Several years ago, a harebrained idea to make a wedding cake for friends led to me sharing a picture of the cake layers stacked up in my freezer, ready for their big debut. You’d think people would comment on the cake, right? Nope. More like: “You have an empty freezer. You have an empty freezer. How?” “I didn’t know it was possible to empty a freezer.” And I was all “People have full freezers? We just use it for vodka and ice cube trays.” Oh Deb of 2008. Come see your circa-2016 freezer and witness the havoc 8 years and 2 kids have wreaked on it.
Vodka? Used it up to make vanilla extract. Ice cube tray? Currently empty as we use a bag we bought for a party and are too distracted to make more. The freezer these days is something you open an inch at a time, so no blocks of baby food, soup stock, ice packs, monkey-shaped ice packs for boo boos, teething rings, bread and boxed frozen things (fish sticks, mini pizza bagels, zucchini pancakes) for lunchboxes fall on your feet. Sure, there’s lovely stuff like a tray of mac-and-cheese and a chocolate babka, but the are in equal measure with potstickers and tortellini.
I hadn’t once, not even for a single second, considered the intersection of potstickers and tortellini until two months ago, when I caught a post on one of the longest-running and least assuming food blogs on the internet, Ideas In Food, in which they said they’d experimented by cooking frozen tortellini like potstickers and really liked the crispy results. Whaa? You know it took me about 24 hours to try this out and about .24 of a bite to be completely and totally jealous of my son’s dinner. Crispy tortellini are everything.
The usual approach to cooking frozen potstickers involves browning them, still frozen, in a hot skillet and then splashing in some water, covering them with a lid and letting them steam for a few minutes more until they’re perfect — crisp at the bottom, hot all the way through.* Of course, you can just do as we did the first time — warm up a little tomato sauce in a dish for easy dipping. But once I realized we were going to be making a habit out of these, I couldn’t resist playing a little, this time with creamed, minty peas and prosciutto, which takes all of 4 minutes extra (bringing the prep total of this meal to approximately 12 minutes) and basically looks like it came out of a restaurant kitchen. And not the freezer part, either.
* The reverse process — water and then browning at the end — also works, but to add lightly steamed vegetables to the mix, the former works best.
One year ago: Not Derby Pie Bars
Two years ago: Fresh Spinach Pasta
Three years ago: Essential Raised Waffles
Four years ago: Bacon Egg and Leek Risotto
Five years ago: Creme Brulee French Toasts
Six years ago: Homemade Pop Tarts and Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts
Seven years ago: Buttermilk Ice Cream and A Trip to the Ranch
Eight years ago: Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad
Nine years ago: Chicken Empanada with Chorizo and Olives
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Kale and Caramelized Onion Stuffing
1.5 Years Ago: Sticky Toffee Pudding
2.5 Years Ago: Perfect Uncluttered Chicken Stock
3.5 Years Ago: Granola-Crusted Nuts
4.5 Years Ago: Homesick Texan Carnitas
Crispy Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto
Inspired by Ideas in Food
Serves 3, petitely or 2, hungrily
In the skillet
3 thin slices prosciutto (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 13-14 ounce package frozen cheese tortellini (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup frozen peas, no need to defrost
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons crème fraîche or mascarpone
Juice of half a lemon, more or less to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few fresh mint leaves, cut into thin slivers
Grated parmesan (optional)
Heat a large, deep skillet with a lid** over medium-high heat. If using, add prosciutto in a single layer and cook until curling and browned underneath, about 2 minutes. Flip over and let cook until browned on the other side. Transfer a paper towel to blot oil and cool.
Add oil to same skillet and heat it for a minute. Add frozen tortellini in a single layer and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until they’re browned underneath. Sprinkle with frozen peas and add water to pan. Be careful; it’s going to ROARHISS wildly. Put the lid on, and let them steam for about 5 minutes but don’t go too far because if the water cooks off too quickly, you’ll want to add a splash more. At 5 minutes, all water should have cooked off. Scoops pasta and peas into bowl. If you find any pasta has stuck, just add a splash more water over high heat to “deglaze” them off — loosen them with a thin spatula and toss them around until they’re crisp again.
Immediately dollop on crème fraîche so it melts over the pasta. Squeeze lemon juice over, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, crumble prosciutto over (if using), then slivers of mint and parmesan, if desired. Dig in. Give your freezer a pat on its back.
** I use this one.