Entries Tagged as 'Chicken and Turkey'

Clear the Afternoon, Kids! We’re Making Mole

March 10th, 2014 · 18 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Entertaining, Rituals

In my next book — which you’ll be hearing about shortly — there’s a whole section on recipes I call “Keep the Spark Alive” dinners. These meals are the opposite of what we make on, say, a Tuesday night, when efficiency and convenience are the most important ingredients. In some ways, they are the opposite of the DALS mission in general. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t every bit as important, especially when we are talking about the psychological health of a family cook. Think of it this way: If Pretzel Chicken and Beef and Broccoli stir-fries are the workhorse recipes, the ones that get me through the week day in and day out, “Spark” meals are the ones that remind me why I love to cook in the first place. They call for ingredients I’ve never used before and usually require a big chunk of luxurious time. Marcella’s Bolognese is a good example of a Spark dinner, so is Andy Ricker’s Pad Thai. And on this dreary New York morning, I’m pleased to announce, I have a new one to add to the list.

It started with Uncle Mike. At our annual Christmas Eve dinner at his house this past year, he served, among a dozen other things, the most amazing Chicken Mole.

The chicken was tender and stewy, the sauce was rich and deep, but not overpowering like some versions I’ve tasted in the past. The kids, skeptical at first, cleaned their plates. It was December, which meant by that point in the winter, I had eaten my fair share of braised short ribs at dinner parties, so part of the novelty of this meal was the fact that I was I dining on a hearty, warm-your-bones chicken-based main. Except for maybe Julia Child’s Coq au Vin, I don’t have a whole lot of those in my repertoire that would earn their keep on a holiday spread.

“How’d you make your mole?” I asked Mike. Only someone who has never made mole would broach the subject so innocently.

He gave a little knowing “Ha” before replying. Mike, an ambitious home cook who grows a dozen varieties of chile peppers in his backyard, and sends us a care package of home-dried Persimmons every November, is not one to shy away from an recipe that might call for pasillos, mulattos, piloncillo, and bolillo.  ”It’s a Diana Kennedy recipe, and it’s been days in the making.”

When I hear the name Diana Kennedy, I mentally turn the page. Diana Kennedy, as I’m sure you know, is one of our country’s foremost authorities on Mexican cooking. Because everyone has told me as much, I have a bunch of her books, and yet, whenever I crack the spine on one, determined this time to conquer at least a simple recipe, I remember: There is no such thing — and as with anything authentic and memorable, there probably shouldn’t be. The recipe Mike used was from Kennedy’s definitive Oaxacan cookbook, but a few days later, he emailed me another, slightly simpler Mole Negro, that looked similar. Mole Negro is one of dozens of versions — it’s the darker kind that incorporates chocolate — and he described it as “traditionally the most difficult.”

I looked at the recipe. Twenty-nine ingredients, half of which would require some scavenger hunting in Mexican markets around the county.  I filed it under “Another recipe, for another kind of cook.”

But damn that mole was good! It stayed with me all winter, and last week, when I was calendarizing (defined as The act of staring at your family’s schedule to see how you can squeeze some real life in between all the activities) I noticed a nice long empty weekend afternoon and evening. It was going to be our last Saturday without soccer until July, no one was coming over, and just by chance, that morning Abby had an orchestra concert a short drive away from a stretch of awesome Mexican grocers.

Mole was calling, and I needed to answer. (more…)

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Notes from The Dinner Playbook

March 3rd, 2014 · 15 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning

There was a time, when the girls were two and three, that we dreamed of the day when they’d be 10 and 11, able to sit at the table and place food in their own mouths while filling us in on their days. Now that we’re finally here—avert your eyes, new parents—we realize that our dream was a mirage, that life finds a way of constantly moving the goalposts on you. Family dinner is still chaotic, only the challenges have shifted from the physical to the logistical. And March and April, for us—with the girls deeply entrenched in two spring sports—is the most chaotic time of year. As we’ve detailed more than once on this blog, practices don’t end until 7:30, which means that, most nights, dinner doesn’t happen until the (very European) hour of 8:30. When you’re dealing with an overstuffed activities schedule, it’s crucial to have a few strategies that make a solid dinner possible. Here are three we will be relying on all season long:

Strategy 1: The Before-Work Play
When the cook is on carpool duty—i.e., it’s not just the athlete coming home late—the key is to prepare something in that 15-minute window before you head to work in the morning. We love soba noodle salad with a simple rice vinegar dressing and greens—spinach, kale, chard—tossed right into the pasta water in the last minute of cooking. Refrigerate till you get home, toss on the dressing, and, if you have time, add some shredded chicken for the win.

Strategy 2: The Pan-Fried Pizza Move
By the time our li’l midfielders stagger through the door, they’re like a couple of feral dogs: They don’t even bother to take off their shin guards before inhaling whatever is put in front of them. A piece of fish on a night like this? Ain’t. Gonna. Cut. It. Individual pan-fried pizzas with whole wheat crust? That’s more like it. Just brown your rolled-out dough in a cast-iron pan with some olive oil, flip, add sauce and toppings, then finish under the broiler. Abby likes a classic Margherita; Phoebe goes for ham and pineapple. (Book owners: Please see page 281 for the official recipe.)

Strategy 3: The Freezer Plan
When there’s so little time on the clock, it’s tempting to fall back on takeout or frozen pot pies. But we’d rather walk through the door, reach into our freezer, and pull out something homemade—like a batch of bake-ahead turkey and spinach meatballs. Think of it as the utility man of the family dinner: ever reliable, can play both protein and vegetable, goes on a bun (meatball subs!) or over pasta, and will crush its store-bought competition any night of the week. Pro tip: Freeze them in single-serving batches, so you can thaw and deploy as needed. Victory.

This is our “Providers” column for the March 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. Head over to their site for the spinach-and-turkey meatball recipe. Photo by Matt Duckor (meatballs) for Bon Appetit.

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That Chicken

February 10th, 2014 · 34 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Grilling


My sister called me the other morning. We were both in our cars — bluetoothing and dropping off our various charges — and figuring out a possible cousin sleepover when she said, with some urgency, “Oh! Did you get my message?”

“No, what message.”

“I left you a voice-mail with a lot of questions, but I really want to tell you about the chicken.”

“What chicken?”

