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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Friday Reading

March 9th, 2012 · 11 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Quick

Are you guys following Joanna’s cooking series over at Cup of Jo? She’s 33, mother to a 1-year-old, and sick of not knowing how to cook. So in her words, her plan is “to try to master–really master–the classic recipes: scrambled eggs, mac n’ cheese, tomato soup, chocolate chip cookies, that kind of thing.”  Each week she’s highlighting a new recipe courtesy of her favorite food bloggers. This week The Wednesday Chef weighed in with ”the best tomato sauce you’ll ever have“ which does indeed look as though it lives up to its name.

Here are a few other things I’m excited about this week.

The new Everyday Food video series on youtube. Editor Sarah Carey makes dinners in (almost) real time. How easy does this this one look?

Jennifer Steinhauer’s ambitious attempt at recreating hostess cupcakes, Twinkies, and ho-hos in “It’s Not Junk if I Made it.

How many times have I announced to the girls that we are embarking on a baking project only to find myself abandoned in the kitchen as soon as something more interesting comes along? The upside, as Melissa Clark points out in her Hamantaschen story, is that when you’re in charge, at least “the cookies turn out very very good.”

Am I the last to know about this super simple starter? I think I’ll make it for my friends coming over for dinner tomorrow.

Caroline’s perfect avocado and celeriac sandwich.

Those of you following DALS on twitter know this already, but Bon App’s hoisin meatloaf was every bit as satisfying for last week’s Sunday dinner as I had hoped it would be.

I’m going to leave you with a few quotes I read in The Corrections last night. And then re-read and re-read and re-read until I came to terms with how good they were:

“Whether anybody was home meant everything to a house. It was more than a major fact. It was the only fact.”

And, on the next page: ”And if you sat at the dinner table long enough, whether in punishment or in refusal or simply in boredom, you never stopped sitting there. Some part of you sat there all your life.”

Have a good weekend.

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Split Screen Dinners

January 27th, 2011 · 4 Comments · Deconstructing Dinner, Dinner, Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

From the Mail Bag! Reader Robin writes:

I don’t know if you get tired of people telling you stories about your site, but I had to share this one with you:

I made the Belgian Beef Stew tonight.  As I was finishing it up the girls came in to the kitchen and were grumbling things like,  “GROSS…I AM NOT GOING TO EAT THAT! That looks disgusting! Why didn’t you ask me what I wanted for dinner?” etc, etc.

So I said, “I actually made this dinner because the woman that wrote the recipe made it for her 7 & 8 year old daughters. And they loved it. There is a grown-up version and a kid’s version.  I showed them the picture of the two plates from your post.

It worked like a charm. We happily all ate dinner without one complaint!

Couple things about this one. For starters, I never ever ever ever get tired of people telling me stories like this! Ever! So please send yours. Next, it reminded me of my friend Sue telling me a while back how much comfort she got from seeing our dinner plates laid out split-screen style, which is to say, laid out truthfully. Lastly, it reminded the old point-and-cook strategy — showing kids what a new meal is going to look like before springing it on them — and how most of the time it really works. So follow Robin’s lead and show them the beef stew — or this one, a super simple pot roasty number that is just right for a winter weekend. (more…)

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Sunday Minestrone

December 3rd, 2010 · 24 Comments · Dinner, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Let me just start by saying this recipe is not a 30-Minute Meal. Nor is it a One Pot Wonder, a Five Ingredient Dinner, a Fix-it-and-Forget-it Dish or any of the other cute little titles dished up daily in magazines, cookbooks, and, um, blogs exactly like this one. This minestrone, which Pilar first introduced me to in 2004, is not cute. It is messy and demanding and complicated. It involves forethought — you must soak the beans overnight. It involves rinsing and draining and mincing and chopping. It involves immersion blenders and strainers and Dutch Ovens and saucepans. And it involves time. A lot of time. The kind of time you once had on a Sunday afternoon before you had kids to shuttle to birthday parties or basketball games or before you started getting roped into marathon sessions of Monopoly. Which, if you are a certain kind of cook, is what makes the resulting freaking crazy delicious soup all the more special. Because yes, you must spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen making it, but…you get to spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen making it.

Tuscan Minestrone
Adapted from The Fine Art of Italian Cooking
, Giuliano Bugialli

8 ounces dried cannellini beans
1 slice prosciutto or pancetta (vegetarians & vegans: this can be omitted)
1 large red onion, minced
1 celery rib, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup Italian parsley
½ cup olive oil
½ small head Savoy cabbage, chopped
1 ½ bunches kale, cleaned and chopped into small pieces
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small squares
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and seeded
1 small bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak the dried beans overnight in a bowl of cold water. The next day, drain the beans and cook them in a large pot with 2 quarts of salted water and the prosciutto or pancetta. As the beans absorb water, keep adding enough hot water to maintain about 2 quarts of liquid at the end of the cooking time. Cook for one hour, then let sit on stovetop in pot.

Saute onion, celery, garlic, carrot, parsley, salt and pepper in the olive oil in a Dutch Oven or large stockpot for about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the cabbage, kale, and potato to the stockpot. Then add tomatoes, smushing them with your hands as you drop them in the pot. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, adding a little bean liquid every now and then if it’s looking dry. Then add Swiss chard.

Remove the prosciutto from the beans. Scoop out about 1 cup of beans with a strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. With a handheld  mixer, blend the remaining beans in their pot, then pour bean puree into the stockpot with vegetables, stirring to combine. Simmer together for about 15 minutes more until heated through. When you are ready to serve, add the reserved whole beans. Add salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with crusty bread, freshly grated Parmesan and a healthy drizzle of good quality olive oil.

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