A Winning Weeknight Dinner

March 2nd, 2011 · 22 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Quick

Full disclosure here: I think I knew the winner of my Go-to Weeknight Dinner Contest almost as soon as I spied the Sausage, Kale, and Bean Stew entry submitted by  “anna” on Day 1 of the contest. Every recipe that came in after this one, as far as I was concerned, had to pass the anna test — as in, is it as appealing sounding as anna’s stew? Because Anna’s Stew had all the hallmarks of a keeper in my house including:

1) A Quick Cook Time – from start to finish it took me about 20 minutes
2) A Forgiving Technique – For 10 of those minutes I was ignoring the sizzling sausages as I sat with my 7-year-old testing her on multiplication flash cards. It didn’t seem to affect the dish in the slightest.
3) An Easy Marketing Plan – It contained two solid ingredients that I could count on my kids eating without a fight (sausages and kale)
4) An Adventure Factor – It contained one (easily extractable) ingredient that I’ve been meaning to push on the kids (cannelini beans)
5) It was really f*%#@*g good!!!

However narrow-minded I was about choosing the winner, I remind you that one family’s keeper might be another family’s pet food, so please head over to the contest post to check out all 78 submissions (so awesome, btw — a big thank-you to everyone who sent something in) because there are a ton of delicious-sounding options. If I was giving out honorable mention, “bugawa” (#43) was a close second with her Jacques Pepin-inspired pork medallions in wine sauce — so tasty, but couldn’t compete with the one-dishiness of anna’s stew. And “Joanna’s” (#59) strategic two-in-one meal plan was incredibly hard for me to pass up (you can take the girl out of Real Simple) but sadly, included pasta, which my 9-year-old still won’t touch. (Why, God, why??)

Anna wins a $75 gift certificate to Allmodern.com. Thanks for playing everyone.

Anna’s Sausage, Bean, and Kale Stew
I halved the recipe for my family of four (if Abby ate 2 sausages, as called for here, she’d be eating about twice her own weight) but this below is written to serve 6 normal eaters or about 8 bird-like ones. Anna called for the sausages to be sliced into rounds after being browned — which might be more appealing for the kids — but I found it easier to crumble the meat with a fork in the first step.

Saute 1 onion (chopped) in Dutch Oven in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Add 2 garlic cloves (minced), salt, pepper, and a few flakes of crushed red pepper. Add in 8 links of Italian chicken or pork sausage (casings removed, crumbed with a fork) and cook until brown and heated through. Add one 32-ounce container chicken broth (add less if you like your stews more chunky, less brothy), a 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, and 2 14-ounce cans cannellini beans (rinsed and drained). Bring to a boil. Add 1 large bunch kale, simmer until wilted, about 3 minutes. Serve with a lot of freshly grated Parmesan and crusty bread.

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Instant Dinner Party

January 24th, 2011 · 78 Comments · Dinner, Entertaining, Favorites, Pasta, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy

Spoiler alert: If you come over to our house for dinner any time between now and the first day of spring, there’s about a 90% chance we’re going to cook this for you. The pork shoulder ragu you see above is our new obsession. It’s the ideal dish for Sunday dinner, or even better, an informal winter dinner party: It’s warm, it’s hearty, it smells insanely good, it goes well with red wine, and my God, is it tasty. But none of those are the main reason we’re so obsessed with this right now — no, the best part of this one is that, once the guests arrive, your work is already done. All the prep — what little of it there was — is four hours ago, a distant memory. Which is increasingly the way we like it. It seems like the older we get, and the more cooking we do, the simpler we want our entertaining to be. For sure, there was a day when we would have spent the afternoon, Martha-style, frantically scooping out little cucumber cups with a mellon-baller and filling them with creme fraiche and topping them with smoked salmon and dainty sprigs of dill, when we would have been stirring (and stirring) risotto and mandolining three different kinds of potatoes and being distracted, instead of hanging out with our guests. But then kids happened, and our tastes changed, and those days are gone. These days, I love nothing more than a one-pot meal — I am a braising machine! — and this really basic pork ragu over pasta is where our heads are at right now. It’s an instant party: you just take it out of the oven, shred the pork, boil some pasta, and you’re done. If the kids don’t like pork, they can eat the pasta; if they do like pork, then I love them, and there’s still plenty for everybody. Though I should add that, as good as this is on a cold winter night, it’s even better for lunch the next day. If it weren’t for a little thing known as coronary heart disease, I would eat this every day for the rest of my life. –Andy (more…)

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Baked Sausages with Apples and Potatoes…Hold the Mess

October 28th, 2010 · 29 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef

One-dish dinner!

I’ve only watched The Simpsons a few times in my life, but I vividly recall an episode where Homer stands in front of his bathroom mirror shaving. As soon as he puts down the razor and towels his face dry, his six-o-clock shadow emerges as gray and shady as it was before he began. I mention this here because I, like most parents, contend with my own Homer’s Beard every day, i.e. the clutter…i.e. the beading kits, the book order catalogs, the cheese stick wrappers, the Monopoly money, the paper dolls, the general detrius of family life, which keeps coming back bigger and stronger and darker and shadier no matter how forcefully I fight it. Like it’s freaking alive. It’s not even like my kids are that messy — they’re just busy and into things. And when you’re busy and into things and you are not yet paying you’re own rent…well, it would take some convincing to get me to clean up the wikki stix too.

The Sisyphean struggle is annoying every day, but it is particularly annoying every other Wednesday when the house is professionally cleaned, the sink scoured, the floors mopped, and the stovetop is sparkling in the sunlight with nary a grease speck in sight. I devote my whole being to protecting the illusion of a peaceful, orderly house as long as possible…which usually amounts to about 20 minutes. My friend Frances, who attempts this feat of daring as well, has managed to carve out an oasis of calm in the one spot her young kids are not allowed to touch: the stovetop. On cleaning day, she makes baked sausages because it’s all done inside the oven, involves minimal countertop work, and keeps the stovetop area clean and mess-free. For one night at least.

Baked Sausage with Apples, Potatoes, and Onions
I originally thought this might work as a one-dish and a no-chop meal, which is why I bought tiny potatoes and cippolini onions. But it can be annoying to peel those tiny onions (no matter how sweet the reward) so you should feel free to use a regular onion.

Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large baking dish, toss 2 cups small whole unpeeled potatoes (or 3 to 4 medium potatoes chopped), 1 medium onion (chopped artlessly in chunks), and leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, then toss in 2 to 3 apples (unpeeled, preferably baking apples such as Cortland, Granny Smith, Jonathan, Northern Spy) that have been cut into large chunks, and 4 uncooked sweet Italian sausages (about 1 pound). Turn heat down to 400°F and bake another 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar into vegetables. Serve with dollops of grainy or Dijon mustard.

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