“My friend Trish had a bunch of moms over for lunch recently, and she served the most delicious chicken.”

Now this was unusual. I get a lot of post-game calls about recipes, but not many of them are about poultry.

“Tell me about it,” I told her, negotiating a huge snow bank so I could park the car in front of my coffee shop.

“Well, it was served on a large platter, kind of like one that you would have, and it was room-temperature, but she served it with tiny potatoes and green beans on top of lettuce, a ton of fresh vegetables, and a vinaigrette on the side.”

Deconstructed lunch! I thought to myself.

“Someone said, ‘Oh it’s a deconstructed lunch!’ She also had some salmon, but the chicken was the star. It was so healthy and flavorful, not bland like most chicken in salad is, and it was all ready to go when we got there because she made it ahead of time.”

Maybe it was just that the night before I had a ginormous bowl of Pappardelle with Pork Ragu, and the night before that, a hearty Moroccan beef stew…or maybe it was just that we were steeling ourselves for another snowstorm that would come with more buttery, stewy richness, but when she was describing this to me I was longing for a sign of spring, even if it was in dinner-form. And man, did something light surrounded by fresh vegetables sound like the ideal antidote to this relentless winter.

“How’d she make it?”

“She marinated some breasts overnight in mayo, a little olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, and a little agave. Some fresh herbs I think. Then she grilled it.”

“On a real charcoal grill outside or in a grill pan on the stove?”

“Outside.”

Wow! Who was this Trish woman? We’re not winter grillers, especially these days, when our Weber looks like this:

But I still had to make it. The next day was a school-day, which is another way of saying a snow day, and it was clear that no work was going to get done no matter how many Sam & Cat episodes I bribed the girls with. But that chicken would get done so help me! Before I was even out of my pajamas, there were four pounded breasts steeping in a some version of Trish’s marinade. And later that night I broke out my cast iron stovetop grill. No charcoal, no charcoal chimney, no char anywhere to be found. And I obviously served it hot instead of chilled or at room temperature like Trish did. And I went with the winter vegetables I had in my fridge. But the whole process managed to thaw a few dreams of spring nonetheless.

And the chicken! I understand why it merited a next-day call from my sister. (The true mark of a successful dish in my book.) Tender, flavorful, and the leftovers were even better the next day.

Trish’s Marinated Chicken
2 tablespoons mayo
1/4 cup olive oil
squeeze of agave (or honey)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
squeeze of lemon
fresh rosemary, thyme or torn basil leaves
Four medium size chicken breasts, pounded thin

In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients and, along with chicken, add to a ziploc. Marinade eight hours or overnight, flipping in the fridge at some point if you can. When you are ready to cook, heat a stovetop grill to medium-high, and brush with a tiny bit of olive oil. Grill chicken pieces about four minutes a side (let excess marinade drip off before you place on grill) or until chicken is firm but not rock hard. Serve with Kale-Brussel hash below.

Kale-Brussels Hash

Add a small piece of smoky bacon to a skillet set over medium heat. Once fat has rendered, add a little olive oil and cook a few tablespoons of onions or shallots (chopped) until soft. Add salt and pepper, maybe a few red pepper flakes if you are so inclined, then a few healthy handfuls of shredded kale and shaved brussels sprouts. Cook until just barely wilted (and still bright green) and add to a serving bowl. Drizzle with a little cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar) to taste. You can chop the bacon into small pieces if you feel like it, or just eat the chunk yourself before the kids fight over it.

 I have one of those cast iron reversible grill pans that stretches across two burners. The flip side is a griddle, but I never use it.

Related: I Want to Marry Marinating.

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Soccer Nights

January 15th, 2014 · 19 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Quick

Last Thursday night I called Andy from the parking lot of a school. It was 7:45 PM.  I was waiting for my 10-year-old to get out of soccer practice, held in the school’s gym. It was frigid. I was starving.

“What’s for dinner?”

I heard Keith Richards’ guitar in the background and some ice clinking in what I rightly guessed was a Manhattan.

“Some chicken with lemon, wine…” Clink, clink. “…Capers. Goin’ old School.” Clink. “Barley salad. Slaw.”

He was alone in the house cooking. Our 11-year-old wasn’t coming home until 8:15.

“I am so f-ing starving.”

What I love: That my daughters play sports. That they play soccer. That they have great coaches and great teammates. That I can watch them get stronger, better, faster almost before my eyes. That they play year-round. That they play year-round in freezing-cold bubbled domes, and public-school no-frills gyms and, unlike their mother, it doesn’t occur to them to complain. Ever.

What I don’t love: That practice times are creeping later and later. That, in fact, the other night we reached a milestone in our house: The dinner table had been cleared, the tomato-sauce-smeared plates loaded into the dishwasher, the dog walked, the lights (mostly) turned off while we headed upstairs to read in bed — and Phoebe was still not home from soccer practice. She was dropped off at 9:40 by the sainted parent of a teammate. Her dinner, a bowl of pea soup with crusty bread, had been consumed at 6:30, before practice, which started at 7:30 across the county.

I am not complaining. Nor will I tolerate a single person who tells me that we are idiots for getting ourselves into this predicament. I firmly believe that what my kids are learning being part of a team is every bit as valuable as what they are learning at our dinner table. And I firmly reserve the right to change my mind when it starts happening more than once a week. (Hello lacrosse season!)

So like every dinner obstacle before this one, we are adjusting. But if I was competing against extracurriculars for victory over weeknight dinnertime, the score right now would be Dinner: 4, Activities: 1. In my book — in any book — that’s a Win.

Plus, Andy got an hour to cook dinner while savoring a drink, without feeling like the game clock was ticking the whole time. And we all got to come home to Old School Chicken.

Old School Chicken with Lemon and Capers

4 medium chicken breasts, pounded, salted and peppered
few glugs of olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1-2 pats butter
juice from 1 lemon
handful capers

Brown chicken in olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Remove chicken, add a little more olive oil to the pan and turn down heat to medium-low. And add onions and cook until slightly softened.  Add wine, broth, and lemon juice to the pan, and then chicken. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover until chicken is cooked through and liquid is slightly thicker. Swirl in butter, add capers and serve.

Andy served with barley salad that had been tossed with arugula, grape tomatoes, feta, and vinaigrette.

