Archived entries for questions: answered

Questions From the Readers: Can You Save Chicken Drippings?

Breakfast fried in chicken drippings.

Andrea, I just roasted my first chicken and I have a pan full of drippings. Can I save them for future use? What can I use them for? Can I freeze them? -Katie

Awesome! I love chicken grease! Its almost the best part of the chicken. Your question was well timed in that, although I didn’t roast a chicken this weekend, I did need to finish up some chicken thighs we were BBQing in the oven when it started to rain on us friday night. Boo hoo about the rain, but we ended up with a small pan of chicken drippings which I used Saturday morning to make us a decadent and delicious breakfast!

Using the chicken grease in my cast iron pan, I first fried up a pan of potatoes to golden crispy deliciousness. Then I threw in some eggs and fried them up in the same grease. This grease puts the chicken back in the egg. (hmm that sounds sort of weird, but its true!) The whole house smelled deliciously chickeny and we had a breakfast which will definitely put meat on your bones.

Now in answer to your question, if you don’t plan on using the drippings to make a gravy, I would still save them for sure. This stuff looks and tastes like liquid gold. Besides using the grease for frying up deliciousness, its also a great way to punch up a quick soup or sauce if you don’t have time to make a chicken stock. Depending on the amount of grease, you may want to separate the two so you don’t make your soup or sauce too fatty.

In terms of saving it, you can definitely freeze the drippings in a jar or Tupperware container until you need to use it. I prefer glass since I can easily throw it into the microwave to quickly defrost it when I want to use it. Some people like to separate the grease from the drippings when freezing, but again, depending on what you want to use it for, you may not need to.

Delicious pan fried breakfast in chicken drippings

In short, Chicken drippings are great to use in soups, sauces, stocks or for pan frying and can be frozen to keep for future use.

  • separate the grease from the juice if you plan to use the juice in a quick soup or sauce.
  • don’t waste time separating the grease for stocks because you’ll have to skim grease from your bones off the surface anyway.
  • use separated chicken grease for pan frying or deep frying (if you collect enough!)

Cooking Questions: Can Cheese Be Frozen?

After our wedding, I had a bunch of food left over. I hate waste. My most hated job would have to be a garbage man, not because of the grossness and stink, but because I would be horrified by the amount of waste we produce. Don’t get me started. As absolutely exhausted as I was after our wedding, the last thing I felt like doing was using up the 5-10 lbs of sliced cheese I had stacked in my fridge. Since it was already in zip lock bags, I just threw all of them into the freezer and went to bed. This begs the question: Can cheese be frozen?

There’s a lot of debate about freezing cheese. Some say hard cheeses freeze better, some say you should only freeze soft cheese. It seems everyone has a slightly different take on the issue. In a good article from the, author, Nest Colleen, describes what happens to cheese as it freezes:

“Because of the moisture content or vein-y, open texture of most cheeses, ice crystals develop inside as cheese freezes. (Hey, that rhymes!) The ice “breaks” the curds in the cheese apart, which alters the texture of the cheese from creamy and smooth to crumbly or grainy when it thaws.”

This change in texture is only apparent when you eat the cheese raw. However, once its cooked , the texture of the melted cheese is relatively indistinguishable from fresh cheese. So the answer is, yes, most cheeses can be frozen, but only if you plan to use it in a heated dish like a casserole or enchiladas.

Colleens final stance urges us never to freeze fancy cheese and although it is possible to freeze cheese of a lesser quality it shouldn’t be taken on as one would freeze bulk bread or meat because unlike these examples, the quality of the defrosted cheese is so much less then the quality of the original. While I sort of agree with her, I have to take a different take on this matter.

In terms of buying in bulk, if you see a great sale on the pre-shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheeses which you would probably melt on pizza or nachos anyways, I say GO FOR IT! Buy a bunch and freeze it. In my experience once melting frozen cheese, it tastes great and I’ve never had any complaints.

Sometimes, like in my case after my wedding, you may find yourself with a lot of cheese you don’t have time to deal with, I think it’s way better to throw cheese in the freezer then throw it in the trash. I think Colleen would agree here since my cheese was basic provolone and swiss.

I think, however, this holds true for fancy cheeses too. I totally agree they should be enjoyed in their best possible quality and should never be purchased with the intent on freezing. But when dealing with left overs, waste not, want not. Even in the worst case scenario, if the cheese is totally destroyed in the freezing, at least then you have that knowledge from experience and you haven’t lost anything since it would have probably been tossed anyway.

