Homemade Podcast Episode 36: Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen on Making the Freezer MVP of Your Kitchen
Learn how to make it your secret weapon, too.
James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen grew up with parents who gardened, canned produce in peak season, and froze food to preserve it at its freshest. She still recalls eating breakfast before school as her mom thawed dinner from the freezer. So when she and her wife, food writer Kaitlyn Goalen, considered what a more thoughtful approach to meal planning might look like for them, freezing food came to mind. Indeed, frozen meals were part of Goalen's childhood, too, but for the sake of convenience and saving time.
Though their moms utilized their freezers for different reasons, the couple and co-authors of a new cookbook consider their approaches complementary. It's Always Freezer Season: How to Freeze Like a Chef with 100 Make-Ahead Recipes includes freezer hacks, secrets to thawing food for maximum freshness, and an answer to the oft-asked question of how long frozen food stays good for. It also packs in recipes for savory biscuits, compound butter (including pimiento cheese butter), Tex-Mex enchiladas, a cocktail-inspired icebox pie, and more.
The two tell host Martie Duncan all about the cookbook on this week's episode of Homemade. Tune in to learn how your freezer can help you reduce waste, sustain your seasonal food, and act as an extension of your pantry. Plus, get the scoop on Ashley's Raleigh restaurants and the mac and cheese that rivals many a grandmother's. Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, PlayerFM, and everywhere podcasts are available beginning April 7.
About Ashley Christensen
Ashley Christensen began cooking as a student at North Carolina State University before working in a restaurant for the first time at 21. Her career as a chef took off in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area, where she worked in some of its top restaurants and, in 2007, opened Poole's Diner. She now owns six businesses, including Poole's: Beasley's Chicken + Honey, Fox Liquor Bar, Death & Taxes, Poole'side Pies, and Clubhouse. Christensen's accolades include the 2014 James Beard Award for "Best Chef: Southeast," the 2019 James Beard Award in the "Outstanding Chef," and Eater's "Chef of the Year" for 2017. In addition to It's Always Freezer Season: How to Freeze Like a Chef with 100 Make-Ahead Recipes, the chef has authored Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner. She has appeared on Food Network's "Iron Chef America" and MSNBC's "Your Business."
About Kaitlyn Goalen
Kaitlyn Goalen studied Food, Culture, and Communication at New York University. She worked as an editor at the digital food media brand Tasting Table in New York before moving to North Carolina, where she serves as the director of AC Restaurants (Ashley Christensen Restaurants). As a freelance writer, she has covered food for Food & Wine, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Gastronomica, O, and the Wall Street Journal. She has also contributed to four cookbooks: It's Always Freezer Season: How to Freeze Like a Chef with 100 Make-Ahead Recipes, Cook Like a Local: Flavors That Can Change How You Cook and See the World, Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, and The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients That Speak Volumes.
MARTIE DUNCAN Welcome to Homemade. I'm Martie Duncan. On this show, we like to talk about how some of our favorite recipes came to be to help save them for future generations. Today, we're going to go a step further by exploring some of the stories, tips, techniques, and ways that savvy home cooks and smart restaurant chefs make the most of their ingredients and time in the kitchen because, let's be honest here, some days we just don't feel like cooking. Our ancestors did a little better job of this than we do, putting up, canning, freezing, and batch cooking so that getting dinner on the table wasn't always such a huge undertaking. Keep in mind that they didn't have restaurants and takeout, so they had to get dinner on the table every night.
James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen is the owner of five acclaimed restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina, including the legendary Poole's Diner. She is well known in the industry for her use of seasonal and regional ingredients, and she learned how to work smarter, not harder, in the kitchen, discovering various methods to make the most of her ingredients.
As she opened multiple restaurants, Chef Christensen began to explore ways to get more from ingredients, not just to preserve them while they were in season but also make it easier to use them in the restaurants. The result is a new book for home cooks. I think you're going to find it just so helpful. It's called It's Always Freezer Season: How to Freeze Like a Chef with 100 Make-Ahead Recipes.
The book was developed and written with her partner, Kaitlyn Goalen. Kaitlyn's a food writer whose work has appeared in Southern Living and Food & Wine, and the book tackles everything from the lifespan of things like dairy, poultry, bread, all that stuff, once they're frozen. But it also gives us home cooks tools to truly make our freezers an extension of our pantry. I am so excited to welcome both Chef Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen to Homemade. Thank y'all so much for joining me.
ASHLEY CHRISTENSEN Thanks for having us.