 

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Archaeological Dig Turns Up Old Favorite

December 12th, 2013 · 20 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner

Way back in the 90s, when Oprah ruled the land, just before she single-handedly transformed the publishing industry with her Midas-touch book club, she featured a cookbook on her show, written by her private chef Rosie Daley. The recipe collection was called In the Kitchen with Rosie and was filled with low-fat, low-carb meals that Oprah credited with her dramatic weight loss. Rosie, as I’m sure you recall, sold like gangbusters, but, as with most of my circa-90 cookbooks (what’s up David Rosengarten!?) ended up in a dark, moldy corner of my jam-packed basement, coated in a grimy dust that gives you a small window into the dungeon-esque conditions on the bottom level of our house. (As one dinner guest said as he walked through it to get to our garage, “I like your basement. It’s very…humanizing.”)

Anyway, if you are thinking that the reason I came upon my Rosie relic was because I had finally decided to organize the chaos, you have way more faith in me than I do. No, I was merely digging up spare forks for a birthday party, and happened to see its spine in a leaning tower of hardcovers perched beside a dismantled crib. I should’ve known better, because the last time I did a drive-by grab from this tower it was Drinking: A Love Story (no relation) and wound up reading 200 pages of the memoir standing up right where I found it. (Wowowow, was that a wrenching read.)

But this was not going to happen with Rosie because as soon as I grabbed it, I knew what I was looking for: My favorite recipe in the collection. Maybe even my most favorite recipe from the 90s: The curried chicken salad spiked with crunchy apple, which we used to make for ourselves whenever we had leftover chicken in the fridge, or whenever we felt overly hedonistic and in need of a healthy recalibration. Like during holiday season, when every other night is spent stuffing our faces with cocktail-party gougeres and Chewy Molasses Cookies. Like right exactly now.

Curried Chicken Salad
The idea that you could replace most of the mayonnaise with plain yogurt rocked my world back then. Now, we use that healthy shortcut all the time.
From In the Kitchen with Rosie, by Rosie Daley.

Whisk together the following dressing ingredients:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 teaspoons curry powder
3 tablespoons lemon juice
black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons shallots, minced

Toss dressing with:
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup shredded carrots
small handful golden raisins
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1/4 cup green apple, chopped
1/4 cup scallion, chopped
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon parsley
handful arugula or greens

Serve on toasted pitas or nan (as shown above) or on top of salad greens. 

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Top 10 Ways to Use a Rotisserie Chicken

September 25th, 2013 · 18 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick

Time for another round of crowd-sourced inspiration! Here’s the question I posed to you all via facebook the other day:  ”I have at least half a rotisserie chicken in the fridge at home that I have to use tonight or forever regret tossing it. How would you stretch it into dinner?” A few hours later I was faced with an embarrassment of riches — There were almost 150 directions I could’ve taken. My faves:

1. Pot Pies, Tacos, and Enchiladas seemed to be the default direction for 50% of you.

2. From Sally: “Lettuce Wraps: Shred, layer with cilantro, pickled onions, cucumber, and hot chilis on a lettuce leaf. Wrap in rice paper wrapper that has been dunked in warm water for a second. Wrap, roll, and dip in a garlic chili lime sauce. Easy, engages the whole table, and super fresh.”

3. From Adina: “Burrito Bowls, every time!”

4. From Naria: “Curry Chicken Salad, crunchy bread, hearty green salad.”

5. From Cheryl: “My favorite Chicken Salad. So nice to have a simple cook night. Chicken with a light coating of mayonnaise, halved red grapes, salt & pepper to taste, and roasted cashew halves served on top so they keep their crunch. Eat with lettuce as wraps or on a nice rosemary bread.”

6. From Ada-Marie “Orzo cooked in chicken broth and a little butter; mix in chicken, frozen peas, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, shake of oregano. We call this Easy Peasey Cheesey Chicken Orzo.”

7. From A Bowl Full of SimpleSummer Rolls

8. From Molly: “Obviously, you have to make Indonesian Chicken Salad.”

9. From Jorena: “Avgolemeno.”

10. From Alex: “Cold Ginger Peanut Noodles with sliced cucumber, green onions, and chicken.”

That last one from Alex was exactly what I was in the mood for. But instead of making a peanut sauce, like I usually do (See page 261, Dinner: A Love Story) I decided to put my ponzu to use:

Ponzu Noodles with Chicken

1) I whisked together about 1/3 cup ponzu sauce, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, a dash of fish sauce, a teaspoon of Sriracha, a squeeze of lime, few drops of sesame oil.

2) Boiled 3/4 pound of soba noodles, drained, then (in same pot) sauteed minced scallions, garlic, and ginger in a little grapeseed oil (you can use vegetable oil) before tossing the noodles back in to the pot with chopped up CSA green beans, chicken, chopped cilantro and mint, and the ponzu dressing. I really wished I had cukes or chopped peanuts — that would’ve been killer. It was missing the crunch factor.

3) I reserved a little of the chicken for Phoebe, who doesn’t like noodles in any form, and made a quick chicken salad for her with mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and a little curry powder (thanks Naria!) Green beans on the side.

And that was dinner. Thanks for the help everyone!

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Two Things to Do on the Weekend to Make Your Week Easier

May 30th, 2013 · 27 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning

This salad saved me last week. I’m not sure I really need to go into detail about how many miles we put on the Mazda getting kids to their various weeknight commitments, but put it this way: If our night was an instagram it would’ve read #uniforminwrongcar #again #firstgoalever! #ittakesavillage  #i’msorryenvironment

And finally:

#makeahead

Ever since discovering this chicken-based salad, I’ve gotten in the habit of roasting chicken on the weekend to have as a dinner insurance plan for nights that spiral into chaos. (Beautiful, messy, chaos-I’ll-someday-miss, but chaos nonetheless.) Prepping chicken this way takes about sixty seconds of hands-on time (45 minutes hands-off) and once I have a few breasts sitting in the fridge, I find all kinds of possibilities open up. (And not necessarily just for dinner, but for lunch boxes, too. Lately, Abby has been into chicken wraps — chicken rolled in a tortilla with a smear of mayo, a piece of lettuce, and a strip of bacon if I’m feeling big-hearted.) You can add your cooked chicken to soups and pot pies or chop up for Andy’s chicken salad, but my favorite use this time of year has to be the way you see above: Tossed with fresh greens, dried cherries, blue cheese, candied walnuts and a homemade vinaigrette that was also prepped on the weekend, so all I had to at 8:00 (8:00!) when we all collapsed into our dinner chairs was toss and serve. #genius

Step No. 1: On the weekend, make this vinaigrette.

