A few years ago when I was putting the finishing touches on my freezer cookbook my editor called to say he wanted fish dishes included. Say what?! Up until that point, I never considered including fish or seafood in freezer meals. Those are such delicate proteins; I didn’t want to mess with overcooking them at reheat and end up with chewy, tough fish.
But, I took his challenge. And I avoided the fish jerky, too.
What I discovered was that I could prepare fish and seafood dishes up until the point the fish was added. Then, I would halt the process; cool, label, and freeze; and upon reheating add the fish to the dish. It was like having the best of both worlds. I could make a seafood chowder in advance, preparing the base stew without the fish. Then on the night of serving, while the pot of creamy vegetable goodness reheated on the stovetop, I could add the fish or shrimp in the last few minutes of cooking. Voila!
Tips for Making Fish Dishes Into Freezer Meals
Consider these options for preparing your favorite fish dishes as freezer meals:
Marinated Fish – Prepare the marinade and freeze it in a small, airtight container. Thaw the marinade the night before serving. Since fish doesn’t need to marinate long, you can combine the two recipe components (fish and marinade) while you heat the grill or oven.
Breaded or Spice-Rubbed Fish – Prepare the breading or spice rub, like this one and freeze in a zip-top freezer bag. On the night of serving, coat the fresh or thawed frozen fish with the seasoned crumbs or spices and proceed with grilling, baking, or broiling.
Seafood Stir-Fries – Chop your vegetables and prepare for freezing by either blanching or "flash freezing." Store them in a labeled, zip-top freezer bag. Prepare any seasoning, sauce, or marinade and store in a small, airtight container. Package the stir-fry items, including cooked rice or noodles, if using, and a packet of frozen fish or shrimp. Now, you’re ready to wok any time.
Stews, Soups, and Chowders – Prepare the soup, like this one without adding the fish or seafood. Cool, wrap, label, and freeze. Thaw and reheat on the stovetop on the night of serving. In the last 5 to 10 minutes of heating time (probably all you’ll need anyway), add the seafood. Supper is ready!
Special note: If you buy frozen fish, then make sure you store all the components together in your freezer so you can easily find everything you need for a tasty seafood supper.
Generally, fish dishes are easy and quick to prepare, but after a hard day of work or play, sometimes, cooking from scratch can seem daunting. These simple freezer cooking methods can bridge the gap between your energy level and a homecooked meal. They will help you include more fish and seafood in your diet, and bring great flavor to your table without a lot of hassle.
(Image credits: Jessica Fisher)