KAITLYN GOALEN Thank you so much for having us.
MARTIE OK, Ashley, let's start with you. Whaat made you want to write this book?
ASHLEY I grew up in a household where both my parents are just incredible cooks, big gardens, lots of all-day cooking where you walk out into the garage where there lives a chest freezer or a full-sized full-door freezer. So, my parents just did a beautiful job of looking at the things that they grew and capturing them in the height of their season, both in the way that we ate them fresh, how they might pickle and jar things. But certainly, like making beautiful fresh tomato sauces out of tomatoes out of the garden, or a beautiful pesto that could be frozen out of, like, Genovese basil at the height of its season. So, things at their brightest, captured, and made available in a way that you can go and grab a small amount of something six months later and it makes you look forward to six months ahead.
MARTIE But I'm shocked. Did your parents do this with intention? Like, my mama put up and canned, too, but it was for budgetary reasons. So your parents did this with some really some with cooking in mind and with intention?
ASHLEY For sure. Kait and I are married, and one of the conversations that we have often is thinking about our week and how we wanna meal plan and prepare. We both love to cook. It's my profession. Kait has a food background. And I think that it's easy to be on a whim and wake up and say, I want this today and run out to the store. And we started sort of thinking about how we could be more responsible, and by being more thoughtful and planning a little bit better we would be able to save money, save mileage, not have to go in the damn grocery store so much.
But also, it made me think back about, I knew we were having chicken that night because when I was up having my breakfast, getting ready to go to school, my mom had the chicken from the freezer with water running over it to go ahead and thaw it out for the night. When I thought back, it was very rare that they went to the store more than once a week. Kait and I had a conversation about that and made it a practice at home before we thought, "Hey, this would be a really cool thing to revisit."
MARTIE A good book.
MARTIE Yeah. Kaitlyn, you've written for a lot of prestigious magazines before you got into these cookbooks with Ashley. Is this new to you or did you grow up in a household where they put up and canned and frozen, also?
KAITLYN Sure. Like Ashley, I grew up where the freezer was definitely a well-used part of my mom's cooking repertoire. She went back to grad school when I was very young and was a working mother throughout my adolescence. And so often cooked in advance. And Ashley's version, I think, is maybe a little bit more poetic in terms of the gardens and tapping into a version of cooking that is pretty common in the South with growing in the summer and putting up and preserving.
My experience with it growing up was more in the time-saving, convenient side of things. And so what I think is really interesting about the freezer is that you get to have both. And usually, sometimes I think preservation and putting up is sort of not necessarily a convenience activity. Some people think of it as like, "It takes a while. You have to put all this work into it." Da da da. But then simultaneously, the freezer, I think, is often thought of as a tool for convenience and not as much for preservation.
And so what we really wanted to set out to do is like the freezer is your MVP in the kitchen. It gives you convenience. It gives you the ability to sustain the seasons. It gives you the ability to reduce waste. It gives you the ability to impress your friends at a moment's notice and look, like, amazing when they come over unprompted and you've got like snacks ready to go.
MARTIE Yeah. Ashey, that sort of how you got started in your whole cooking career, isn't it? By dinner parties and just enjoying that gathering? I can't wait till we get back to that, y'all.
ASHLEY Oh, yeah.
MARTIE Which prompted me to ask about how's it going with your five restaurants? Is it five now? Do y'all all have more than five?
KAITLYN So we have — it's five restaurants and an event venue. We have Beasley's, Fox Liquor Bar, Poole's Diner, Poole'Side Pies, and Death and Taxes, and then also our events business.
MARTIE OK, I didn't know about the Poole'Side Pies. You're going to have to tell me what that one is real quick.
ASHLEY Kait and I love Italy. And we go to Rome often. it's one of our favorite places to get away for a week to — long-term goal of being able to go there a little bit more often. But I love Napoli-style pizza, and Kait does too. So we thought there's not a lot of that particular style of pizza in Raleigh and certainly not in downtown. And it just made a lot of sense to us.
So we started studying and we went to Naples and spent days just eating pizza. and drinking a lot of seltzer water. But so ultimately the name Poole'Side, it's spelled like Pooles. So P-O-O-L-E apostrophe Side. And so we thought it was sort of fun to go with this theme of next to Poole's, but we use kind of a swim club theme for the decor.
