vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

Posts tagged dinner

6 notes

Salmon with Brussels Sprouts
Full disclosure: I really like crispy salmon skin, and this doesn’t have it.
On the other hand, I really, really like being able to cook a whole dinner on one pan all at once.
So it’s a trade off. This is not the best possible way to cook salmon, but the whole thing is delicious and fairly simple and the brussels sprouts are crazy good. The sprouts remind me of the brussels sprouts at Pai Men Miyake with the fish sauce vinaigrette, cilantro, and mint.
The recipe comes from the Dinner: A Love Story blog. I made the sauce that Jenny links to in the comments rather than the sauce in the post because even though we bought and paid for fresh ginger at the grocery store, it did not successfully make it home and into the fridge. The sauce is amazing. It appears to be an adaptation of a David Chang/Momofuku recipe.
By the way, I used frozen salmon fillets, which I’m faintly embarrassed about, but are so easy. I buy a bag of them at Whole Foods, individually portioned into 4-oz fillets and vacuum packed. They thaw in maybe 20 - 30 minutes in a bowl of water. This is 100% the reason I eat as much salmon as I do.
Two 4-oz salmon fillets
1.5 pounds brussels sprouts (approximately)
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro stems
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon roasted red chili paste (such as Thai Kitchen brand) I used sriracha because that’s what I had given that this was a substitute recipe. It was still good, it would probably be better with red chili paste.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Trim and halve the brussels sprouts and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. (Jenny warns that errant leaves will burn and you should try to keep the brussels sprouts together, but I didn’t worry too much about it and didn’t have any problems).
Place sprouts on a foil-lined cookie sheet and roast for 15 minutes. (Jenny recommends tossing halfway through, I did not do that.) Turn heat to 450°F. Nestle salmon filets among the sprouts and roast another 10 minutes. 
Meanwhile, whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
Spoon dressing over salmon and brussels sprouts and serve.

Salmon with Brussels Sprouts

Full disclosure: I really like crispy salmon skin, and this doesn’t have it.

On the other hand, I really, really like being able to cook a whole dinner on one pan all at once.

So it’s a trade off. This is not the best possible way to cook salmon, but the whole thing is delicious and fairly simple and the brussels sprouts are crazy good. The sprouts remind me of the brussels sprouts at Pai Men Miyake with the fish sauce vinaigrette, cilantro, and mint.

The recipe comes from the Dinner: A Love Story blog. I made the sauce that Jenny links to in the comments rather than the sauce in the post because even though we bought and paid for fresh ginger at the grocery store, it did not successfully make it home and into the fridge. The sauce is amazing. It appears to be an adaptation of a David Chang/Momofuku recipe.

By the way, I used frozen salmon fillets, which I’m faintly embarrassed about, but are so easy. I buy a bag of them at Whole Foods, individually portioned into 4-oz fillets and vacuum packed. They thaw in maybe 20 - 30 minutes in a bowl of water. This is 100% the reason I eat as much salmon as I do.

  • Two 4-oz salmon fillets
  • 1.5 pounds brussels sprouts (approximately)
  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon roasted red chili paste (such as Thai Kitchen brand) I used sriracha because that’s what I had given that this was a substitute recipe. It was still good, it would probably be better with red chili paste.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Trim and halve the brussels sprouts and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. (Jenny warns that errant leaves will burn and you should try to keep the brussels sprouts together, but I didn’t worry too much about it and didn’t have any problems).

Place sprouts on a foil-lined cookie sheet and roast for 15 minutes. (Jenny recommends tossing halfway through, I did not do that.) Turn heat to 450°F. Nestle salmon filets among the sprouts and roast another 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.

Spoon dressing over salmon and brussels sprouts and serve.

Filed under dinner salmon brussels sprouts

5 notes

My Mum’s Broccoli Tortellini

My mum handwrote this recipe for me when I went off to college. It is one of the first things I ever tried cooking for myself. I was living in a grim, dark apartment in New York and our “kitchen” was the tiniest imaginable nook off the hallway. I burned everything, and not in a minor, oops-I-left-this-on-for-a-minute-too-long kind of way. I burned it in an instantaneous blackening clouds of smoke kind of way. I probably ate ice cream for dinner.

That said, it’s an easy recipe. It tastes like childhood to me— pasta, broccoli, chicken cut up into barely-recognizable pieces, creamy sauce. I love it. It’s not a thing you make for impressing people. It’s a dish for jammies and netflix.

I also think it’s a fairly good thing to bring to someone who just had a baby, if you’re looking for that kind of thing.

Here’s the recipe, mostly as my mum wrote it. I reorganized a little and added some commentary. My comments are in italics.

  • 2 packages cheese tortellini (or 1 family size)
  • 2 large broccoli stalks, florets cut off stalks OR 1 large bag frozen broccoli florets (I have never bought frozen broccoli florets. Are they good? Is this a helpful shortcut?)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (chopped very small)
  • 1 shallot, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes OR 5 - 6 pepperoni slices cut into slivers (I use red pepper flakes)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 chicken breast halves, sliced thinly (I generally buy chicken thighs, and chop them up into approximately 1” or 1.5” chunks. Are chicken breast halves a thing of the 90s?)

