Posts tagged dinner
Posts tagged dinner
Some divine light shone on us Tuesday night and we had a really fantastic mostly leftovers dinner at 5:45 pm with Bear.
Despite my best intentions, we mostly don’t eat dinner with Bear. He goes to bed really early, and needs a bath to keep the rashiness under control, which means we’d have to eat at 5:30 or so. I can pull together a simple dinner for him between when I get home from daycare pickup and 5:30, but I can only very rarely pull together a real dinner for all three of us in that time.
Except Tuesdsay night! We had turkey burgers topped with the extra salsa verde from the summer squash gratin along with the leftover carrot and chickpea salad. The salsa verde was perfect on the turkey burgers, and the whole dinner was filling and light. The carrot and chickpea salad saves really nicely in the fridge. The turkey burgers only take maybe 15 minutes.
Here’s the salsa verde recipe:
Blend the herbs, garlic, anchovies, and capers (if you’re using them) in a food processor or blender until they become a paste. You may need to scrape down the sides once or twice. It was more like a very fine chop/rough paste for me and it was fine. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil (my food processor has a little indentation thing in the lid with two holes so I can pour oil into the lid and it drips slowly into the mixture). Season with the lemon juice and salt and pepper.
It keeps well in the fridge, although the oil solidifies.
This is my general process with turkey burgers. This time I used:
I folded the ingredients together with a fork (to avoid mashing the turkey too much), made them into three rough patties, and cooked them in a skillet with olive oil.
When they were done, I added a spoonful of salsa verde on top.
I made this the other night and it was wonderful and filling. I left out the pistachios, but I think they would add a lot to the dish.
Grating carrots by hand is miserable.
Carving a Chicken
I mentioned this video in my post the other week about roast chicken. Carving a chicken is a really useful skill when serving a roast chicken, or navigating a turkey at Thanksgiving, or if you encounter a recipe that requires cooking a whole chicken cut up into 4 or 8 pieces. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard at all.
Please take a minute to look at that damn fine roast chicken up there.
I recently made my Best Ever Roast Chicken and I feel a duty to tell you about it. We had it on Tuesday, and I was just blown away. The skin was super crispy; the meat was tender and moist* and flavorful. You roast potatoes along with the chicken, and they were magic. They had a good crispy edge and a lot of richness from the chicken fat and I tossed them with a bunch of fresh parsley which gave them a herbal kick. I stood at the stove after dinner eating leftover potatoes straight from the pan. The recipe calls it “chicken with mustard butter,” but it’s just as much about the herbs as the mustard.
It’s a combination of two recipes from Mindy Fox’s A Bird in the Oven and Then Some. I wrote about a different, also delicious, chicken recipe from this book back in 2011.
The snag? You have to take the raw chicken and wedge your hand up between the skin and the chicken flesh (judiciously cutting away the connective tissue if need be). Once you’ve maneuvered some space in there with your hand mushed underneath the chicken skin, you squeeze in a butter mixture with your fingers and then rub your hands over the surface of the chicken to spread it all out. So that’s gross. It becomes less gross the more you do it, much in the way of picking up dog poop with the plastic bag covering your hand, but it’s gross. I have come to believe there are no good alternatives.
On that note, let’s go! Best roast chicken ever!
Roasted Chicken with Mustard Butter and Potatoes
Preheat the oven to 450˚ F with the rack in the middle. Put a roasting pan or 9 x 13” baking dish in the oven to heat up while you prep everything (10 minutes or so).
Make the mustard butter: Put the butter, shallot, mustard, and sage in a bowl. Zest the lemon into the bowl, close in so you capture the lemon oils that spray off as you zest. I often use a knife to cut the ingredients together until they’re fairly well mixed and finish mixing them together with a fork. Whatever works.
You can prepare the potatoes before your hands get raw chickeny if you want. Cut them up, toss them with olive oil, around 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper.
Now the chicken: with kitchen shears or your hands, pull or cut off the excess fat around the cavities of the chicken and discard. If the chicken has giblets, you should fish out the neck and freeze it to make stock (along with the carcass from the chicken you’re roasting). Again, gross, but you’re eating a dead bird. The instructions say to rinse the bird and pat dry, but that is ridiculous and we’re skipping it. Pat it dry if you want.
Next, verbatim from the recipe: “From the edge of the cavity, slip a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, then gently but thoroughly loosen the skin from the meat of the breasts and thighs.
