“There’s a casserole in the freezer!” How many times did we hear that one growing up?
Often if you lived in a homes with busy parents. Somewhere along the way of us growing up, we found an aversion to the frozen casserole. Now it is all about fast food. But maybe it is time that we regressed a tad, and rediscover the frozen casserole dish.
First we need to understand the concept of storing said casserole in a freezer. Well, I guess we all do understand the concept. Casseroles tend to be a mish-mash of items, thrown together and froze until ice crystals have formed over everything turning the food gray, just so we can have a somewhat quick meal on hand. Wrong concept. A frozen casserole should be a thing of beauty, preserved to enable us a low maintenance dinner at a time of need. Sounds so much better, doesn’t it. What we truly need to do, is to understand how we should be freezing.
When It comes to freezing, prevention can go a long way. Start with only freezing a quart at a time. You do not want anything to take longer than 4 hours to freeze completely through. I realize that 1 quart might not be enough food for a family for one meal, but we will address what to do about that in a little while. Choose your containers carefully. You do want to purchase quart containers that a marked as freezer friendly. And be sure to use freezer tape to mark what your casserole is, and the date. Even though foods can be ok for you to eat, indefinitely when placed into a freezer, time has a way of making it taste nasty. You should only store your casserole for up to 6 months. And keep your freezer’s temperature at 0f or -18C, this is the optimum temperature to keep your casseroles properly frozen. Crowding can be an issue as well, you need airflow to maintain the correct temperature.
Here we come to thawing. Do not thaw your casseroles at room temperature. Bacteria can grow on the already thawed parts, releasing gas, and the food will not be completely safe to eat. Instead thaw it out in the refrigerator. This is the slowest, yet safest method, so be sure to plan in advance. A 1 quart casserole can take the day, and possibly into the night to thaw out. You do have a second choice, and that is running cool water over the closed container, or merely plug up the sink, and fill it with the cool water. This will take time, but not as long as the refrigerator thawing. Your third choice is to microwave it on a defrost setting. This is your fastest way. Just be sure to get it in the oven immediately because the microwave, even on defrost, tends to precook some of the food.
With a large family, thaw out as many 1 quart containers of casserole as you need. Once thawed you can place them all into your casserole baking dish.
There are hundreds of casserole dishes out there, a few to try are Swiss steak and sour cream casserole, chicken florentine rice casserole, Italian shrimp and spaghetti casserole, Hawaiian ham casserole, and even a breakfast Casserole of apple French toast casserole. But no matter what casserole you use, just be sure you freeze it correctly so that your work of art is preserved to perfection, and no one dreads the funky gray stuff you just pulled out of the freezer.