Summer Stew

July 18th, 2012 · 20 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Deconstructing Dinner, Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

I should probably be stripped of my food blogging rights for telling you to do anything with summer corn besides eat it on the cob with a little salt and butter, but you know I can’t resist the urge to share the discovery of a new deconstructible dinner. Last week was not the first time we’ve eaten this corn, chicken and sausage stew — not by a longshot, we ate a version of it almost every August weekend one summer in the 90s. But since then, we’ve had to think a bit more strategically about dinner, which, of course, is another way of saying, we’ve become parents. I was happy to discover last week, that the family classic joins the ranks of the tortilla soup, the salmon salad, and the other dinners on page 158-163 of my book that can be broken down into their individual components so that they can be more palatable to the kids, and less headache-inducing for the cook. It’s a goodie.

Summer Stew with Chicken, Corn, and Sausage
Adapted from Gourmet

3 links chorizo sausage (I used chicken), sliced into coins
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 or 7 boneless chicken thighs, salted and peppered
1/2 medium onion, chopped
red pepper flakes (optional)
2 to 3 cups corn, cut off the cob
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
basil, chopped

In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown sausage in olive oil over medium heat until crispy. Remove.  Raise heat to medium-high and brown chicken (in batches if necessary) on both sides until mostly cooked through. Remove. Turn down heat to medium-low, add onion, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and a little more oil if necessary. Stir until slightly wilted. Add corn and tomatoes and stir until vegetables release their juices.

Nestle chicken and sausage back in the vegetables, cover and simmer another 5-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve with basil and crusty bread in bowls, or separate into individual components for the kid who doesn’t like things “mixed” and serve on a plate.

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It’s Just a Scallop

July 19th, 2011 · 20 Comments · Dinner, Picky Eating, Quick, Seafood

This is a cheap shot kind of story but I’m going to tell it anyway.

Last summer I was having dinner at a friend’s house. She is about ten years ahead of me in the parenting game and I’ve always looked to her for advice on everything from day camps to birthday cake bakeries to how best survive third grade clique drama without ending up in the headlines.  She has three daughters, each one more accomplished than the next. At the time of this dinner, the oldest was about to start her junior year in college, the middle one, a homebody, was getting ready to leave for her freshman year at a big school in the Midwest, and the youngest, a high school sophomore, had just returned from doing volunteer work in South America. None of them were at the dinner table with us. In fact, none of them were in the house — until about half way through our delicious grilled salmon, at which point the middle daughter wandered into the kitchen and opened the fridge. (more…)

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Tabula Rasa

July 21st, 2010 · 13 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Time for Dinner: The Cookbook

Let’s say you just went shopping at Trader Joe’s so your refrigerator is stocked with staples like pork and chicken and onions and olive oil as well as some fun little extras like prosciutto and Whole Wheat Naan. Let’s also say that on your way home from your weekend in the Berkshires, you picked up some fresh corn and tomatoes and blueberries at a roadside farm stand. So you’re set in the Fresh department, too. And then, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that you have spent the last decade working on the food team at two major magazines, write a daily food blog, and in fact have even co-written The Book on family dinner.

If all this was in fact the case, you probably don’t imagine that you would ever find yourself in the position I was in last night. Staring at my full fridge at 6:20 with not a single idea of what to feed my family. Zero. When I was working at Cookie, I used to regularly get 6:20 emails my friend (and co-author) Pilar who found herself in the same predicament. Tabula Rasa, she’d write. Complete Tabula Rasa.

Since Tabula Rasa strikes more often than one might think, I’ve trained my brain to default to one of three settings: The Omelet Setting, The Risotto Setting, and the Taco Setting. Any one of them would have made good use of the staples in the pantry as well as my roadside score. Last night I went with Pork Tacos.

Pork Tacos
Warning: This is not a throw-it-together tabula rasa meal like an omelet might be. It requires about 45 minutes of hands-on time. And if you like to pan-fry your tortillas (instead of heating in oven) it ends up being a three-pot meal. But, delicious, delicious. And worth the investment for us because both kids will generally eat some variation of it, which means we are rewarded by a nag-free meal.

In a small Dutch oven or a medium, straight-sided pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add a salted-and-peppered pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds; the standard size) and brown on all sides. (It does not have to cook through.) Once it’s browned, remove from heat and to the same pot, add 1/2 onion (chopped), 1 clove garlic (minced), a dash of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 bay leaf, and a few hefty shakes of dried oregano. Stir to combine, then add pork tenderloin back to pot, nestling it in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. (If you have to go pick up your spouse at the train because you forgot to tell him you took the car home from the station yourself, well, now is the time to do it.)

While pork simmers away, make a corn salad with cooked kernels, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, olive oil, a squeeze of lime. Warm 4-6 whole wheat tortillas (wrapped in foil) in a 350°F oven.

When pork has cooked, remove from pot and, using two forks, shred it into pieces as shown above. (There is no art to this; in fact the less artfully done, the better.) Add shreds back to the sauce, stir everything together, then assemble tacos as shown. Top with sour cream.

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Corn for the Dentally Challenged

July 13th, 2010 · 16 Comments · Pasta, Pork and Beef

In my mind, it’s pretty much sacrilegious to suggest doing a single thing to sweet, fresh, summer corn besides enjoy it on the cob, slathered in butter with a little salt and pepper. But when one is sharing a house with a first and second grader whose grins periodically resemble Leon Spinks’, it can be challenging to be a purist on this point. Concessions must be made.

A tooth-fairy-approved fall-back plan (that is, if you want to do more than simply shave the kernels off the cob and hand the kid a spoon) is this simple dish, which calls for 3 to 4 pieces of bacon, but you could go with two and it will still be as delicious. The best part? You don’t need teeth to eat it.

Pasta with Corn and Bacon

Cook 1 pound of spaghetti, fettucini, or angel hair as directed. When drained, toss with a little bit of olive oil to prevent noodles from sticking. Meanwhile, in a deep skillet, fry 3 to 4 pieces of bacon (country ham is pictured) over medium heat. Remove when crisp and chop after they’ve cooled. Wipe up some of the bacon grease in the pan with a paper towel, then add 1/2 large onion (chopped) and the raw scraped-off kernels from 4 ears of fresh corn. Fry in the fat until onions are cooked through and corn is cooked and slightly crispy. Add a hefty dose of shredded Parmesan and stir again. Divide your cooked pasta between four bowls, add corn-onion mixture, bacon crumbles, more Parmesan, freshly ground pepper, and some chopped basil. Depending on the bacon you use, you might have to add some salt at the table.


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