My Freezer Meal Party

What in the world possessed me to want to have a freezer meal party I just don’t know.  I really don’t like freezer meals so why in the world would I make them?  Simply, I wanted to have a reason to have some people over and do something I’ve never done at the same time.  The concept of it is pretty basic, find a few people to get together to make some meals you put in your freezer that you can bake at a later date.  Making it all happen is where it gets a little chaotic.

This first attempt was a learning experience, and it seems I had a lot to learn.  We started around 3 o’clock and finished around 8pm.  We made lasagna, chicken pot pie, butternut risotto, spring rolls and chocolate chip cookies.  My initial instinct was to pretty much do it and have it done for when they got here, but then where’s the fun, right?  So I only did a few things before they arrived…. which would have been fine if I had a better delineation of tasks.  Next time I will have tasks thought out ahead of time, making sure each person had their little piece to the puzzle.  Depending on how many people you have will determine that list.  What makes sense to me is have jobs already assigned to individuals.

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Before you begin any of the work I would highly suggest starting with a clean work space, seems like common sense, I know.  I made sure my kitchen was clean as well as the dining room table cleared as well as the kitchen table.  I wasn’t sure just how much room we would need but I wanted to be prepared in case we needed to spread out.

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In an attempt to be somewhat ahead of the game, so to speak, before people arrived I got out most of the ingredients that would be needed as well as soaking the mushrooms for the spring rolls since that takes a little bit of time.  A more thorough prep will be done next time.

First, the dishes I picked had a lot of chopping of vegetables, so I should have had everyone assigned to a few vegetables to cut.

Next, I would give each person (or persons, depending on how many you have participating) a recipe and have them be responsible for that dish.  Since I only have one stove and only a certain amount of burners I would stagger the use of it.  Using the dishes I made, I would have had someone starting the cookies, another doing the crusts for the chicken pot pies and the remaining two using the stove to make the lasagna sauce and the filling for the pot pies.  The risotto could be done after one of those dishes were complete.  Lastly, I had printed out the recipes to what we made but I would also print out a little card with instructions for cooking out of the freezer.

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You also have to factor in the necessary drinking and snacking breaks…it is after all a party and people are supposed to be having fun.  Along with beer and wine we also made lemon drops using fresh squeezed lemons.

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It’s interesting to see different people cooking together, each person has their own level and ways, but it all comes together.

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Finishing the evening with assembling the spring roles was really nice.  We all sat around the table chatting, laughing, sharing funny stories and pretty much slowing down.  That part I would not change.

Time to think about my next freezer meal party.

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Menudo

It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I actually had menudo, and even when I did try it I wasn’t so sure what to think of it.  But when you are dating a boy who’s family is from Mexico and it’s the holidays, you eat the menudo.  Let me tell you, I’m glad I did.  Since that first bowl I’ve had many others, and much like spaghetti, you get quite a variety from each person.  The woman (I really should say family) that watches the twinadoes is also from Mexico, her husband makes the best menudo so of course I asked him how he does it.  I’ve tweaked it a little here and there, but for the most part it’s they way he showed me.

Depending on my mood and craving, sometimes I add hominy, but I would say that mostly I do not.  I stick to using lots of tripe and beef feet, after cooking in that glorious red broth it just can’t be beat.  Traditionally, it was a meal that was cheap because it uses the parts of the cow (and sometimes pig) that most people would throw away.  These days that cannot be said, the tripe I purchased was a little over five dollars a pound….

Please note, this recipe makes a really large pot of menudo.  I don’t make it often so when I do I like to make enough to be able to freeze some for later.

For the Recipe:

5 lbs. beef feet

5 large onions, chopped

3 tbsp. salt (this will vary according to your taste)

1 tbsp. pepper (this will vary according to your taste)

10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

3 lbs. honeycomb tripe, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces

2 1/2 lbs. scalded tripe

12 New Mexico chilies, seeded

5 Guajillo chilies, seeded

2 tbsp. oregano

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In a very large pot (I used a 13 quart pot) add the beef feet, 3 onions, 2 tbsp. salt, pepper, and garlic.  Cover with water and let cook over medium heat for 2 hours (you don’t want the water to be boiling, more like a soft simmer), skimming the scum off the top as it cooks.

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After two hours add all the tripe and 1 tbsp. salt, let cook for two hours.

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While this is cooking you can prepare the chilies.  You don’t have to use both kinds, if you can only find one of them that will work.  In a dry pan roast the peppers, they will soften up and get a deeper color.  This does not take long so don’t walk away or you will burn them, don’t use if that happens.  Remove from the pan, place in the blender, cover with 1 cup boiling water and let sit for 15 or so minutes to soften up.  Add the oregano and the remaining onions, blend until smooth.  Set aside until ready to use.  Once the tripe has been cooking for two hours add the chile mixture.  If you want to add hominy now would be the time, the amount is up to you, if I were going to add it to this recipe I would use a 14 ounce can.

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Let this cook for about 20 minutes so the chile mixture has time to cook a bit, give a taste and adjust with more salt and pepper if needed.  Once you are happy with the salt/pepper let it cook an additional 1-2 hours until the tripe is tender and the liquid has turned a deep red/brick color, it will also thicken up.

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Ladle up a bowl and serve with tortillas and traditional menudo condiments.

Condiments:

cilantro, chopped

onions, chopped

green onions, chopped

oregano

red pepper flakes

limes

Enjoy!