And the concept is these beautiful Napoli-inspired pies. Quick, nice, fresh, bright ingredients, salads. We do fresh extruded pastas. We've had a lot of time this year to think about how we want to come back, so we're going to be doing some neat entrees as well. It went into the pandemic as Poole'Side Pies. It's going to come back as Poole'Side Pies and Pasta.
MARTIE OK! Gotcha. I can't wait to make a trip up there. OK, so while we're on the subject of Poole's, before we really get into the meat of this book, tell us about that famous mac and cheese. I want you to walk us through it. Y'all, you can find the recipe online. I found it and I have made it lots of times. Like everybody, I love my mama's mac and cheese, and I make that. But this Poole's mac and cheese is good. Ashley, would you walk us through it real quick?
ASHLEY Yeah, well, first, I have so many people to say to me, "My grandmother's mac or my mother's mac has always been my favorite, but this might be my new favorite."
MARTIE Until now. Yeah.
ASHLEY I immediately say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. It's not better. It's just different." Especially in the South, you don't insult anyone's mother's mac and cheese. You know, so...
MARTIE Well, not while they're living, anyway.
ASHLEY Yeah. Yeah, it's very simple. It's good, good cream, a little bit of sea salt, noodles that we cook al dente, and then three cheeses. Sharp Vermont white Cheddar, Grana Padano, which is a young Parmesan. And then Jarlsberg, which is essentially like a Gruyere-esque, kind of Swiss-like cheese, and and they're all made to order. So we've got a cook who cooks like three things: mac and then maybe roast chicken and one vegetable. And that person is working really hard and drinking a lot of soda water because part of what makes that dish so delicious is the person cooking it has about a thousand tasting spoons next to them to every batch. You got to make sure it's where it needs to be.
MARTIE Make sure it's on.
ASHLEY And so we make those orders, pop 'em in nice gratin dishes, top it with the same three cheeses. So it goes right into the broiler. And you know exactly what it's done. It hits this sort of smellovision moment where it's just right there. It's a little caramelized, blistery, and burnt in all the right places.
MARTIE I'll be right back. I'm going to my kitchen right now. I'll be right back. Oh, my God, sounds so good.
ASHLEY The other great idea that Kait had you know, tying into this freezer concept — we do the holidays and we're selling tons of macaroni au gratin orders out of Poole's. And they were getting calls, like six a day, asking if people could buy it and freeze it for their holidays. And Kait's like, "We got to crack the nut on this. We've got to figure that out."
That's one of the things we've been, we've been working on. We've got a couple of shelves in one of our two outdoor freezers right now dedicated to some Poole's Diner mac au gratin and frozen tests.
MARTIE Yeah. I was gonna ask you, is that something that we can make and freeze for later? Is it a recipe like that in the book?
ASHLEY We've got a different mac in the book. I's my mother's Mac. That's actually what we serve it at Beasley's, the fried chicken joint. That's more of a custard style, and it's got things in it that help it to freeze and thaw out well. Like, evaporated milk in it. It's got flour in it. So.
ASHLEY Yeah, bechamel. And bechamel is an ingredient in the book, and that's one of the things is this all that kind of stuff that we've sort of adapted into this new version of what might be the frozen mac and cheese.
MARTIE So let's get into this book. I really like the way that you have it organized, number one. I think it is a really smart way to organize a cookbook. And, ya'll, one thing that I truly like about it is the first part of the book, it tells you how to use your freezer. I think that is super important. I also like how you have organized this, in the beginning, to say your freezer is an extension of your pantry. That's how you need to think of your freezer. So, with grains, proteins, dairy, veg — I never thought about freezing dairy, to be candid. So walk us through a little bit of how we can use our freezer as an extension of our pantry.
KAITLYN This part was actually pretty fun to research because even if you think you know how to use your freezer, there are probably things that you don't entirely know. And I think one of the biggest questions that Ashley certainly gets asked as a chef is like, "Is this still good?" Like, "If I have a turkey from last Thanksgiving in my freezer, like can I still eat it?" You know, and so we really did want to dig into that.
And what I'll say about dairy and eggs and, and, um, some of these categories that maybe aren't as obvious to freeze is, sometimes you can freeze them and it's very helpful to, like things like butter, for example, or certain kinds of cheeses make total sense to freeze.
Other things, just because you can doesn't mean you should. You know, the quality might go down. With eggs, it's interesting. You can freeze eggs. You can't freeze them in the shell because the shell will crack as they thaw, and the egg itself inside expands. So if you want to freeze eggs, you need to crack them into some sort of vessel. In researching the book I think I saw people cracking them into like ice cube trays, things like that, so they have room to expand as they thaw.