In an old jam jar shake the following ingredients:

heaping 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Now add:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Shake again. If you are using this entire bottle of vinaigrette that night add herbs, like chives, parsley, or thyme. Otherwise, save the herbs to toss directly into your salad. That way they don’t get all wilty and black and depressing a few days later.

Step No. 2: On the weekend, roast some chicken.

Roast 2-3 split chicken breasts or boneless chicken breasts at 375°F  on a rimmed baking sheet along with 1/4 cup of water and tent with foil for 40 minutes. The bone-in split breasts are good for shredding, the breasts are good for slicing on the bias. (That’s what I did above.)

Step No. 3: On your busiest weeknight, make this: Greens with Chicken, Cherries, Blue Cheese & Candied Walnuts

In a large bowl, toss all of the following:

3 medium sized cooked chicken breasts (see above), sliced as shown
Four generous handfuls fresh greens
handful of tart dried cherries
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (or to taste)
handful candied walnuts*
snipped chives (or scallions)
cider vinaigrette (above, or your favorite mild vinaigrette)

*You can use storebought or homemade if you’re man enough. I was not.

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Chicken and Rice for Beginners

May 20th, 2013 · 29 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick


Before this blog, before my diary. Before the phrase “cut and paste” conjured up anything more than scissors and glue, there was my spiral black kitchen book. The book is filled with recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers that I felt were manageable for someone like me — a twenty-something recent college grad whose spice rack contained three things: salt, pepper, and garlic salt.  Those of you who’ve read Dinner: A Love Story won’t be surprised to hear that most of the sepia-toned, peeling-at-the-corners clippings come from the New York Times Dining pages. The reporters who wrote for that section in the 90s were my rock stars (Marian Burros, Amanda Hesser, Rozanne Gold, Mark Bittman, Ruth Reichl) and I’d look forward to Wednesday, the day “Dining” was published, the way most of my newly workforce-embedded friends looked forward to Happy Hour on Fridays.

One of the recipes glued (literally glued) in there is a Bittman classic from his “Minimalist” column. My scissors practically walked themselves to the newspaper as soon as I read the title: “Chicken with Rice, the Easy Way.” (I have always been a sucker for simplicity.) And last weekend, when I came upon it, I couldn’t believe I’d never pointed you in its direction until now. It strikes me as the perfect dinner for new cooks, new parents, and new toddlers experimenting with new foods. The best thing about a dinner like this, is that once you master the framework, it becomes endlessly customizable — one of those recipes that you forgot ever had a recipe. You can stir in cooked sausage crumbles or asparagus, green peas, sugar snap peas, green beans, mushrooms, or freshly grated Parm during the last few minutes of cooking. You can add ginger and a little red curry paste to the onions, mix in coconut milk with the broth, then finish with lime instead of lemon. Some cilantro instead of parsley. This week, fifteen years after cutting and pasting the recipe into my files, some version of it is on my line-up, for sure.


Chicken and Rice
From Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist” column, New York Times. I’m guessing you have everything you need for it in the pantry and fridge right this very second. Pictured above: My little black book of recipes covered with business cards from restaurants.

2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, about 8 ounces, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups white rice (such as long-grain, jasmine or basmati — brown rice takes longer to tenderize and you don’t want to overcook your chicken)
handful herbs, chopped
juice from 1/2 a lemon

Bring broth and one cup of water to a boil. While you are waiting for it to boil, add olive oil to a large skillet (that has a lid) set over medium-high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper. Cook until onions soften, about 4 minutes.

Add rice to the pan and stir until each grain is covered in oil. Nestle chicken in rice, add salt and pepper, then pour in the broth (or water). Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.

Cook 2o minutes, until all water is absorbed and chicken is cooked through. Garnish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

Inside the book: Recipes I made (and still make) all the time (left) next to recipes that were complete failures, and that I only ever made once (right).

 

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Choose Your Own Adventure: Yogurt Marinades

May 13th, 2013 · 26 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Grilling, Seafood

I know it seems hard to believe, but there are a handful of people out there in the world (OK, the immediate family) who have never heard of Andy’s seminal “grilled chicken for people who hate grilled chicken.” This, in spite of us linking to it so many times on DALS that I actually hear my early readers (Yo Amanda in SF!) thinking what I used to think at my childhood dinner table: “Oh jeez, not the chicken again.”

The secret of course, is the yogurt marinade. Which yogurt marinade? Well, that’s up to you. As long as you have the basic template ingredients (yogurt, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper) you can go in almost any direction that feels good to you. (Remember, this is marinating, which, I believe is Lithuanian for “You can’t screw it up.”) Start with this template:

2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 large onion
1/3 cup olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper

Once you have all that in the blender, you can choose your own adventure:

Option 1 Lemon-Pepper: “The Classic”
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
Juice from two lemons
1 really nice squeeze of honey
Even more black pepper (about 10-15 grinds)

Option 2 Tandoori: “The Crowdpleaser” (from Bon Appetit)
1 cup cilantro leaves (no need to chop since it’s going in the blender)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon garam masala (McCormick now sells this — it’s an Indian spice blend that’s kind of sweet)
1 2-inch piece ginger
juice of one lime

Option 3 Middle Eastern: “The Middle Easterner” (I’m pre-coffee; can’t do better than that at the moment)
1/2 cup fresh oregano, stems removed
1 clove garlic
juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons cumin

Option 4 Mustard and Herb: “The Pantry Special”
½ cup Dijon mustard
leaves from a couple sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Option 5 Chutney: “The Cheater”
1/2 cup your favorite chutney (these are my favorite)
1/2 cup cilantro

Whichever direction you’ve chosen:

Give the ingredients a good whirl in the blender, then pour into a large freezer bag along with your meat — 2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs or breasts  (pounded flat between two pieces of wax paper), drumsticks, or…here’s some breaking news: SHRIMP! I’ve discovered that a good flavorful yogurt marinade is a great way to kick up the sometimes bland frozen shrimp we pick up in the Northeast. (The photo above was made with the tandoori marinade — the dipping sauce is chutney mixed with lime and…more yogurt!)