My mum does not include any instructions on the broccoli, so here’s what I do: I cut up the broccoli, then steam it as I’m cutting up the shallot, garlic, and chicken. When the broccoli is steamed, I add more water to the pot that the broccoli cooked in and start heating the water for the tortellini. While the tortellini water is heating, I cook the sauce mostly using the instructions from my mum:

In a large saute pan, add 2 - 3 tablespoon olive oil. Saute minced garlic and shallot slowly until transparent and soft. (Okay friends. Garlic cooks VERY quickly and burns easily. You might be better off sauteing the shallots and then adding the garlic right at the end for a minute or so.) If using pepper flakes or pepperoni (you should use one or the other, otherwise the dish will be SUPER BLAND), add and saute along with garlic and shallot.

If using chicken, add and cook at higher heat, stirring, until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken to warm plate, leaving garlic and shallots. Add cream and boil simmer until cream thickens. Add broth and cook more until sauce is thickened.

Meanwhile, add tortellini to boiling water, stir, cook until softened (not very long at all). Drain, add to sauce along with broccoli, heat through.

Um, also, let’s salt and pepper this thing generously.

And that’s it.

Filed under dinner least cool dinner ever? raw chicken is weird to draw

2 notes

Dinner Suggestion: Turkey Burgers with Salsa Verde and Carrot Salad

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:

Salsa Verde

  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram or oregano leaves (I used approximately 1/2 a teaspoon of the ancient dried oregano leaves I found in the pantry)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 1 salt-packed anchovy, rinsed and bones removed (I think I used two anchovies, not rinsed, bones not removed, and didn’t use any capers)
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained (and rinsed, too, if salt-packed)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, or more to taste

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.

Turkey Burgers

This is my general process with turkey burgers. This time I used:

  • about 3/4 lb ground dark meat turkey
  • about a teaspoon of mustard
  • chopped parsley
  • chopped sage
  • a large garlic clove, minced
  • lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  • sometimes I toss in some breadcrumbs, but I didn’t have any.

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.

Filed under dinner leftovers parenting is more complicated than I anticipated

8 notes

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
1 chicken (approx. 4 lbs)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (Cut it into small cubes to start. If it’s cold, you can treat it like butter in pie crust, and cut the ingredients together with two knives**)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (I didn’t measure, I just used one shallot)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage (I didn’t really measure, and may have ended up with more sage)
1 lemon
1 - 2 pounds small to medium waxy potatoes, cut up into 3/4” or so sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
A handful of parsley, chopped (maybe a 1/4 cup chopped? significantly more than a garnish)
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:
20 minutes breast side up
20 minutes breast side down
Squeeze on lemon juice and toss in squeezed lemon slices
Another 20 - 30 minutes breast side up
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.
Serve!
* 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.

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

  • 1 chicken (approx. 4 lbs)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (Cut it into small cubes to start. If it’s cold, you can treat it like butter in pie crust, and cut the ingredients together with two knives**)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (I didn’t measure, I just used one shallot)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage (I didn’t really measure, and may have ended up with more sage)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 - 2 pounds small to medium waxy potatoes, cut up into 3/4” or so sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A handful of parsley, chopped (maybe a 1/4 cup chopped? significantly more than a garnish)

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:

  • 20 minutes breast side up
  • 20 minutes breast side down
  • Squeeze on lemon juice and toss in squeezed lemon slices
  • Another 20 - 30 minutes breast side up

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.

Serve!

* 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.

Filed under chicken dinner gross things that are part of adulthood

3 notes

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:
Orzo salad (I think I haven’t posted this recipe, which is a CRIME.)
Steak Dijon (I first made this nearly ten years ago when we were living in Montreal. I still don’t really know what cube steaks are. Also very good with chicken)
Steak salad with blue cheese and beets and green lentils (leftover steak from above)
Chicken Curry
Kale and White Bean Soup (amusingly, that posts opens with me complaining about how I have less free time now that I have a dog. HA.)

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:

  • Orzo salad (I think I haven’t posted this recipe, which is a CRIME.)
  • Steak Dijon (I first made this nearly ten years ago when we were living in Montreal. I still don’t really know what cube steaks are. Also very good with chicken)
  • Steak salad with blue cheese and beets and green lentils (leftover steak from above)
  • Chicken Curry
  • Kale and White Bean Soup (amusingly, that posts opens with me complaining about how I have less free time now that I have a dog. HA.)

Filed under dinner

8 notes

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
About 2 cups of fillings— most often I saute an onion, then cook some hearty greens like chard and brown mushrooms. If you have leftover caramelized onions, this is a perfect use for them. Remember that greens cook down to basically nothing, so a big bunch of greens can work out to a cup and a half cooked.
1/2 cup or so grated cheese (cheddar mostly, but gruyere, or swiss, or parmesan also work, and when I say “1/2 cup,” I mean I grate the cheddar directly over the bowl until it seems rightish)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup cream or half and half
packaged pie crust, frozen
salt
pepper
(other spices that wouldn’t be out of place depending on your fillings: dry mustard, pinch of cayenne, grated nutmeg)
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.

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

  • About 2 cups of fillings— most often I saute an onion, then cook some hearty greens like chard and brown mushrooms. If you have leftover caramelized onions, this is a perfect use for them. Remember that greens cook down to basically nothing, so a big bunch of greens can work out to a cup and a half cooked.
  • 1/2 cup or so grated cheese (cheddar mostly, but gruyere, or swiss, or parmesan also work, and when I say “1/2 cup,” I mean I grate the cheddar directly over the bowl until it seems rightish)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup cream or half and half
  • packaged pie crust, frozen
  • salt
  • pepper
  • (other spices that wouldn’t be out of place depending on your fillings: dry mustard, pinch of cayenne, grated nutmeg)

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.

Filed under dinner quiche cognitive limits