Sunday, February 17, 2008

Made for TV... Tv Dinner

Making my lunch bags for the rest of the week has turned into quite an adventure as of lately.
Roumaging through my refrigerator to find out what is left to cook or what is left to refurbish.

I decided that, "since cooking has become a chore and less and less time can be dedicated to it", I have to go Industrial.
Looking through the refrigerator to figure out what packs and freezes well enough to create my six to seven ready to eat meals for the work week.

Fried food is not good when it comes to microwaves, green vegetables are a must and protein (in my case from two sources animal and vegetable) and last but not least taste.

What freezing, thawing, cooking, microwaving and transporting can do to your food is a science on its own. But for a small kitchen guy discovering the what's and how's of making your own "TV Dinners" is proving to be daunting.

So even though this post has no recipes to share in my part.
I can share one thing and that is the principles of TV Dinners
1. Separate: Trays have covers and compartments to allow the cooking of either wet items from spilling over to your cherry cobbler or/and to create separate cooking environments as hits items may cook or need to be served at different temperatures.
2. Cover: Plastic sheets, films and or lids create the means to control your foods future cooking mainly by trapping it's own steam. Never mind the fact that they keep your office microwave and lunch bag clean.
3. Food: Food items should be considered for their qualities to freeze, thaw and reconstitute. It is ideal that you consider slightly undercooking your food items as they will be microwaved turning a once tender roast into a rubber ball. Foods that contain gluten or wheat in a dough form do not microwave very well, again turning into rubber as they cool and into brick once they are served. Bread items are not a good idea, sandwiches turn soggy and loose their crust, crunch and to me even flavor.
4. Steam: Vegetables that are high in water contents are better left just blanched and very raw. Freezing will break down their cellular structure and many times more water will be released from them once they are microwaved. Blanching them in scalding hot water and inmediatly in a cold ice water bath releases and reseals the nutrients with in the veggie allowing them t remain there until you microwave.
5. Transportation: Select your container carefully, melting styrofoam and other polysterines can release dangerous chemicals, and though they are marketed as insulating that does not mean heat resistant.
6. Temperature: The higher the sugar and fat contents of a food the greater amount of heat it releases when cooked. (The principles behind that famous dieter's measurement (THE CALORIES).
7. Flavor: Most if not all TV dinner items have a sauce involved in it. Again sauces are a way to retain the flavor, to protect certain items from freeze burn and to distribute heat. Meats cooked in a sauce retain moisture and tenderness. Pastas on the other hand can be doomed if cooked in their sauce, therefore what would have been an "Al Dente" pasta can turn into sauce and glue. Remember the food items will continue to cook so time your pasta to be undercooked so that the sauce can take over once in the microwave.
8. Fresh: Salads are a fresh as it gets right? Well not if you transport them with a dressing on. Separate dressings and treat vegetables and fruits that turn brown before packaging. Bananas, Avocados, Apples, Pears and Peaches can turn black, mushy and unappetizing in many instances as with the avocado changing the flavor to a slight bitterness. Wash with lemon or lime juice all cut fruits. If they are turned into dips or sauces skim the surface oxygen by pouring a thin even layer of olive oil.
That is part of the reasons behind the syrup in those colorful and tasteless fruit cocktails.

Check this story about the origins of TV Dinners:

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