MARTIE I wanted to ask, too, I noticed that you also give some USDA, FDA tips on temperatures and things like that. Keeping your freezer at zero is important, isn't it?
KAITLYN It is. There's a misconception when people ask, like, "How long will this last? Is it still good?" Those kind of questions — about when and how food can actually spoil and when perishable food actually goes bad. And it's not so much what happens while it's frozen, right? That's not what really has an impact on whether or not it spoils. It is all about the process of getting it to the state of frozen and then bringing it back out of that state. What we know is thawing.
And so we felt it was really important to include some sort of, like, nitty-gritty on that and the temperatures and the time, which in professional restaurants you hear about all the time. This is the big thing that the health inspector loves to come through and talk about is, how long has anything been sitting at X temperature?
And at home, especially with the freezer, it's just as important. You could put something in the freezer and leave it there for a year and it would be the same amount of perishable as when you put it in, but depending on how you thaw it, it may be more kind of towards its peak, if you will.
MARTIE Well, it may actually be safe. It just might not be very, um, edible at some point.
KAITLYN Delicious. That's right.
MARTIE Yeah. So, I used to be the food-safe spokesperson for the USDA.
KAITLYN Oh, cool.
MARTIE Because, you know, entertaining at home in the South, a lot of people are guilty of leaving things out on the buffet for four, five, six hours.
KAITLYN Oh yeah.
MARTIE So you know how that goes. So anyway, they wanted me to help bring awareness to the food poisoning issue. So I love the fact that you've included temperatures and safe thawing techniques. And also safe freezing techniques. That's important.
KAITLYN So the main idea, just to sum it up, is that when you have a large batch of something — stocks are a good example or a big pot of chili, let's say — if you stick that into your refrigerator or your freezer when it's 170 or 160 off the stove, it's going to heat up everything in your refrigerator or freezer. And so, you're going to then bring the temperature of everything up with it and potentially bring it up to a point where bacteria can again start to form and thus become unsafe.
So what you want to do is bring it down in temperature outside of the freezer or refrigerator. And you can do that in a couple of ways. You can do that with an ice bath. You can put it in a cool — like, almost like a bain of ice — or fill your sink with ice water and stick the pot in there. In the restaurants, they have these fancy things called ice wands.
MARTIE The big wands. Yeah. Those things are awesome.
KAITLYN So you can stir it and cool it down. Often if it's something very dense, like maybe like a risotto or a cooked rice, you want to spread it out on a baking sheet so it has more surface area to cool off. And you want to bring that temperature down sort of as quickly as you can and as close as you can to what we would call room temperature or below. And from that point you can put it in the refrigerator, bring it down to 40, and then put it in the freezer.
MARTIE So and in the book you talk about the things that you can freeze without doing anything to them.
MARTIE And you talk about the things that you either need to cook or blanch before.
MARTIE Now, the green things.
MARTIE Those are the things I always struggle with because they always don't stay that green. So blanching in those instances are important. Right? And I'm not just talking about the vegetables. I'm also talking about green things like sauces, like salsa verde, guacamole, or avocado or whatever. Chimichurri, maybe pesto. Those things, they turn.
MARTIE Give us some tips on freezing the green things.
KAITLYN Yeah. I've always made pestos and chimichurris just with, like fresh, raw herbs. I've never bothered to blanch them before. But what we found is that blanching them first and shocking them before you proceed with making your chimichurri or your pesto seriously lengthens the life of that sauce in the fridge or in the freezer. And certainly, with the freezer, I mean, I think the big thing when you're trying to decide, should I freeze this, is texture is usually the most compromised kind of aspect when you freeze. Right? So if you put a piece of lettuce in the freezer, it's going to wilt. It's going to become gross. It's not going to withhold the texture that you want from lettuce.
When you're using fresh herbs, similarly, if you're putting something that's meant to be crisp but delicate in the freezer, and even if it's chopped up, it's still as crisp and delicate in that state, you know, when you first put it in, it's going to decompose, and it wilts essentially faster. So by cooking it in advance, you're changing the texture upfront and you're creating a texture in advance that can then be consistent after you freeze and thaw it.
MARTIE OK, for those who don't know, so blanching, basically, we put it in boiling water and then you shock it in ice to keep the green and to keep some of the texture, right? So correct me if I'm wrong. I just want to make sure that if you've never blanched that you know how to do it.
KAITLYN That's correct. Yes.