Marinate your chicken or shrimp (thawed if frozen) in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush grill grates with oil. Scrape excess marinade off chicken or shrimp. If you are making shrimp, thread them onto skewers. Grill chicken turning once, until browned and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. The shrimp will take a little less time, about 2-3 minutes a side.

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Burrito Bowl

March 13th, 2013 · 41 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Deconstructing Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

If you had to use one word to describe a Dinner: A Love Story recipe, what would it be?

A reporter asked me this last year when my book came out. Is there a harder question to answer in the world than one that begins “If you had to use one word…”? I mulled it over for a little bit.  I thought about “real,” (there’s my dinner diary and all); I thought about “nostalgic” (porcupine meatballs!); I thought about my friend Sally, who, when asked by a younger, cherubic coworker “If you had to use one word to describe your newborn what would it be?” replied: “Annoying.”

Over the years, the one word I’d use to describe a DALS dinner has evolved right along with the family and the family’s dinnertime needs. Early on, pre-kids, it might have been “ambitious.” With new babies around, probably “Quick” or “Easy.” With toddlers: “White.” But these days, for a recipe to earn a spot in the family dinner rotation, above all it has to be flexible. And by that I mean not only flexible because of how beautifully it can be deconstructed for picky eaters and flexitarians, but because of how you, the cook, are able to prepare it.

Take these burrito bowls, which I have been meaning to make ever since the girls walked into Chipotle for the first time and declared it the best restaurant in New York City. I knew the burritos-without-tortillas would become a major player in our family dinner lives because I could make the meal as simple or as complicated as my time and energy allowed. In other words: Every component in a burrito bowl can be either storebought or made-from-scratch (or some combination of the two) and still yield a healthy dinner. The black beans can be just black beans — or they can be black beans simmered with a bay leaf and some onions. The avocado can be chopped avocado, or it can be avocado mashed with cumin and red onion and salt. As I was making simple white rice — one of the few things I thought was a pretty straightforward task — Andy wandered by the stove and said, “You’re gonna add cilantro, lime and a ton of salt in there like Chipotle rice, right?”

Uh, right.

On a weeknight, you’d probably want more of the components to be simplified. On the weekend, it would serve you well to go all out because, obviously, if you put that much work into it, it’s gonna be badass. Come to think of it, maybe that would be a better word that flexible.

Burrito Bowl
I gave two versions of each component below: the “weeknight” (quick) and the “weekend” (less quick). Take a look, then expend energy building flavor on the things you like the most — or whatever the clock allows. (The only thing I insist you don’t shortcut is the chicken.) To serve: Present fixins on the table or counter, serve everyone a half cup of rice, then let them top as they please.

Chicken
I like this meal to be more veg-heavy, so I only cooked two (boneless, skinnless) chicken breasts. You can add another if you think your family will eat more than shown in the above bowl. To make: Cube two medium-size chicken breasts into pieces as shown above. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 onion (chopped finely), then the chicken. Sprinkle everything with 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and more salt & pepper. Let chicken brown a little before tossing around in pan. When chicken is cooked through (about 5-7 minutes total), remove to a bowl. Squeeze a little lime juice on top.

Beans
Weeknight version: Heat a 14-ounce can of black beans in a small saucepan until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Weekend version: Heat 1/4 onion (sliced) in a small saucepan with a little vegetable oil. Add a 14-ounce container of black beans, a bay leaf, and simmer until beans are heated through, about 5 minutes.

Rice
Weeknight: Prepare white rice according to package directions — enough to yield 2 cups of cooked rice. (This is based on a 1/2 cup rice per diner — you know your family better than I do, so make more if you think you’ll need it.)
Weekend: Prepare white rice according to package directions — enough to yield 2 cups of cooked rice. When rice is finished, toss in a generous handful of chopped cilantro, the juice from 1/2 lime, and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt.

Salsa
Weeknight: Use your favorite storebought salsa. (We like Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica or Roasted Tomatillo.)
Weekend: Finely chop 2 cups grape tomatoes (or any tomato if it’s summer) with 2 tablespoons chopped red onion, handful cilantro, splash of red wine vinegar,  salt, pepper, 1/2 minced jalapeno pepper.

Quick Guacamole
Weeknight: Slice an avocado into chunks
Weekend: Using a fork, mash one avocado with 1/4 teaspoon cumin, salt to taste, and a heavy squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Other components
Sharp cheddar (sliced or grated), fresh cilantro, sour cream, shredded lettuce. (Me: “What do you think about using shredded kale instead of romaine?” Andy: “Sounds great as long as I don’t have to have it.”)

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This Week in Deconstructing Dinners

February 13th, 2013 · 33 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Deconstructing Dinner, Dinner, Favorites, Sides, Salads, Soup

Probably when most people spy a book like Jeanne Kelley’s Salad for Dinner at the bookstore or in their library they pick it up and think Mmmm, this looks nice and healthy. Or: I could afford to shake up the Romaine routine. My first thought? A veritable treasure trove of potentially deconstructable dinners. True, I can look at almost any meal and envision how it can break down into child-friendly, nothing-touching, no-green-speck meals to please the sauce-o-thropes at the table. (Soup works, so does a pot roast.) But salads have got to be the most conducive. And if ever there were a cure for the parents who cannot seem to find common ground between their craving for The Way They Used to Eat and their toddler’s Craving for White Pasta…it’s this book. Kelley’s recipes take you far beyond the barren world of tomato-and-bagged-lettuce salads into the promised land of hearty, healthy, grain-rich, colorful, incredibly flavorful masterpieces you’d serve to any dinner guest — Seared Salmon with Quinoa, Asparagus, and Spinach; Thai Style Grilled Beef Salad; Toasted Barley, Long Bean, and Shitake Mushroom Salad with Tofu. And yet, very few of them seem out of reach. I opened the book during breakfast, found this jackpot Indonesian Chicken Salad recipe below and realized I had every single thing I needed to get it together for that night. Maybe you do, too.

