Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ginger and a timesaver!

When we lived in Paris for two summers there wasn't much eating out going on for our family of four. In addition to the trials of living in an already expensive city, trying to stretch euros converted from dollars, wasn't easy. Therefore, it was critical to find apartments with suitable kitchens for cooking (because despite what you might imagine, not all French people like to cook) and ones that were close to shopping and markets. We lived in three different Parisian apartments over the course of two summers and all of them were fortunate to have great food markets located close by. Cooking with food you buy a few times a week from open air markets is a bit of a thrill for someone who likes to make and eat food. But there was no way we could get by without regular grocery store runs.

As a lifelong francophile, I was acutely aware of the different grocery and department stores that dot the city of light. But when we arrived that first summer, I noticed there was a store I had never heard of called Picard and as I peered through the windows it became clear to me I needed to investigate. Picard sells only frozen food. And I chuckle when I tell you this because I don't frequent the frozen food section of my own grocery stores so it seemed odd that I would be so intrigued by one that sells exclusively frozen food. I find that I end up spending more money when I buy already prepared food than if I construct it myself. So really, I'm just being cheap.

Picard stores are generally small, very quiet, and have both chest and stand-up freezers to hold their products. They have some of the most interesting frozen food I've ever seen and one week when the lamb chops were on sale, I discovered they also have very good flash-frozen meats. But after busting my butt during summer number one to find stock, broth, or concentrate but could only find bullion cubes, I discovered in our local Picard early in the second summer something called Fond. We often refer to the caramelized sugars and proteins on the bottom of our roasting pans as fond and those bits are what we scrape up when we deglaze a pan with wine or stock in the process of making a sauce. Picard sells little white bags with frozen 1oz cubes of fond in various flavors. Some in basic stock flavors and others in complicated, already made sauces. I started using these as I needed stock but I quickly realized that all I had to do was toss one in after I removed meat from a roasting pan and in minutes I'd have a terrific sauce for my dish.

The reason why I am telling you all this is because I am starting to see good little frozen gourmet short-cuts in our grocery stores here. While I have not seen the magic fond cubes, I suspect they might exist on this side of the Atlantic but that I just haven't found them. What have found, and have fallen in love with are Dorot's frozen seasoning products. In particular, I am loving absolutely adoring, their frozen crushed ginger cubes. I love using ginger but peeling those gnarly little suckers and then either slicing, dicing or crushing the stringy material is so time consuming. Each Dorot cube measures 1 tsp and they are so easy to pop out of the container and toss into your pot.

A few of my new favorite recipes call for ginger so this makes getting those meals on the table that much easier on our busy nights. Do you have a favorite time-saving food product?

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