Over the years I’ve come up with all sorts of little shortcuts and tricks for cooking and storing food. I’ll share a few with you here, and hopefully it’ll help make your life a little easier.
When you’re freezing leftover pasta, toss it with a small amount of vegetable oil or olive oil before you put it into containers, and do this as soon as possible after cooking it. While it’s just a myth that putting oil in the water when cooking pasta will keep it from sticking (As described in Good Eats: Season 8 Episode 15), it will help after it’s cooked if you’re going to freeze it. Worth noting: Oil in the pasta water will keep the starch from forming a film and boiling over the pot.
Freezing Soup and Pasta
Try to avoid freezing soup with pasta already in it. Cook your pasta and soup separately if possible, and only put them together when serving. If you add the pasta to the soup, then freeze it, the pasta will absorb a great deal of the liquid and it won’t really be soup when it thaws. Freeze your soup and pasta in different containers, then thaw and combine them when you’re ready to eat. If you do freeze soup with pasta in it, remember to add water or broth when you thaw and heat it.
If you’ve never done deep-frying before, get help the first time around. I still have scars to prove that boiling oil can be seriously dangerous. Oil boils at a different temperature than water and doesn’t get the rolling boil you expect from water. Lean on the expertise of a more experienced fryer before you start deep frying on your own, especially if you’re doing it in a pan rather than a fryer device.
Thawing Bread Dough
When thawing bread dough in the refrigerator, don’t wrap it in plastic wrap. It’s best to use a glass baking dish covered with a linen cloth. If you wrap dough in plastic wrap it will expand as it thaws, burst out of the wrap, and make a complete mess of your fridge, not to mention ruining the dough.
Keep a large container of baking soda within easy reach of your stove, but not in a cabinet above it. In the event of a grease fire, baking soda will douse the fire. Never use water on a grease fire! Of course, it’s best to have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, but if you can’t afford one or it fails when you try to use it, baking soda is good to have on hand.
If you don’t eat a lot of bacon, but you like to have it from time to time, buy a pound and freeze it. Set a box of waxed paper down on the counter and pull out a few inches. Place one portion of bacon slices on the paper. (I make portions of 3 slices each.) Roll the paper around the slices, add another portion, and continue until you’ve wrapped the whole pound into basically a big bacon roll. Now when you want bacon, you can get out a single portion and never worry about the rest spoiling. You can also do this with sausage, hot dogs and sandwich meat.