MARTIE I also like the fact that you encourage people to make the big double batches. Y'all do that in the restaurants, right? So when you make stocks, for example, you don't just make stock for, you know, one day. You make a big, giant thing of stock, and you say it's not that much harder to go ahead and do the double batches.
ASHLEY Yeah, I was, I was going to say, first of all, I'm a restaurant cook, so I have a real hard time cooking for two people.
MARTIE I do, too. I have a very hard time cooking for two — one person. I can't even, it's impossible.
ASHLEY Those little pans get a little dusty in our house. But if you think about it, just the idea that if there's something that you're going to cook for four or five hours, you've already got that gas burning underneath it, like, why not make it something that can feed you for a few more days?
KAITLYN I think this is actually maybe a core tenet of this book for me. I think think that cooking at home is equal parts sort of like a chore and labor as well as in some cases a joy and luxurious. Everybody has those days where it's like you still have to eat, you still have to feed your family. You don't feel like cooking, but you're going to do it anyway. And it's a chore. And honestly, that's part of why we have job security, because sometimes people don't want to cook and they go out to eat in restaurants.
But then, I think for people who like to cook, if you're lucky enough to have the time to dedicate to a project, you know, a project cooking, like, making a giant pan of lasagna from scratch or making a beautiful Bolognese from scratch and really going into all the effort that that takes, because food, cooking, good food takes work, right?
MARTIE And it's expensive.
KAITLYN And it's expensive. It's an investment. And so our idea here is like, how do you get the most ROI on this experience?
KAITLYN You know? Because it's not every weekend or every day that we have that time or that luxury of getting to really just like spend five hours doing something fun in the kitchen.
MARTIE You're listening to Homemade. Stay tuned as Ashley and Kaitlyn discuss more freezer fun with homemade biscuits and flavored butters as well as a citrus pie recipe that was inspired by Ashley's favorite cocktail. We'll be right back after the break.
I'm Martie Duncan, and my guests today are Chef Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen, the authors of a brand new cookbook called It's Always Freezer Season.
I want to talk about what's good to freeze and what's not so good to freeze when it comes to breads.
MARTIE I think in the book you say, think about it this way, tell me if I'm right. The things that have yeast, you need to freeze them after you've baked them. The things that don't have yeast, you can freeze before they're baked.
MARTIE Is that right?
KAITLYN Mostly. And, you know, there are exceptions to every rule. But yes.
MARTIE All right, so I want to talk about these orange biscuits, girls. Cough it up, let's hear. I want all the secrets. Who's — where'd that come from? Is that a family recipe?
KAITLYN That's Ashley's recipe.
MARTIE I'm making that, like, when we hang up.
We have a thing in Birmingham that are orange rolls. They're very, very famous in Alabama in general. Orange rolls. And there's one restaurant that's really, really known for them, and they will not give that recipe. I have tried for three cookbooks, and no. Anyway, walk us through these orange biscuits. Where did that come from? And tell us how to make 'em.
ASHLEY Sure. Yeah. So, this is a really, very simple recipe. And I was just telling the story the other day, talking to somebody about the book. My parents made everything from scratch. They weren't big bakers. And one of the things that we had that was off the store shelves in our fridge were the Pillsbury biscuits. Or my mom, I don't remember her ever making homemade biscuits. And so, sort of grew up with that being the one thing that wasn't super fresh and from scratch at home. And one of my favorite things in the world as a little kid were those Pillsbury orange biscuits that had the cream cheese icing in the little vat at the end of it.
MARTIE Oh, yeah.
ASHLEY First of all, I love that sound that it makes when you tap it on the side and the tube explodes. It's like a good stress reliever. But, yes, so this was kind of like reminiscent of this childhood memory, that it's fun to talk to people who also — they're like, "Oh, this reminds me of that Pilsbury biscuit."
MARTIE Everybody loves that.
ASHLEY Well so this recipe — I don't know if you know Joseph Lynn, he was the chef at Blackberry Farm.
MARTIE Yes, of course.
ASHLEY Yeah, he has a restaurant in Knoxville. But he came and did a guest chef event with me, I think for Southern Foodways Alliance at some point. And they make very fancy biscuits at Blackberry Farm.
ASHLEY But he was like, "I want to make these biscuits that somebody taught me to make." And it's the most simple recipe. It's butter that you freeze and you break the butter on a cheese grater.