 

Indonesian Pineapple, Chicken and Spicy Peanut Salad
Adapted from Salad for Dinnerby Jeanne Kelley

The peanut dressing is what ups the wow factor here, but it’s definitely spicy, so if you are worried about that with the kids, I’d limit the Sriracha to about a teaspoon. Also, Kelley instructs roasting the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet along with 1/4 cup of water then tented with foil. (About 40 minutes at 375°F.) I usually poach, but was curious about her method and found it to be much easier. The chicken (bone-in breasts) ended up incredibly tender and shred-friendly.

Spicy Peanut Dressing
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 large garlic clove, pressed

Salad
8 cups thinly sliced cabbage (from about 1 medium head)
1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into strips as shown above
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 pound shredded cooked chicken breast (see note above)
1/2 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts
lime wedges

In a large bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Season with salt to taste. Add the cabbage, pineapple, carrots, red pepper, scallions, cilantro, and chicken and toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and a squeeze of lime juice.

If you are deconstructing this salad for kids: Whisk dressing in a separate small bowl and serve separately from salad. (Or in a little dipping bowl, as shown above.) Instead of tossing all the salad ingredients together, place each one in its own clump in a wide shallow bowl, have the kids pick what they want, then proceed to toss for the normal people.

Last year, I couldn’t walk into a food editor’s office without seeing Jeanne Kelley’s book right on the very top of their cookbook pile with post-its sticking out of every side. I don’t know what took me so long to get my own copy, but I have a feeling I’m going to be using it a LOT.

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The Family Recipe Contract

December 10th, 2012 · 8 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Cameos, Chicken and Turkey, Rituals

Once I was half way through Alex Witchel’s All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments I stopped underlining passages and moments that I wanted to remember. There were just too many. Witchel’s mother, a college professor and one of the few working moms in their 1960s suburban New Jersey neighborhood, cooked more out of obligation than joy (“Del Montes was her farmer’s market. Everything was in season, and syrup, all the time.”) but it didn’t matter. The aromas of her mom’s cooking signaled a “safe harbor” for Witchel and once she began losing her bright, spirited mother to dementia, she looked to the kitchen to reclaim her. As Witchel asks, “Is there any contract tighter than a family recipe?” We are lucky to have Witchel, a longtime repoter at The New York Times, guest-post for us today about Hanukkah memories with her mother. – Jenny

When I was growing up, I realized early that Hanukkah was a raw deal. No tree, no stocking, no cookies, no carols – and school was open, at least every weekday. Eight nights of presents were little consolation. The first and last nights were for the good ones like Candyland, or the plush, cuddly stuffed animal I had spent weeks coveting. The nights in between fizzled with unloved items like Pez dispensers or calendars for the coming year emblazoned with the name of my parents’ bank. The Hanukkah gelt, those gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins were okay, though they never lasted long enough to make much of an impression. Certainly not as long as that spinning dreydl which was such a bore it made jacks seem like an Olympic sport.

Yes, we always had latkes and they were always great. It’s hard to fry potatoes and lose.

Dinner on the first festive night was built around them; my mom usually made her brisket, which for me was the side dish to the latkes.

By the last night of Hanukkah, after a full week surveying our long faces, she rallied. Now there was sufficient distance from Thanksgiving, so she (more…)

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Chicken of the Year

December 3rd, 2012 · 20 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Posts by Andy, Quick

I’m a thigh man, though I am ashamed to admit: it was not always so. I grew up, in fact, turning my naive little nose up at dark meat. I actively avoided the stuff. I was a strict white meat guy, a fan of the Perdue boneless breast, and now that I look back on it, a person who apparently didn’t care much for how things actually taste. But then, a couple of summers ago, our tiny universe expanded. In our search for the perfect grilled chicken recipe — i.e., a grilled chicken recipe that (a) we could serve to guests and that (b) did not suck — we discovered boneless thighs. O boneless chicken thighs, where had you been all my life? This was a revelation. They took to our yogurt marinade so well. They cooked quickly and evenly. They didn’t dry out. They fit perfectly on a warm hamburger bun (with a little Hellman’s, of course). They were good for school lunches the next day. Best of all, they tasted like something. Since then, we’ve taken this well beyond the grill, too. Thighs are great with an apricot-mustard glaze (see: Jenny’s book), or baked with a little homemade barbecue sauce. They’re tasty when breaded, in the Shake ‘n Bake style. But our latest go-to move is the pan roast, a crazily simple and delicious and crispy and pleasingly-browned and crowd-pleasing way to eat chicken. Last week, in a rush to get food on the table and not having a lot of non-rotten vegetables in our refrigerator, I threw some thighs in our cast iron skillet with cremini mushrooms, fresh thyme, and some roughly chopped onions. Total hands-on time: extremely low. Flavor quotient: high. – Andy

Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms

1-1.5 pounds boneless chicken thighs
1 cup cremini mushrooms
4 or five sprigs of thyme
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
Few glugs olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 475°. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add chicken to skillet, skin side down, and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook another 10 or so minutes, until skin is golden brown. Flip chicken, gently toss in mushrooms, onions, and thyme so they are coated in oil, and transfer skillet to oven. Cook another another 15-17 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2012 · 1 Comment · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Chicken and Turkey, Sides, Salads, Soup, Thanksgiving

Wherever you are, however you celebrate, be safe, give thanks, and don’t forget the leftover sandwich.

Happy Thanksgiving from Team DALS!

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So That’s Why They Call it Comfort Food

November 14th, 2012 · 15 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Pork and Beef

 

Five days after Hurricane Sandy pillaged the Eastern Seaboard, I was on the phone with my Dad. Neither of us had our power or heat back yet, so we were both trying to wrap up the conversation quickly to conserve our cellphone batteries. The sun was going down and I was running down a mental list of which friend’s house we should invite ourselves to for dinner next. My father was doing the same, then added “All I want is a slice of meatloaf.”

When it comes to food, my dad has always been an enthusiast (see: dessert), but I can’t ever remember him talking about meatloaf with such reverence. I never have, either. I mean I’m never going to turn it down, but it’s not something I wake up craving either. Needless to say, as soon as we hung up, meatloaf was all I could think about. Specifically my mother-in-law’s meatloaf, the one that’s baked smeared with ketchup and two strips of bacon laid across the top. I mentioned this to the girls, who were underneath seventeen blankets in front of the fire. “Mmmm,” said Phoebe with a dreamy look in her eyes, “That sounds really good. Can we have it with mashed potatoes and butter?”