"Using your hands and working with about 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, gently push the mixture into the spaces you created between the chicken skin and meat, being careful not to tear the skin. As you work the mixture in, gently rub your hand over the outside of the skin to smooth out the mixture and push it further down between the skin and meat where you may not be able to reach with your hand."
So that was intimate. I sometimes use a knife or kitchen shears to cut the connective tissue between the skin and the meat.
Cut the lemon into quarters and pop one quarter into the chicken cavity. Save the others for later. Tie the chicken legs together with twine, although that step might be skippable. Season with salt and pepper.
Take the roasting pan out of the oven and toss in the potatoes, keeping them in one layer if you can and leaving room in the middle of the pan for the chicken. Add the chicken, breast side up.
Roast for 20 minutes, then turn chicken breast-side down and roast for another 20 minutes.
Take the chicken out and turn breast side up again. Squeeze the extra lemon slices over the chicken and then toss them in the pan. Continue cooking for another 20 - 30 minutes until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a fork.
In other words:
Toss the chopped parsley over the potatoes and mix a bit.
If you’ve never carved a whole chicken, here’s a nice video demonstrating the process. It’s the same as cutting up a raw chicken, and a pretty useful skill. Don’t forget to save the carcass for stock— just wrap it in tinfoil or a ziploc bag and freeze it.
* Moist felt less awkward than juicy in that situation. It was a judgement call.
** I tried to find a video or tutorial of cutting butter and flour together using two knives but didn’t find much. What I mean is you take your knives, one in each hand, pointed toward each other and slightly crossed in an x. You slice them away from each other so the bits of butter get cut up in between the knives. I should make a video of my mum doing this at some point.
The chalkboard for the week.
"Chicken bones" were leftover from the grocery list and not an actual meal I was planning to serve, although I enjoy the thought.
I don’t have the ingredients for the chicken curry (what was I thinking exactly at the grocery store?) and I haven’t made the kale and white bean soup yet, but we’ve knocked out everything else. I’m now dragging my feet on the kale soup. We ordered pizza last night.
Here’s the list written out:
Satisficing and Quiche
There are ways to make excellent quiches, and they involve your own pie crust, and straining things, and heating up dairy products. And there are ways to make perfectly fine quiches that involve none of those things.
I spent a lot of time in my twenties learning how to cook the best possible version or the entirely-from-scratch version or the no-shortcuts version of this or that dish. And that had value. Doing things the hard way taught me useful skills, and helped me see how the “hard way” wasn’t always particularly hard (or at least certainly wasn’t out of my reach). I think it made me a better cook.
But a person also needs to eat dinner, and if your standards for homemade cooking are such that there are no shortcuts, you could very well end up eating boxed macaroni and cheese or takeout.
Satisficing is a term from economics, a mash-up of “satisfy” and “suffice.” The idea is that we are not capable of being perfectly rational decision makers who always make the best possible decision (“maximizing”) because we are “bounded by cognitive limits.” We don’t have all the information to make the best possible decision, and we couldn’t process the information if we did have it, and we have other things we need to do with our time.
Frankly, “bounded by cognitive limits” is a fairly good description of every weekday evening in our house.
I am bound by many limits, and this concept of satisficing rather than maximizing can be very helpful in the realm of homecooked dinners. I’m not a professional chef. I don’t need to prove anything to my family. A really excellent entirely homemade quiche is worth the effort in some situations, and I like knowing that I am capable of it, but generally I just need to make dinner.
So I buy a frozen pie crust from Whole Foods. The packaged pie crusts are a bit sweet, which is a little weird, but neither Dave nor I particularly mind it.
Beyond that, I stripped down a variety of quiche recipes to their barest bones and here’s what I ended up with:
Satisficing Quiche with Greens and Mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 375.
Prepare the fillings if they’re not already cooked.
Whisk together the eggs and cream. Add the cheese, then the fillings (let them cool slightly so they don’t cook the eggs when you add them). Mix together and season with salt and pepper.
Pour everything into the still-frozen pie shell. I always attempt to make this fit into one pie shell and it never does. Pour any extra into a ramekin. Set the pie shell and the ramekin on a cookie sheet.
Bake for around 35 minutes, or until the quiche is set.
Throw together a simple salad and you have dinner.