ASHLEY Which makes so much sense because you think about that being a connective step of in pastry. In that style of baking, you want things really cold and they just jump. They jump a little higher when that's the case. So he throws this butter, grated it, mixed it with, a self-raising flour, and good buttermilk. And it's just a really simple, beautiful biscuit recipe. When I'm craving biscuits, I'm usually not in the mood to make them.
MARTIE Well, true. Yeah.
ASHLEY Yeah, it's Sunday morning. I don't want to get up.
MARTIE Get at it.
ASHLEY Yeah, I don't want to bake 16 of them. I want to be able to grab a couple out of the freezer, pop them in, and make it look like I've been up for hours too. So it was such a simple technique and gave us so much access to be able to feel like we had been working when we hadn't by just pulling things out of the freezer and baking them quickly that I thought, man, what a, what a great backbone recipe this would be. Something that we could do other things with. So we do a version that is Cheddar and sausage rolled into that dough and frozen. You can make those as little bites that are like appetizer style or you can...
MARTIE Wait, wait, wait. Go back.
MARTIE Go back. Sausage and cheddar in my biscuits?
ASHLEY That's right. That's right.
MARTIE Do we cook the sausage beforehand?
ASHLEY Cook the sausage before. And we keep the cheese nice and cold. Just mix it in and then roll that dough out. Pop it in the freezer. And we cut some big and then we cut some small that can just be—think about this, think about somebody stops by that you forgot you invited and then you pop on that oven and drop some of those little baby biscuits in with some pepper jelly, like, yeah. It's on time.
MARTIE OK, so do you remember — did your momma make these? My momma made — it got to be popular like in the '80s. Cheese sausage balls.
ASHLEY Yeah, yeah.
MARTIE That you would have at Christmas. It's kind of like that because they use...
ASHLEY They use Bisquick. That's right. That's right.
MARTIE They use Bisquick to make those things. Ahh, so this is like a glamorous version of that!
MARTIE And I love the addition of the pepper jelly. That is a smart play.
ASHLEY I want you to try that recipe. It's a fun one, yeah.
MARTIE I'm trying all the recipes. Are you kidding me? I'm gonna cook — I'm gonna cook the book. Believe me, I am going to cook this book. OK, so I want you, Kaitlyn, to tell me your favorite recipe and your favorite memory behind it, whether it's old, new, or wherever. It can be something that you make at home and why you like it. But I would love to know your favorite recipe from the book. What's your go-to and your favorite memory to do it?
KAITLYN Oh, that's such a hard question. I mean, for me, just from a personal connection, I really love the Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas, which are my mom's recipe or a version of my mom's recipe. And she grew up in Dallas, and that one's just like, I have yet to feed anyone that those enchiladas or like give anyone a tray of those enchiladas and not have them just be like, "This is awesome." Like so into it. So, that's probably like, when I'm feeling not my best, I need something comforting. If we have that in the freezer, I'm super going there. That's where I'm going.
MARTIE I like that all the recipes in the book you can make straight up and eat them right away.
MARTIE Or you give an option for freezing them.
MARTIE And I think that's important to note, y'all. It's not a book just about freezing and all the importance of components of freezing that we've been discussing. But it is also a cookbook, straight up a cookbook. And you can make these recipes and eat them right away. And if you're smart, you'll make a big batch and eat some and freeze some.
All right, Ashley, you're on the hot seat. What's your favorite from the book and what's the story behind it that makes it special for you?
ASHLEY So years ago, I was visiting a friend in Portland, Oregon, and he is basically like an I.T. guy. And he loves food, and he's making this recipe, and I'm watching him do it. And I'm pretty good at just keeping my mouth shut and not being one of those people who has to tell people how I think they should do something. But I'm watching him cook this food and I'm thinking this has really broken multiple principles that, like, go against everything that I believe in about how I think about protein. And with this particular item, he was making pork carnitas. And I had never made them. But I'm thinking, if I'm cooking a pork shoulder, I'm going to brine it. I'm going to sear it. You know, I'm going to do these various things to it. And he cuts it in chunks, puts it in the water, gets some aromatics and stuff, and lets it rip.
KAITLYN No salt.
ASHLEY No salt. Lets it rip. And I'm watching it. And, I'm like, so, um — without being judgy or condescending. I'm like, walk me through what we're doing here. He's like, "Yeah, it's this is a great recipe." He's got the lid on this and it's just rippin. And he goes, "I let it boil." I'm thinking, like, boil meat? Like, what are we talking about here? He's like, "I let it boil. And then when I can tear it apart with a fork, I pull it out." You know, he doesn't rest it in the liquid or anything. And to me it's like, it's unseasoned. We're going to yank it out of this liquid, and it's going to be dry as a bone. It's going to be releasing all this liquid because we pull it out hot, not allowed it to rest in the liquid. That's all chef talk stuff, you know, like thinking about why we do all the things we do.
