Quick-ish Coq au Vin

March 12th, 2012 · 12 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner

There are times that call for Julia Child’s Coq au Vin: Holidays. Birthdays. Someone special coming over. (I always knew my mom liked her dinner guests when I saw Mastering the Art of French Cooking splayed on our mustard-colored formica counter.) And there are times that call for the abbreviated version. Like two weeks after coming home from the hospital with our firstborn. Thanks to casserole-bearing well-wishers, we hadn’t cooked for ourselves for what seemed like years, but it was a cold Sunday night and we had some red wine begging to be put to use, and so we did what we’d do about eight thousand times in the next ten years: We took some shortcuts. We used chicken thighs instead of hacking up a whole chicken. We skipped the igniting of the cognac (and the cognac itself); Instead of making separate recipes for brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms, we just threw both into the pot with the chicken. The recipe we came up with and still make ten years later — unless someone special is coming over, in which case we stick with Julia’s — isn’t quite fast enough for a weeknight meal. But it’s just right for an easy Sunday family dinner. Especially the kind of Sunday family dinner when you forgot that soccer practice ends at 6:00 so you won’t be able to start browning or simmering anything until 6:30. The kind of Sunday dinner where you have to go back and forth from the stovetop to your eight-year-old’s bedroom in 10-minute stints because all day you promised you’d play school with her but never got around to it. In other words, the normal kinds of Sunday dinner. (more…)

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A Hint of Hedonism

October 11th, 2011 · 68 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog as long as I have, and never told you about one of my greatest talents. (No, not my proclivity for cocktails.) Last night as I made dinner, it occurred to me that I have a remarkable ability to convince myself that whatever I’m making for my family is healthy — even on nights when I am forced to go upstairs to change my T-shirt that has been splattered with the canola oil I used to fry the deliciously crispy skillet potatoes you see above.

Because the potatoes are from my favorite organic vendor at the farmer’s market. And they are technically vegetables. And they are sitting next to a pile of kale. (Remember the Kale Effect? Which is related to Andy’s Broccoli Rule?) And plus, we were having a college friend over for dinner, and when a guest is at the table, the decision to fry the potatoes (instead of roast them) and the decision to use an extra pat or two of butter in the pan-sauce for the chicken (chicken = not red meat) is a no-brainer. Extra fat doesn’t officially register in the arteries when you are cooking for someone else. I can’t believe you didn’t know that.

Last night was a little more buttery than I’m used to, but I will say that as a general rule, I am a firm believer that there needs to be at least a hint of hedonism on the dinner plate — whether it’s crumbled feta in the salad, sour cream on the baked potatoes, or bacon in the brussels sprouts. Because if every meal is boiled kale with quinoa and flax, I have to ask: Where is the joy in life? (more…)

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Chicken with Asparagus Ketchup

June 6th, 2011 · 9 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner

The first time I had “asparagus ketchup” I was sitting at a sidewalk table at Bar Pitti in the Village with my Time For Dinner co-authors Alanna and Pilar, and our editor, Lia. We had split a bottle of 2006 Toscana Castello di Ama rose, the name of which I remember only because I emailed myself a photo of the label so I’d be able to track it down later. It was that special.

Then again, just about anything seems special to me when I’m having it at Bar Pitti – and not just because the place is a New York institution. When I worked at Real Simple a thousand years ago I was one of five editors who had babies within a few months of each other, and at least once or twice a summer we’d make a point to take the subway out of midtown, out of our tightly packed worlds of meetings (and pumping) and deadlines (and pumping) to grab some polpettine and a glass of wine at Bar Pitti. One glass usually became two and sometimes more, and before we knew it, the afternoon was shot (as was the breast milk), and writing the “50 Gifts Under $50″ story was just going to have to wait til tomorrow. Since we were all new moms, we’d hit on the usual topics  – how long is too long to share a bed with the baby, how you know when it’s teething and when it’s worse, whatever Caitlin Flanagan was making people mad about…But I think what I loved most about these lunches was that it felt so good to be irresponsible for a few hours. There was not a whole lot of wiggle room in our schedules, so a midday glass of wine downtown was about as wild as things were going to get. For me, at least. In the next few years the five of us went our separate ways — some to different jobs, some to different coasts — but I’ve channeled the vibe of our lunches every time I’ve eaten at Bar Pitti since. Because of those moms, everything tastes good to me there. Every occasion seems sweeter than it probably is.

The second time I had asparagus ketchup was decidedly less romantic. It was last week, when I debuted it at my family table. Of course, “asparagus ketchup” is not what they called it at Bar Pitti. (This is what happens when babies move on from breast milk — you start sucking all the sentiment out of your favorite dishes if it means your kids might be more likely to take a bite.) Bar Pitti just called it cold asparagus sauce and poured it over a chilled pounded chicken breast like a glaze on a cake. It could not have been a more refreshing summer meal. When Alanna asked the waiter how the sauce was made we couldn’t believe it was just mustard, olive oil, and asparagus. Depending on the mood you’re in, we later found out, you could add water or broth to turn it into soup. (more…)

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Easier than Any Freezer Dinner

June 2nd, 2011 · 13 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup

Every time I make this roasted chicken with barbecue sauce I say to myself: Why don’t I do this meal on those nights I reach for the box mac & cheese or frozen pizza? It’s fresher and healthier than most things you’ll pull out of a box (Don’t worry, I still love you Trader Joe), but more to the point, it’s just as easy. In fact, I kind of can’t believe I didn’t include it in the six-week Dinner Doula plan I wrote up for parents who are paralyzed by the idea of cooking homemade food for their kids. If I had a do-over, this recipe would be Dinner Number One. Look how simple it is:

1) Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove drumsticks (or thighs) from package and place in a foil-lined roasting pan.
2)  Add a little salt and pepper and brush a thin layer of barbecue sauce on each. (If you are a beginner, I realize the likelihood of having a stash of homemade sauce lying around is slim; don’t worry, just use your favorite bottled kind.)
3) Every 10 minutes or so, flip and brush on another thin layer of sauce. After 30 minutes, they are done. That’s it.

