A well-stocked freezer can spare a person a lot of late-night snack cravings or lazy days when you just don't feel like going to the store, and it's absolutely essential if you have friends who like to drop by for impromptu parties. (See our 8 staples for stress-free entertaining here, but be warned: the well-stocked freezer may cause this habit to develop in your friends.) But what constitutes "well-stocked" depends a lot on where we live, how we cook and entertain, and how big our freezers are. What are your essentials? Here are five of my own.
In a perfect world, I would have the following things in my freezer at all times:
• Cocktail ice — I love making fancy cocktails, and my favorite parties are cocktail parties. But a host always needs more ice than he or she thinks, so I like to keep on hand more ice than makes any rational kind of sense, just to be prepared. And of course I have to keep an ice ball or two around in case my father comes to dinner and wants one in his Scotch.
• Frozen fruit — Freezing summer fruit when it's in season is probably the only thing that gets me through the dark days of December, when the novelty of winter food has worn off and all I really want is a strawberry smoothie.
• Homemade stock — Homemade stock and broth makes such a difference in the way food tastes. I like to freeze mine in muffin tins (each muffin well holds 1/3 cup), then pop them out and store them in bags for later. And whenever we have meat, I like to store the bones in the freezer until there are enough to make a new batch of stock.
• Ground pork — My husband and I make a lot of Chinese food, and a lot of my favorite dishes, like dry-fried string beans, call for just a tablespoon or two of ground pork. Since I can't buy just a tablespoon of pork at a time, I like to freeze the rest in individual portions so it's all ready next time I need it.
• Frozen snacks — I am always happy knowing that there are single-serving pizzas or mini quiches or pork dumplings in my freezer, because it absolutely never fails that I will become suddenly ravenous at exactly the moment the very last delivery place closes, and that's not the time to start making a big meal. Frozen savory snacks are also good to have on hand when you have friends who like to drop by for cocktails. You have to have something to feed them, and this way you don't find yourself stuck in the kitchen making 12 grilled cheese sandwiches while there's an impromptu party going on.
What do you like to have in your freezer? Let us know in the comments.