Overall I think we can call this little escapade a success. The hardest thing for me personally is always working in someone else's kitchen, not having my own tools at my disposal. I brought several cutting boards, baking pans, a George Foreman grill, measuring spoons and cups, and my Dutch oven in addition to everything J&J already stocked in their house and the items Evan and Michelle contributed from their own kitchens but I still found myself reaching for things that I didn't have with me. Not that we didn't successfully pull it off, just admitting that I'm a bit of a kitchen diva.
Considering this was our first effort, we worked as a pretty efficient team. John would be cooking up chicken breasts while Evan made calzone dough and Jenny prepped ingredients for kabobs. I'd be cooking up some salsa verde while Michelle prepped enchilada filling, Evan made manicotti filling and John did some dishes. we rotated pretty well between jobs, though the checklist I'd meant to put together for each recipe would have been helpful if I'd gotten around to it. Next time!
Here's how each dish went:
Teriyaki chicken kabobs: Jenny did a marvelous job putting these beauties together. We had enough ingredients to make several more than planned. One thing that wasn't ideal was that the skewers were a smidge too long to straight into gallon freezer bags and the points poked holes in a couple of bags. John lopped the pointy ends off with some kitchen sheers and that helped some but it still wasn't an ideal set up. We got the skewers done and put in the fridge right off the bat and almost forgot to make the teriyaki sauce, which I whipped up and portioned out at the very last minute. The marinade called for in the recipe didn't seem like enough to me but we'll see how it turns out when cooked.
Lime marinated shrimp skewers: I shelled and deveined 4 pounds of fresh gulf shrimp, which was messy and took longer than I would have liked but I choose to stubbornly believe the results will be worth it. Instead of marinade we ended up using some seasoned skewers
I had brought. We had exactly enough for the amount of shrimp, resulting in 2 pounds of thai coconut lime and 2 pounds of Indian mango curry. This was total improvisation on my part so we'll see how they work when cooked up but the skewers smelled amazing when they were opened.
Chicken enchiladas verdes: We ended up with three 9 x 12 pans and one 8 x 8 pan of enchiladas. Michelle and Evan handled the assembly, choosing to dip the tortillas into the salsa verde before wrapping them up, traditional style. I'd had some really beautiful tomatillos to work with and used the homemade roasted chicken stock that I contributed so I have high hopes for flavor, though I think we could have used more sauce to pour over the top of the enchiladas before baking. I'll probably whip up some extra sauce for my portion before serving.
Calzones: I chose to make extra of the sauce that was going on the manicotti, forgetting that it's a pretty watery sauce (because the manicotti use softened no-boil lasagna noodles and finish cooking up in the sauce) so I might have inadvertently sabotaged the calzones which need nice dry dough edges to make a good seal. Evan made homemade pizza dough on the spot but we had our hands full with other prep and left the dough sitting too long, so it rose and expanded a lot. I guess we'll see how they hold up on cooking. The concept is sound and we can certainly try again if these come out less than ideal. We had extra sauce and extra cheese to bag up and put in with the calzones for serving time.
Manicotti: These are so easy and really delicious, it's hard to go wrong with this recipe. I hadn't brought enough ricotta but we made up the difference with extra mozzarella. When the filling was being mixed up we forgot to add the chopped spinach (still frozen in the cooler!) so we ended up with extra noodles, but that was okay because by that time we were running out of baking dishes! Even so everyone who wanted some got a portion and Chris and I even had some for dinner when I finally got home. I can vouch that they turned out great, lack of spinach not an issue at all.
Chicken packets: My sense is these came out just fine, though I think I over-stuffed the first four I filled.Jenny took my filled packets, brushed them with melted butter and coated them in panko, then they went into the freezer on a baking sheet to firm up before being slipped into freezer bags for storage. I may make more of these for my house because I know Chris likes them and I suspect a teenage Kate could add these to her after school starvation-prevention routine.
Brazilian marinated chicken: While Viv was napping Kate was at loose ends and was eager to help so she made the Brazilian lime marinade. This is the one thing we needed to make a run to the store for. Even though I'd brought over a dozen limes or so they were not very juicy limes. One was rotten on the end and had to be chucked out and the others put together yielded less than half the amount of juice that we needed. John ran out to QFC and grabbed up some more limes. It only took one or two of the QFC limes to bring us up to the amount of juice we needed... it was kind of amazing. It also reminded me that when we're talking about getting a cup or more of juice together for a recipe, I should use the electric juicer! Next time for sure. Chicken breasts were added to freezer bags and marinade added. Success!
Lemon marinade: This is a cooked marinade, with onions, jalapenos, vinegar, brown sugar, and lemons. Unfamiliar with J&J's stove, we were too cautious with the burners and it took this marinade a long time to get up to temp (and then cool down enough to put into bags to freeze) but I have no doubt it's going to be great as always. I have pork tenderloin marinating in this mix in my fridge for dinner tonight, in fact. Definitely another solid success.
Vegetable ragout: This is the one that we completely failed to get around to. Only Michelle and I planned to share portions of this, so when we were already running overtime and our hosts had to start focusing on feeding and attending their toddler, there was no reason to even start with all the peeling and chopping and roasting. I'm planning to whip this up later.
Things that would help for next time: more large mixing bowls and bowls for holding prepped ingredients (we could have worked some things more efficiently or in a different order); a checklist for prepping ingredients (knowing that we needed X lemons squeezed and Y lemons sliced or X onions sliced plus Y onions in 1" pieces would have meant that all the onion chopping could be done at one time); recipes converted properly before hand (my plan was to photocopy the recipes for everyone and then mark up a photocopy with the doubled or tripled amounts so we didn't have to do it on the fly but my photocopier broke down as I was trying to do that the morning we were cooking, so I had to bring my books and calculate on the fly which slowed things down and led to a few mistakes and omissions); more containers/baking dishes (we moved a few items into freezer bags because they were handy instead of reusable containers or because we needed the baking pans back; scheduling the order in which dishes are assembled or rotated into the oven (so we don't let the dough turn into a man-eating blob or bake the 400 degree recipe before the 350 degree recipe).
Must admit that between the late Friday and Saturday shopping and the cooking itself on Sunday I'm pretty worn out but I'd do it again, more efficiently this time I think, and I love that I have an orderly freezer filled with foods I like and can whip out for lunch or dinner at a moment's notice. In fact, I'm probably going to add to my personal stash, because I still have freezer space calling out to be filled.
Labels: cooking, food, freezer