Dinner from ice can be a winner

Cooking from the freezer. Does that conjure up a vision of unidentifiable meats encrusted in a glacier-like ice, or clumps of frozen peas as big as your head? Well, then perhaps you need to clean that stuff out and start again. Don’t be tempted to defrost it, because seriously, even if you can excavate it, the freezer burn has already stripped it of anything resembling its original taste.

Freezers may be the most abused appliance in the kitchen. You think that anything that goes in there will come out in pristine condition, like a perfectly preserved wooly mammoth. Sure, I was tempted to rush to Harris Teeter’s closing sale to snap up deep discounted freezer items. Two things stopped me. One was that our freezer is about the size of an average microwave. The second was that I had no plan to use anything, and from experience I knew that I would end up tossing most of my savings into the garbage down the road. I still have a gargantuan bag of banana pops in the freezer from last summer, when I was craving one. The other two dozen are still sitting there, an accusing lump of self-indulgence that I just can’t seem to throw away.

Sure, every time I flip through those glossy home store circulars, I’m tempted by the huge freezers. The possibilities of having roasts or ducks, flash frozen produce from the farmers market, or perhaps freezer jam right on hand is always tempting. It’s also totally unneccessary. Eight grocery stores and a farmer’s market are less than a 10-minute drive from my house. Eight! Let them hold the frozen stuff for me. Let them restock it regularly. And, for the record, I have never in my life made freezer jam.

But the freezer does do more than house ice cubes. It’s a great place to store bread heels and biscuits until I need crumbs or croutons. I make cheese pennies and freeze the dough in logs, ready to be sliced and baked. Puff pastry is always a welcome tenant. But normally, my freezer is woefully understocked.

The one exception to this is the constant presence of chicken thighs in our freezer. We eat enough to keep the inventory fresh. Usually, I go all domestic on a huge pack and divvy them into two-person servings, with the date written on each packet. But, apparently, after a recent shopping trip, I was in a hurry and just chucked the whole eight-pack in the deep freeze. Defrost one, and you have to defrost them all. So I found and tweaked a simple, savory recipe using ingredients I already had on hand because I knew we’d be eating it for several days. I also figured the leftovers would freeze well. I know. I know. The irony is obvious.

However, this dish proved so addicting, with its sweet and savory flavors that we ate it for three straight days. And now that I’ve got plenty of room in the freezer again, maybe I’ll try making some freezer jam. No, really…

Honey Lemon Glazed Chicken

This recipe gets its great flavor from strongly flavored seasonings and doesn’t call for salt. If rosemary isn’t your thing, try fresh thyme or oregano.

4 lemons

4 Tbsp. butter

5 garlic cloves, chopped

4 Tbsp. honey

4 large sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed from stems

8 chicken thighs, skin on or off

1 pound new or fingerling potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Zest two of the lemons and set zest aside.

Squeeze the juice from the lemons into a saucepan. Add butter, garlic, honey and rosemary. Cook  and stir over low heat just until butter melts. Stir in zest.

Arrange chicken in a pan or casserole large enough to hold both chicken and potoatoes in single layer. If you are using bite-size potatoes, toss them in whole. For larger spuds, cut into bite-size pieces. Pour the honey mixture over the chicken and potatoes.

Roast for 60 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve with plenty of bread for soaking up juices.





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