black beans. There also just happened to be a lime and some ripe avocado on the counter. And don’t forget, I maintain a library of hot sauces.

While the braised chuck didn’t particularly have a Mexican flavor profile, it still worked well within the confines of burritos. In a way it functioned similarly to lengua. The small chunks of beef crisped up in the beef fat. There were some juicy bits, but the experience was deeply beefy, tender, and succulent.

To supplement this, I sauteed a bag of frozen broccoli with a little salt and olive oil to have on the side.

Easy peasy. I was even able to use black beans that I made in the instant pot instead of opening a can. But that’s a story for another day.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 18, 2018 10:10 am

    In our house we do just about the same – quesadillas. Whenever there are odd quantities of leftover meat or veggie that’s not quite enough I’ll make some quesadillas. The frozen grilled peppers and onions & frozen grill corn, from Trader Joe’s a must for emergency meals.

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