Yesterday, I spent about 10 minutes making this free-form cherry pie. The cherries are jarred Morellos from Trader Joe’s but the homemade crust is Martha Stewart’s pate brisee, which had been sitting in the freezer and which, in my opinion elevates just about anything it wraps itself around to levels of unparalleled pastry brilliance. For the past few weeks every time I opened the freezer and saw the uncooked ball of pie dough waiting for me, the same happy thought popped into my head: Money in the Bank.
It was the same way I felt eight years ago when I returned to my full-time job after maternity leave. My self-worth could be directly correlated to how many ounces of breastmilk I could pump and squirrel away on any given day. Andy used to catch me in the kitchen staring at the neat little row of Medela bags along the freezer door. “Are you counting your bags of breastmilk again?” he’d ask.
In other words, no matter what phase of motherhood I’ve found myself in, I’ve always known the value of a well-stocked freezer. (Note to breastfeeding moms: I know it’s hard to fathom how you will ever get from Medela Mom to impromptu-free-form-pie Mom, but you will…trust me.) The cherry pie, of course was just a nice little weekend luxury, but that dough, which could also be used for chicken pot pie or a quick vegetable tart represents dinner-table security — as does its other ziploc’d freezer friends: homemade marinara, chicken stock, and a Jim Lahey pizza crust that has become my go-to for family entertaining. This weekend, while your kids are watching an episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, take a few minutes to make a deposit in the bank. Your next week’s self will thank you. (Click to the next page to choose.)
Martha’s Pate Brisee
Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for about an hour before rolling out.
For Cherry Pie
Strain one jar of Trader Joe’s dark Morello cherries, saving about 1/4 cup of the syrup. Mix the cherries in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon, about 1/3 cup corn starch, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Ish. Pour cherries on to the rolled out pie crust as shown below. Fold the crust over, working around the fruit until it’s all wrapped up. Dot the top with a little cold butter. Brush crust lightly with a pastry brush dipped in egg wash and paint a thin layer around the crust. (You can skip this step, but it is what gives the pie that shiny golden-deliciousness.) Bake at 400°F for about 25 minutes until cherries get bubbly, adding drops of reserved syrup if the fruit is looking dry. If the crust is getting too dark too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking.
Jim Lahey’s Pizza Crust
3 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or other active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 cup room-temperature water
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. The dough will be stiff, not wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Divide the dough in two and shape each into flattened balls. Freeze individually. (Use it later for Split-Personality Pizzas.)
Homemade Chicken Stock
Fill a dutch oven 2/3 of the way with water. Salt the water. Add the carcass of one roast chicken. Add whatever vegetables you have in the fridge — a peeled halved onion, 1 or 2 garlic cloves, mushrooms, herbs, peppers carrots. No need to do any peeling except for with the onion. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour and up to 3 or 4 hours. Turn off heat and cool. Package in a few small individual freezer bags (see below) so you can easily thaw in small batches.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon sugar
a few leaves of torn basil if you have
Salt and pepper
Heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté about 5 minutes. Add puree, oregano, sugar, and basil and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and let cool.
Once your sauce is cool, divide it evenly into three freezer bags, seal (make sure they’re really sealed!), then flatten bags a bit. Freeze stacked on top of one another. Once frozen, store like books, standing up. When you freeze this way, you save space and time. (Only takes a minute to thaw under running water.)
On a weeknight, remove however many bags you think you need for your eaters, place in a bowl in the sink, and run warm water over them. Heat and serve with spaghetti or on quick french bread pizzas.