Because there’s so much back and forth between which cheeses freeze well and which don’t, my opinion is everyone should try things out for themselves and learn by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to try something just because random voices on the internet which present themselves as “experts” tell you not to.

Once melted, I defy anyone to tell the difference between Kraft cheese which was fresh or frozen. Its not that high quality to begin with. If they can, send them packing to go hang out with that stupid pretentious bow-tie dude from America’s Test Kitchen. You don’t want to be around that type anyway!

What Do You Do With Pierna De Pollo? I Dunno. Enchiladas?

I found it at the bottom of my freezer, all red and wrapped up in cellophane but I don’t remember buying it: a package of pierna de pollo. To preface, I don’t speak Spanish well. Once in Ecuador when trying to ask the bus driver to turn down the loud music, I actually asked if he could make the big music more tranquil. Using my same genius at language, I assumed “pierna” had something to do with the red seasoning rub coating the chicken. (Yes, I do know “pollo”).

Browning the chicken to prepare for braising.

I was thinking I could quickly saute the meat for fajitas but after defrosting, I realized I had a bunch of chicken hind quarters which where oddly sliced in half long ways. With lots of bones to deal with, I wasn’t going to be able to quickly saute anything. I scrapped my quick plan and decided to braise the chicken in a bottle of white wine left over from a party.

An hour or so later, I had a pot of braised chicken legs in a greasy wine broth, but not exactly sure where I was going from here. I figured whatever the “pierna” seasoning was, had also cooked into the broth, so it was too good to dump. It would have to be part of the dish. I was thinking a soup maybe, but after a long winter I am SO F**ing SICK of soup I can’t take it anymore. Next in my mind: make a sauce for enchiladas. So I did. Here’s how.

Chicken Enchiladas with Wine Sauce

  • 2lbs chicken, browned
  • 1 bottle of white wine
  • 1 large onion cut into 1″ slices
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • hot sauce
  • 1 green pepper sliced
  • 1 red pepper sliced
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 1 8 oz. bag
  • 1 package corn tortillas

After braising the chicken and onion in wine (about an 60-90 minutes at 350 degrees), strip the meat from the bones. My meat was not as moist and tender as I would’ve liked so I cut it into smaller chunks to make it easier to eat.

Next make the sauce. I separated half of the broth out to use to make a side dish of rice. With the remaining broth, heat until just boiling and stir in tomato paste which will help temper the tart wine flavor with its sweetness. Remove 1/2 cup or so of the wine broth and stir in the corn starch quickly so it doesn’t chunk up. Mix the milky liquid back into the broth stirring to avoid lumps. As liquid gently boils it will begin to thicken into a nice sauce, about 5 minutes or so. Add hot sauce to taste.

Saute green and red pepper over medium heat until softened about 5 minutes or so.

Assemble the enchiladas by stuffing the tortillas with the braised chicken, sauted peppers, and a bit of cheddar cheese (1 cup or half the bag).

Stuff the tortillas tight into an oven safe pan. Pour the sauce over the tortillas and bake for 20 minutes at 350. Sprinkle the remaining half of cheese on top and place back into the oven for a couple minutes until the cheese is nice and melted.

Chicken Enchiladas served with white rice cooked in wine broth with coconut milk and black pepper.

This was a weird take on enchiladas as the sauce was more tart then spicy, but they were just as satisfying. I really liked the cheddar with the wine sauce. Alcohol and cheese, who would have thunk?

I kept wondering what was in the “pierna” seasoning? Well, thanks to the internet, I realize the red rub was probably some adobo seasoning because pierna de pollo directly translates to “chicken leg”. Ha ha. I guess I should have paid more attention in Spanish class. Oh well you know what happens when you “ass-u-me”.

Myth Busters! How Many Bottles in a Box of Wine?

A friend of mine, not naming any names of course, decided since no one was drinking the box of Franzia, it would be a good idea to rip the box apart leaving just the plastic bladder. We found it hanging out all limp the next morning.

I’ve been told a box of wine is equivalent to five bottles. Now, I finally got a chance to test this so see if it is truth or myth. I scoured my recycling basket and washed out some empty bottles with corks or screw lids.

I successfully topped off four bottles and as I went to fill the fifth, I realized not only would it be full, but I had about half a bottle still left in the bladder.

I went back and found a handle of Beam which had the capacity to hold the last one and a half bottles. Five bottles is a myth! It is actually the equivalent of five and a half bottles! I can use the wine for cooking, but where do I store all this stuff??

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