New Year's Freezer Guide: What to Buy

Strawberry ice cream
Strawberry ice cream.thebittenword.com/Flickr

Last week, I suggested what you can get rid of in your freezer while you're embarking on winter kitchen cleaning. This week, we'll talk about what you want to keep stocked in your freezer: these are ingredients that you'll be reaching for again and again.

Freezer Essentials

Baby Peas: These give a sweet and colorful pop to any soup or starch dish (particularly pasta); they're a fine fill-in for a bit of fresh chopped parsley or basil. They're also one of my favorite sides when cooked with a little pork and chopped shallot; try this recipe for prosciutto peas from my blog, In Your Kitchen.

Unsalted Butter: I stock up on butter when it's on sale and keep it in the freezer. You never know when you're going to feel like making pies or cookies. On a chilly winter baking day, the last thing you want to do is schlep to the store.

Homemade Stock: Don't overthink it. You want to have good stock around. But don't make stock—let it make itself. After you've roasted a chicken, toss the carcass in a little water, throw in some vegetables (onions, carrots, and celery) and herbs (thyme, bay leaves, etc.), and let it simmer until you go to bed. Toss the pot in the fridge, strain it the next day, and freeze it in ice cube trays; keep the cubes in a freezer bag and you're good to go.

Roasted and Salted Seeds or Nuts: Whether I enjoy sunflower seeds by the handful, or toss them into a salad instead of croutons, I like having them around. I go through phases where I eat them daily, and then I'll take a break for months, which is why I keep them in the freezer to protect them from going rancid. If sunflower seeds don't turn you on, try toasted pine nuts, cashews, peanuts, or any other roasted seed or nut for snacking or sprinkling.

Puff pastry: I make my own piecrusts, but not my own puff pastry. Maybe someday. But until then, I like to have this inexpensive ingredient around so that I can make easy-to-please appetizers and desserts like cheese straws or tatins.

And for extra credit:

Ice Cream: It's why God invented the freezer. In addition to keeping your favorites stocked, shake it up this year with a weekly rotation of new flavors or brands you want to try. I love Ronnybrook's Butter Pecan, so this week I'm adding their Pistachio and Mint with Chocolate Lace to the mix (boy, is my freezer roomy now that all that cornmeal is gone). If I lived in Cincinnati, I'd be stocking everything that Graeter's churns. What flavors are going into your freezer?