Can I Eat This: Toddler Edition
Photo by Christina Holmes for The New York Times
I made meatballs for the first time Monday night! I made this recipe, along with the sauce, and served them with couscous and no vegetables because I used up all my cooking energy on the first three parts of the meal.
As a kid, I never ate meatballs. I was a picky eater who didn’t like tomato sauce (which means I didn’t like pizza, or lasagna, or spaghetti and meatballs, or any of those other things kids love), and there was no special family recipe for meatballs, so there was very little incentive there for my mum. And then I kind of assumed meatballs were a thing I didn’t like until I was in my late twenties and ordered them at Local 188 in Portland at the behest of a friend and they were really good.
In any case, these lamb meatballs, written up in the Times Sunday magazine and based on a recipe by Suzanne Goin, were really, really good. The lamb flavor was wonderful— lamb can be overpowering but this played well with the other flavors. Between the browning and the baking, I was concerned about meatball dryness, but these were still moist and tender. I didn’t puree the tomatoes, so I didn’t get the full sauce experience, but it was still delicious (next time I will double the batch of sauce and freeze some for later).
So here we are! Discovering new foods, expanding horizons, etc.
I am also super pleased that I can write to you about making meatballs on a weeknight because it gives the impression that my life is far, far more together than it actually is. They took exactly an hour from start to finish. BUT I will say that I was cooking with focus and quickly, and it was not a leisurely hanging-out-and-cooking kind of deal. This recipe will take you approximately three years to complete if you are also trying to watch a toddler while you make it.
I froze half the meatballs and half the sauce. Dave was profoundly disappointed when he understood that we were not having a tray of two dozen meatballs for dinner. Manage expectations!
Click on the photo or the title for a link to the recipe.
Chickpeas and Greens
I’m prefacing this post with a big eye roll in my own direction. Attempting to recreate a dish you ate on vacation is a gigantic cliche, and makes me feel incredibly uncool, but here I am.
When we were visiting my brother in Barcelona, we had a tapas dish with chickpeas, greens, and blood sausage. There was a little bit of broth and the dish was slightly sweet. It was crazy delicious.
So I got home a promptly made a pot of chickpeas. Let’s pause for a minute and talk about the benefits of having a batch of cooked chickpeas in your fridge. It means you’re always within a stone’s throw of dinner, basically. It’s not the same, mentally, as canned chickpeas. Canned chickpeas can languish for years in my cupboard. But fresh chickpeas are an open invitation to easy and healthful dinners: in salads with chicken and lemon juice and tahini, or sauted with red peppers and sausage, or with spicy roasted cauliflower.
Back to the topic at hand: I really want to recreate this chickpea dish. I haven’t found blood sausage, and it wasn’t the same with a substitute sausage. BUT I think I approximated the rest of the dish and it’s really wonderful.
Saute the onion in some olive oil until golden brown. Add the kale and saute a bit. Add the chickpeas, along with a little bit of the chickpea cooking liquid and some chicken broth. You want enough liquid so the dish is still moist and has a bit of broth when you serve it, but not so much that it becomes soupy or stew-y. Cook until the kale is wilted and tender. Add salt, pepper, and some balsamic vinegar.
I could have eaten buckets of this.
Me: I want to post about the Middle Eastern Lentils and Peppers recipe, but we ate almost all of it before I took a picture last time. And I like a picture.
Me: You could make it again and take a picture this time.
[Make it four more times and do not take a picture]
Me: I know! I will arrange the ingredients artfully on the piece of brown paper that we’ve been coloring on and take a picture.
Me: It will look nice and also not require much work and send the message that you are an organized yet relaxed mom who feeds* her child healthful meals.
Except that we were out of peppers, so it didn’t go quite according to plan, and also I don’t know what we’re going to have for dinner tonight anymore. Let me know if you have ideas!
You might be better able to plan ahead, in which case, here is the recipe for Middle Eastern Lentils and Peppers that we’ve been eating constantly for the past few weeks because it is just insanely delicious.
Middle Eastern Lentils and Peppers
From Diana Henry’s Pure Simple Cooking
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, until soft.
Stir in the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute or so.
Add all the other ingredients except for the cilantro and simmer over a gentle heat until the lentils have collapsed. Taste for seasoning and stir in the cilantro.
Serve with plain yogurt and rice.
* And does not have a tumblr full of typos.
** For a spice that I think smells like smelly old man, we run through SO MUCH cumin. Which makes me worried that I smell like smelly old man now.