When we got our power back two nights later, we knew exactly what we’d eat to celebrate.

Classic Meatloaf
See: “A Recipe Starter Kit” Page 20, Dinner: A Love Story. (I went with all ground turkey.)

It would be wise to make enough to ensure for meatloaf sandwiches later in the week. Freeze whatever is leftover, but make sure you slice it before doing so. Then reheat in a baking dish covered with foil at 350°F for about 20 minutes. Or if you transfer the slices to the fridge on the morning of the night you’d like to eat them, Andy would like you to know that they’ll taste just fine cold, on good bread, slathered with ketchup and mayo.

Classic Mashed Potatoes

4 baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into thirds or quarters
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup cream, half & half, or milk
salt and pepper

In a large pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until a knife can slip through the biggest one with no resistance. It usually takes about 15 minutes. Drain and return pot to stove.

Add butter and about 1/2 cup of milk (or cream) and heat until warm and butter has melted. Heat remaining milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Add potatoes back to pot, and using a hand mixer, whip until smooth, adding more liquid until you reach desired consistency.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve each dollop with another pat of butter so it creates the necessary little pool of melted fat on top.

To help support victims of Hurricane Sandy, please consider donating to the Mayor’s Fund of NYC. One hundred percent of your contribution will go towards immediate relief efforts and organizations.

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Chicken Parm Meatballs

October 10th, 2012 · 76 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Favorites

Unless I’m out to dinner, or unless there’s a birthday to celebrate, there’s not much room in my life right now for high-concept food. I love the idea of mashed potato ghosts for Halloween, and the artisanal Mallomars that came with the check at last weekend’s anniversary dinner was definitely good for a giggle. Even if it hadn’t been recorded in my dinner diary, the “ice cream cone” starter I had at the French Laundry in 1998 — a masterfully tiny homemade wafer cone filled with creme fraiche and topped with salmon tartare “sprinkles” — will stay with me for a long time. But you guys know us by now. You know that, for the most part, our default mode is simple, un-fussy meals that are fresh, can be put together fast, and don’t require any winking when served. (Any one getting flashbacks here of Charles Grodin and his “honest” dinner in The Heartbreak Kid?) But every now and then, an idea presents itself that I’d be crazy not to try. Last week Phoebe reminded me that I had been promising meatballs on the family dinner table and had somehow failed to deliver. At the same time, in the same breath, Abby reminded me that I had been promising Chicken Parm (page 148 in my book) on the family dinner table and had somehow failed to deliver. In an attempt to remedy my staggeringly deprived children as well as cut off any sibling tussling at the pass, I decided to please them both with a single high-concept, low-maintenance meatball meal. “It’s like Chicken Parm married Meatballs and had a baby,” I told them, before wondering why on earth I would ever open up such a weird concept with an 8- and 10-year-old. Well, either way, King Solomon would’ve been proud.

Chicken Parm Meatballs

This makes 12 large-ish meatballs. My best self would’ve let the meatballs freeze at this point you see above (after initial 15-minute bake) then frozen them for future Tumultuous Tuesday use, on which day, my best self would’ve transferred the frozen meatballs to the fridge in the morning, then heated them up in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes (before proceeding with broiling) upon her return later that night. While she was at it, my best self would’ve also ordered all the Halloween costumes and thrown away the sad, dried-out mums in the backyard that have been there since last fall and that perennially remind her of her worst self.

1 1/4 pounds ground chicken
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 cup Pecorino (or Parm)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 egg, whisked
zest of half a lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 14-ounce can storebought pizza sauce (such as Don Pepino’s)
about 4 ounces fresh mozzarella (a dozen thin slices; to pile on the cheese would be to cancel out the fact that you were virtuous enough to replace fatty beef with lean chicken)

Preheat oven to 400°F, setting rack to upper third part of oven. In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together first 11 ingredients. Shape into lacrosse-ball size balls (that would be somewhere between golf and tennis) and place a few inches from each other on a foil-lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix one spoonful of your pizza sauce with olive oil. Brush this mixture on top of each meatball. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove meatballs from oven, spoon some sauce on top of each meatball, and cover each with a slice of cheese. Broil another 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.  Heat remaining sauce in a small saucepan. Serve meatballs with a dollop of sauce and a raw Tuscan kale salad that has been shredded and tossed with shallots, Pecornio, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Meanwhile, how much do I love this review of Dinner: A Love Story from Food52? My favorite quote: “Rosenstrach’s book and blog are something very rare in the genre of family dinner: they inspire neither homicidal nor suicidal impulses.”

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Interesting

September 26th, 2012 · 16 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Posts by Andy, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Uncategorized

Jenny’s mom is an extremely nice person. She was raised right, is how I think about it: quick with a smile, asks questions about you and compliments you on your mashed potatoes, stops and chats with virtual strangers at the stationery store in town, and most impressive of all, consistently chooses not to say anything if she has nothing nice to say at all. She was elected May Queen in college, for crying out loud — and that doesn’t happen if you’re unkind to people. Which is not to say she is not discerning or without opinions, and strong ones, of her own; it’s just that she’s monk-like in her discipline and is somehow able, when called for, to keep these opinions to herself. She’d rather know how you are than tell you how she’s feeling; seriously, the woman is incapable of complaint.

If you know her, though, and listen carefully, there are ways to determine where she really stands on things. There is a word she uses that seems innocuous, but is, in fact, devastating. It is a hammer wrapped in velvet. When you hear it, you know you’re a goner. Interesting. As in:

When opening the box containing her birthday present, a sweater-dress you sensed was a little risky, fashion-wise, but went ahead and bought for her anyway because, hey, it’s cashmere and how could someone not love a cashmere sweater-dress: “Oh, it’s a sweater. Thank you. What a lovely color.”

But do you like it?

“Well,” folding it neatly back into the box, “it’s…innnteresting.”

After watching you toss a handful of red pepper flakes into the pot that will soon hold the sauce for the pasta: ”What is that you’re adding there?”

Red pepper flakes. Just a few.

Innnteresting.”

After going to see Pulp Fiction, which you’d just seen and had been kind of blown away by and talked about to the point that she finally decided to go see it for herself: “I found the director’s style very…innnteresting.”