But then, ultimately, he makes this dish and I'm just blown away by it. And what he ends up doing exactly what I was worried about is why it works. It's — you make the meat kind of starve a little bit and then you strain this liquid and you reduce it down to almost gelatin and you pour it back over. And the meat like drinks it. And it becomes this protein that you can then without coating with anything, using flour or dipping in any kind of batter, you can put it in a pan and sear it. And it becomes like shatter-crispy.
MARTIE Ooh, yum.
ASHLEY And the inside is like the most luxurious barbecue you could ever imagine. So his name is, Mike. Mike Blasberg. We call him Mike B. And this is Pork Mike's Way in the book. And this is, I think, a great sort of jump-off point to talk about. Like, we choose a handful of different proteins because we imagine you cooking this big batch and then making it into all these different things. But something important to note is, all the supporting cast of all those dishes can be paired up with all kinds of different things.
So if we take this pork carnitas or Pork Mike's Way and we make five different dishes out of it, you've got to know that you can also do that with roast chicken. You can do that with pork ribs, you can do it with seafood of any kind. So, I love that dish because it turned everything that I believed in about pork upside down. And isn't that a great way to be reintroduced to thinking about something and then understanding that everything that you look at can be a thousand things that you never imagined? So I love that.
And then I love and the dessert section of the book and the first time that I went home with Kait, her mom would pop up and go like, "I'm gonna make you guys some snacks." And she'd grab a couple of little, you know, appetizer things that she had made. She freezes them on trays and then moves them to Ziploc bags and she's got 'em in the freezer.
MARTIE I do that, too.
ASHLEY I had never seen anything like that before. As someone who grew up around a lot of food from start to finish. And then cookies. She would make these batches of cookies, freeze them on the tray, then take them all and put them in a little gallon Ziploc. And I love that idea that you can access something much like the biscuits we talk about in the book to grab two of something. And when you crave fresh baked cookies, to get to have one or two that are totally homemade and done in 10 minutes. So, yeah, I feel like our moms looked at the freezer differently, but I love how those approaches are so complementary.
MARTIE All right, so I want to — you've got a lot of desserts in the book, too, and they're not just cookies and things that you would expect. You've got something that was inspired by your love of Greyhounds. And I don't mean the dog. I mean the cocktail. It's my favorite, too. Grapefruit juice and vodka. Who doesn't like that? So it's called a Salty Dog Icebox Pie. Where did the inspiration for that come from? And how in the world did you think of that?
ASHLEY Yeah. Well, it's it's my favorite drink, and I have very little patience. So I can make a Greyhound, but I can't make a Greyhound Pie. That was Kait's idea. And she can take it through the details.
KAITLYN Sure. So, the idea really, really did come from the fact that we love a Greyhound cocktail. And Bill Smith, who was the chef for years at Cook's Corner in Chapel Hill...
KAITLYN He's very famous for Atlantic Beach Pie, which is a citrus pie that has a saltine crust. I've always loved that pie recipe. And we also love saltines and use saltines a lot. We serve fried saltines with pimiento cheese at Poole's Diner. And so, the idea of sort of combining these things that were all in my orbit made sense. And so we ended up making an icebox pie out of a grapefruit curd and setting it in a saltine crust. And you know, a Salty Dog is essentially a Greyhound with the salt rim. So it kind of ties it all together. It's like bright, citrusy, curd
MARTIE Y'all, one of the things that restaurants use a lot that home cooks don't use that you feature in the book — and I'd never thought about freezing them because when I make them, I never use them all. I'm like, what am I going to do with this? And they sit in the refrigerator forever sometimes. Compound butters. So, tell us a little bit about that and why home cooks should embrace those more.
ASHLEY I was just in Long Island and I bought some beautiful seafood. And we brought home some wild oysters. And the simplest thing in the world to be able to, like, reach in the freezer and take a little log of compound butter and shave a little bit off. You know, when we think about things like ripe herbs at the height of the season and sharp flavors like a little bit of garlic or some roasted peppers. If you think about the composition of the butter and the idea that it's sort of a preservation of its own. As you said, you know, sometimes it's in the fridge for a long time. So it's locked in this solidified fat, that basically keeps these things very fresh. I love like the classic parsley, shallot, chives, little bit of mustard, that kind of thing in a butter. And it's a little bit of zing that's just preserved and ready to go. So I think that is so beautiful, melted over a piece of grilled meat set on a little bit of seafood to just put under the broiler and you just kind of making a basically like a fresh herb, bright, zingy hug that melts over whatever you're cooking.