I haven’t tuned in to the 2011 season of Food Revolution, but last year I remember Jamie Oliver served a chicken like this along with a shredded salad to tempt the West Virginia school kids away from the nuggets and fries. Sadly, hardly any of the kids were convinced, but I sure was. For a year I’ve wanted to make a salad that looked like that one. I guess technically you might call it a slaw. Whatever you call it, it rocked. (more…)

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Pretzel Chicken: Weeknight Keeper

May 16th, 2011 · 45 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Picky Eating, Quick

I’m guessing most of you out there don’t regularly get emails from friends with the subject line: “Pretzel Chicken.” And I’m also guessing that if you did, your heart wouldn’t jump when it showed up in your inbox. But that was the somewhat sad state of affairs last week when my friend Jodi sent me the email, saying she was going to debut the dish for Shabbat dinner, a ritual with her husband and six-year-old daughter that she is trying to make more regular. The launch of the ritual, of course, warmed my heart, but what really grabbed me was the recipe. It was the famous City Bakery pretzel chicken that I have been lunching on for the past five years. It’s all mustardy and zesty and dredged in crushed sourdough pretzels — I don’t think I’ve ever taken a bite of it without announcing to whatever poor soul is sitting across from me I must replicate this at home. The kids will freak! (more…)

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Shake ‘n Bake, New ‘n Improved

March 28th, 2011 · 27 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Posts by Andy

Last week, Jenny went away for three days to work on her book. I don’t know if anyone else out there finds this to be true, but we have this theory about parenting being easier — not better, mind you, just easier — when the spouse is away. The chain of command is clearer. Movements are more efficient. Decisions are more decisive. With no safety net, I feel like we tend to be a little better about being doers, about making the bed in the morning and mustering the energy to move that dirty juice glass the three feet from the sink into the dishwasher, about not standing around in the kitchen, checking email again and being generally suspended in that maddening state of inertia that sets in when you’re trying to decide what to do and who’s going to go upstairs and get the sweater down from Abby’s closet and who’s going to make sure Phoebe’s teeth are brushed properly, since the dentist put a watch on one of her molars last time we were there and, wait, did we pack any snacks yet?

So I had a big weekend planned. We would be a perpetual motion machine! Saturday morning, we went hiking up at Bear Mountain. We had lunch — burgers with jalapenos and sharp local cheddar, a black-and-white milkshake, and hand-cut fries — at the outrageously tasty Woody’s All-Natural in Cornwall, New York, which, if you live within 100 miles of the place, I implore you to try, for real. We made nine jars of pickles. We played home run derby on the patio. And when it came to dinner, I saw this as an opportunity to do something different and fun, to branch out with a hanger steak or a rack of ribs or one of those silvery whole branzinos I’d been eyeing at the fish market. The best part was, after a death march of a winter, we could even cook outside. The weather was just beginning to turn — a cruel tease, as it turns out — and the grill was on the patio, cleared of snow, practically begging to be fired up. Afterwards, we’d call Jenny and surprise her with our enterprising dinner adventures. There’s nothing she likes more than when we go and expand the family repertoire.

It was late afternoon when we finally got around to planning the menu. I quick-polled the kids to see what they were up for.

They were up for chicken. Chicken, chicken, and more chicken. Chinese chicken, they said. Adam’s crispy chicken. Barbecue chickenDrumsticks! Chicken! (more…)

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Family Dinner: Book It!

April 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment · Dinner, Kitchenlightenment, Rituals

Short of actually feeding you and your family a meal at my kitchen table, I can’t imagine there is anything more satisfying than hearing about the successes you’ve all had using recipes and advice from DALS. Last night my neighbor Bonnie left a message for me — there was unmistakable triumph in her voice as she described the dredging stations she had set up for Homemade Chicken Fingers that she planned on serving her kids. (“No chicken nuggets for us tonight!”) At an event honoring my mother-in-law in Virginia last week, I sat next to the nicest woman named Courtney who told me her husband was at home making Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken for her daughters. Kiera, a friend from high school who I haven’t seen or talked to in two decades let me know via facebook that Todd’s Minty Peas were a huge hit at her house. (Btw, based on the traffic report from that post, I’m thinking the keywords “minty peas” might be more poplular than “tiger woods affair.” Thanks Todd!!!)

The other thing I’m hearing a lot these days is this: Do you actually, truly, for real sit down with your family every night for dinner?

The answer is yes — for the most part. But… Do I sit down to a fresh-from-the-farmer’s market meal every night? No. Do my kids eat the same things that we do every night? No. Are both you and Andy home from work in time for dinner every night? No.

You may remember my “two out of three” rule for family dinner. It’s incredibly rare for everything to work out perfectly — and the way around this, I’ve found, is to: 1) lower your standards and 2) plow ahead anyway. Sometimes, it even means deciding on the night a few days ahead of time and then actually writing it in the calendar (or the chalkboard in my case) to give it as much weight as the soccer practice or the 6:00 (more…)

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