Her use of interesting had achieved the level of Family Lore long before I entered the picture. It was, apparently, a cherished Christmas morning ritual, the response to every new bathrobe or attempted slipper upgrade. Say it out loud at any family gathering, even today, and everyone cracks up: it has achieved that kind of shorthand power. Jenny had warned me about it before our first holiday we spent together, telling me to keep an eye on her mom as she unwrapped the latest set of pajamas her dad had picked out at Lord and Taylor, thinking that maybe, somehow, this would be the year when he would succeed, when his gift would not be deemed…innnnteresting.

The first time I encountered it for myself, though, was in 1994, in the kitchen of the brick row house I shared with three roommates in Brooklyn. I was a 22 year-old editorial assistant who wore pleated pants and spent a shameful amount of time watching the Yankees and drinking Heineken. Thinking maybe it was time to act like a grown-up, I invited Jenny and her parents to dine one Saturday night in my grime-encrusted living room as a thank you, I suppose, for being nice to me. Looking back on it now, this must have been the first time I’d ever entertained. I mopped and Dust-Bustered and lit candles, but when it came to planning a meal, my cupboard was pretty bare. I knew what my own mom did in these situations, and I had a shaky grasp on three or four meals, so I decided to approximate a dinner she might have put together at home: I’d start with cheese and some fancy water crackers, maybe a bunch of green grapes. For the main course, I decided to do a chicken barley soup, a salad dressed by Paul Newman, and a loaf of bread from the local Italian bakery. For dessert: rice pudding (with raisins) from The New York Times Cookbook.

We were sitting on the cratered couch, eating the cheese and crackers, when Jenny’s mom asked me what was on the menu.

“Chicken barley soup,” I said.

“Soup for dinner,” she said. “Innnteresting.”

Oooooof, that hurt. And, okay, so she was right. Soup at a dinner party is maybe not the best call, but I was 22 and it was either that or chili, so I went with what seemed the more sophisticated option. Plus, in my defense: the presence of barley raises this, Chunky-style, from a soup to a meal — or, at least that’s what I told myself. I ended up marrying Jenny, of course, so it couldn’t have been that bad. – Andy

Chicken Barley Soup

Few glugs olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
4 cups homemade chicken stock (if you have the book, see page 289) or store-bought chicken broth, plus more as needed
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup uncooked barley
Handful fresh parsley, for serving

In a large stockpot, warm olive oil and red pepper flakes over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add the stock, bay leaf, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Add the uncooked chicken and simmer, over medium-low heat, for 15-20 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and, using two forks, shred it. Return chicken back to pot, add barley, and simmer on low, covered, for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until barley is tender but not mushy. Add more stock, if necessary. Serve with parsley and a fat slice of good bread.

 

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Tumultuous Tuesdays

September 12th, 2012 · 21 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning

If you opened my refrigerator on a Tuesday afternoon, there’s a good chance you’d find my green Dansk pot sitting on the bottom shelf filled with dinner. I try to limit any scheduled work events that day because the way after-school activities have shaken down for the past year, is that from 2:45 until almost 7:30, the house is pulled in 40 different directions. So much so that we’ve taken to calling it “Tumultuous Tuesdays.” I’ve come to believe that complicated family activity logistics are the very definition of First World Pain (and sort of resemble dreams – they’re boring to everyone except the people directly involved in them) so I won’t say more than this: Boy do I appreciate a meal ready-to-go when we all walk in the door. I’ve called the dinner table many things in my career as a blogger (“magic guilt eraser”, “7:00 magnetic north,” “a god@#m% freaking warzone”) but on these kinds of nights there’s one word that’s top of brain: recalibration. It goes against reason (and sanity) that on the busiest days, during the busiest times of the year, I crave a sit-down session with the family the most.

That’s why the pot is in the fridge. At some point during the day, I try to carve out a half hour from my 8:00 to 2:30 workday to get dinner ready. It can be a pot of turkey chili. Or a quick bolognese. Or this chicken stew.  Anything that looks good in my green Dansk which fits neatly on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator. (Skillet meals need not apply.) If I were more organized, or someone without the flexibility to cook dinner during lunchtime, I might put it together on the weekend and freeze in a flat bag. (And, yes, Slow-Cooker Evangelists, I think you know what to get me for my birthday.) But there’s something extremely satisfying about walking in the door, opening the fridge, transferring the pot to the burner and serving up dinner 10 minutes later. Almost as though I’ve convinced myself that no way, dude, my children are not over-scheduled. I have it all under control. Recalibration? Self-Delusion? All I know is that next Tuesday feels like a lifetime away.

Chicken Stew and Biscuits
This recipe is based on my normal chicken pot pie filling, but for this version, I prefer it stewier so there’s plenty of juice to sop up with the biscuits. When you don’t have leftover cooked chicken on hand, poach 2 chicken breasts in simmering salted water for 15 minutes, while the vegetables are simmering the other pot.

storebought buttermilk biscuits (we like Trader Joe’s frozen)
1 to 1 1 /2 cups chicken broth (cookbook owners, I had some homemade stock, page 289 in the freezer which elevated this to pretty insane levels of deliciousness.)
2 red or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
handful chopped carrots
1/2 medium onion, chopped
leaves from 1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk whisked with 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cooked chicken (shredded or cubed; storebought rotisserie is ideal)
handful of asparagus or peas or green beans or all three
Parmesan to taste (I add about 1/4 cup; sharp cheddar or Jack would be good, too)

If you are baking biscuits, preheat oven and follow package instructions. Bring broth to a boil in a medium-size pot like the one shown above. Add the potatoes, carrots, onions, thyme, and bay leaf, and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Drizzle the milk-flour mixture slowly into the vegetables and simmer, stirring until it is slightly thickened. (Or to taste. Remember: you want some sopping liquid for the biscuits.) Remove the pan from heat, stir in chicken and asparagus and cheese. (If making this ahead of time, allow to cool, cover, and place in fridge*. When ready to serve, reheat uncovered over low heat.) Place a biscuit on each plate and top with stew as shown.

*Note: I’m sure there’s some rule for how long you’re allowed to keep a pot in the refrigerator before its contents start to take on a metallic taste. I’ve never done it for more than a 6 to 8 hour stretch, though, and it’s worked out just fine.

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