So, we find ourselves making batches of those things and putting them in the fridge. And if you don't really go into it thinking, what meals am I going to eat this month where I use a pound of compound butter? So it's a really nice when you've whipped it and it's soft to pop it into something. Some people use ice cube trays, some people will rinse out the little condiment containers and pop it in those guys. And I love that idea of doing, um, you know, rolling it up like a little log and then slice it, wrapping it wax paper. And sometimes we'll just keep a log in the freezer like that, open it up and slice it right off and peel that little section of wax paper off the end and put right back in the freezer. So, it works great to me, and it's beautiful and bright. And it's also, aside from something direct that you would melt over things, we have a recipe in the book that's pimiento cheese butter, and that is so lovely on top of a steak.
MARTIE Oh, wow.
ASHLEY Or a pork chop or whatever. But you can also finish sauces with these butters — because when you have a whole butter like that, that's not like clarified butter, and the butter is ice cold even right out of the freezer — you drop it in the sauce, and what happens is it sort of emulsifies everything that's going on in that sauce. Reignites those flavors that you've preserved in that butter. And then that that cold just kind of makes it so that the flavor of the butter melts in and it doesn't break apart into fat because the temperature of the butter helps everything sort of emulsify and lock into a really beautiful texture.
MARTIE So for those of you who've never made a compound butter, basically, I do this a lot if I've got, like, some butter that I've used for something that I didn't use at all. So that it's just sitting there, let it come to room temperature, and then add in your seasonings and your flavorings, like your herbs or whatever you're going to put in. And then roll it into the log and then use it as you need to.
So I love the idea that this book can not only help us organize our time better and be more productive in the kitchen, but it also helps us to take advantage of the farmer's markets and our own gardens and figure out a way to stretch those things and make the best use of them we can.
I think the book is coming out at a really good time to help people as we get into the growing season. I hope we're planting a few seeds of our own to help our listeners with ideas for utilizing the things that they've grown and the things that they've gotten at their local farmers' markets or from their boxes that come from their local providers. So, braised greens, you can freeze those. Rissotto, you can freeze that. Who knew? Y'all, this book has all the secrets, all the things your granny didn't tell you, you can find them in this book.
Ashley and Kaitlyn, I just want to say thank you for being our guest here on Homemade. Our Allrecipes community loves to freeze. So y'all, this is smart. This is frugal. We need to think this way. So I just want to take time to say thank you so much to my guests, Kaitlyn Goalen and Ashley Christensen. Y'all have been a delight. You're helping us to do better and cook better. And we are excited about this new cookbook. And so you don't have to wait for the spring and summer. It's always freezer season, right, Chef?
ASHLEY That's right!
MARTIE All right, y'all, f you're near or coming through Raleigh, North Carolina, you can't leave town without stopping at one of Ashley's restaurants. You can learn more about each one at AC dash restaurants dot com, and Ashley and Kaitlin's new book, It's Always Freezer Season: How To Freeze Like A Chef With 100 Make-Ahead Recipes, is available now in stores and online.
Coming up on the next episode of Homemade, I'll be joined by the winner of Food Network Star Season 7 and co-host of Food Network's The Kitchen. It's the sandwich king himself, my Chicago buddy, Jeff Mauro.
JEFF MAURO Succulent potatoes, succulent chicken, infused with all that flavor with a nice crispy skin on it. Your breath is on fire and your belly satiated. Everybody around you is happy. And once again, Come On Over, the cookbook, saves the world.
MARTIE You won't want to miss it, so, please, subscribe to the podcast right now. And we'd love your feedback. If you could, rate this podcast and leave us a review. I'd really appreciate it.
And don't forget, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-tos from the world's largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com.
This podcast was recorded in Birmingham, edited in Atlanta, and can be found wherever you get your podcasts. Homemade is produced by Allrecipes with Digital Content Director Jason Burnett. Thanks to our Pod People production team: Rachael King, Matt Sav, Danielle Roth, Jim Hanke, Maya Kroth, and Erica Huang.
I'm Martie Duncan, and this is Homemade.