I wrote about “The Family Dinner” a few weeks back and, no joke, have not stopped thumbing through its pages while I stand at the kitchen counter since. I mean, really–I’m kind of going through the equivalent of a junior high crush on this cookbook. I glance at it sideways from across the room, I feel a little jumpy and eager when I open it, I think about it when we’re apart…you know the feeling, I know you do.
So anyway, this weekend I finally found myself with a bit of free time (a rare commodity in these parts). Wanting to expand our chicken repertoire (you know how I feel about a good, whole bird), I turned the ever-pleasing pages until I found a recipe for Curry. It calls for a whole chicken and, after a few weeks of crushing from afar, “The Family Dinner” and I finally rendezvoused at the stove.
Here is what I’ll say about this recipe before I share it with you below. Ok, I’m going to make a list because, well, I feel like it and it seems like an appropriate medium for conveying my post-cooking sentiments.
1. Make this meal.
2. Extra make it if you have kids.
3. If you don’t have kids, you can definitely kick up the heat.
4. If you do have kids, they just might blow your mind like M blew mine and eat the entire plate of food before them, grinning the entire time and happily staying in their seats until mealtime is over.
5. The 8 parts of the chicken are: 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 breasts. Not, as John delighted in informing me after I refused his assistance butchering our dear bird, 2 wings, 2 legs, and 2 breasts that you then turn into 4 so that you can tell yourself you know how to butcher your own bird, thankyouverymuch.
Sloooooow Cooker Curry
Or, you know, not, if you’re like me and don’t have a slow cooker
1 T. vegetable oil
1 red onion, cut into wedges
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. very finely minced fresh ginger
2 T. curry powder, hot or mild
1/2 cinnamon sticks (don’t have one? 1 stick=1 tspn. ground cinnamon, so use 1/4 tspn. here)
3 whole cardamom pods or 1/4 tspn. ground cardamom (optional) (using cardamom makes me feel fancy)
1 14-ounce can good-quality crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut bite-size
1 whole organic chicken, 4-5 pounds, cut into 8 pieces, skin removed
1 c. Greek yogurt, whole or 2 percent
1 c. fresh or defrosted frozen peas
If using a slow cooker, heat up a large nonstick pan and drizzle in the oil. If not using a slow cooker, use a big, heavy-bottomed pot. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and saute until soft and golden. Add the garlic and spices, stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant, then stir in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. (This can be done the night before: Chill the sauce, add the potatoes and chicken, and store in the fridge until you’re ready to cook). If using a slow cooker, put the potatoes on the bottom, then the chicken, and top off with the tomato sauce. If not using a slow cooker, just add the potatoes and chicken to the sauce pot. For cooking with a slow cooker, set cooker to low for 6 to 8 hours. If using a pot, simmer for 40 minutes. In a slow cooker, fold in yogurt and peas 30 minutes before serving. In a pot, simmer for another 10 minutes before serving. Check flavors, ladle over rice and enjoy.
It’s Friday. I don’t know if you’re like me but it’s my least favorite night to cook. I pray that no one has dug into any of the leftovers I deliberately made sure existed earlier in the week with Friday in mind. The less I have to cook the better.
But if you have to cook — or maybe you like to cook on Fridays because it signals the beginning of the weekend rhythms — here is an easy pasta dish I was inspired to make after looking over one of my many Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. It’s a variation on her Bolognese and seriously didn’t take more than 25 minutes to put it on the table.
What’s your go-to easy I-don’t-really-want-to-cook dinner? We’d love to know.
Ridiculously Easy Bolognese
a couple of tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey (you could obviously use beef; we just don’t eat that)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
red pepper flakes to taste–1/4 teaspoon or so
1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 pound dried pasta (some kind of shell works best)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup cream or half and half
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour 1 cup of the win into the skillet. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a little olive oil and the pasta. Cook until done.
While the pasta cooks, add the nutmeg, basil, cream and remaining 1/4 cup of red wine to the sauce and simmer about 10 minutes. When the pasta is cooked, drain, and pour into a large bowl with the sauce and Parmesan. Stir it all together and serve.
Ok, so first off, pardon the photos. I accidentally spilled a giant glass of water all over my camera in an effort not to spill coffee all over my computer (ok, probably too many beverages around valuable and expensive pieces of equipment…lesson learned). While my computer was spared (::phew::), my camera has decided to open but nothing else. Awesome. So these photos were taken on my cell phone. Better than no photos? Probably, but definitely not ideal.
What I made the other night was Eggs in Purgatory. What I will now be making probably once a week is Eggs in Purgatory. You know those bits in your fridge that are still good but instead of trying to navigate the tedium of figuring out a delicious way to use them all you close the fridge door, hoping that by the next time you open it they’ll have turned and you can legitimately throw them away? Here is your solution.
Click here for the original recipe that I found on the Food Network. The version I made followed the general form but I had substitutions for most of the ingredients (pepperoni instead of salami, different peppers, no parsley, etc.). Therein lies the brilliance of this dish. I could see it working well with mushrooms or potato, some spinach…really, just about anything.
OH! And it’s easy. Really easy. And quick, too. It’s like, the perfect recipe for weeknight cooking.
Have you ever made this dish before? A variation on this theme? What do you do with the incredible edible egg?
Rachel here: When John and I were first together, one of our favorite things to do was cook. Prior to meeting John, I worked in restaurants and lived alone. Outside of work (where I was heartily fed), I mainly subsisted on grits and fruit. Though I would definitely relate differently to cooking for myself now than I did then, at the age of 19 or 20, my top goal in eating at home was to generate as few dirty dishes as possible. Anyway, enter John. Here was a man who not only enjoyed but excelled at cooking, who wanted to make me dishes of food I had never tried and who genuinely enjoyed eating. On our way home from work, walking our bikes instead of riding so that we could talk, we’d more often than not get to talking about dinner and stop by the grocery store en route to pick up the various ingredients we’d need to make whatever had struck our fancy. To shop and eat in this fashion felt incredibly luxurious. Fast forward five years and, as a general rule, we no longer spend our afternoons and evenings planning and generating whimsical meals. We are busy, busy bees these days and no longer live nearly across the street from a fantastic grocery as we did in our earlier days. Still, though, one of my favorite ways to spend the twilight hours of a weekend home with John is over a completely homemade meal that we have prepared together. The food tastes and feels so good and I couldn’t ask for better company.
This past weekend afforded us just such a window to get into the kitchen together. A few years back, John convinced me that homemade pasta is significantly better than its store-bought counterpart and, though we usually end up eating the latter for its convenience, this weekend John taught me how to make pasta by myself. It is surprisingly easy, though it does take a little muscle, and we generated two lasagnas from our endeavors, one for dinner and one for the freezer for the days after M makes her grand debut. If you’ve never tried your hand at pasta making before, I highly recommend that you give it a whirl. It is simple and satisfying and really, truly the best way to eat pasta.
In a large bowl, form the all-purpose flour into a well. Crack the egg into the center of the well and stir with a fork. As you stir the egg, it will gradually pull flour in. Keep at this until you are completely unable to stir anymore. At this juncture, add a teaspoon of water. Once all of your flour has been combined with another ingredient (either egg or water, or both), turn it out onto your countertop. Knead, twist and fold diligently until the dough becomes incorporated. Add more water, no more than a teaspoon at a time, whenever you are convinced that there isn’t a single additional drop of moisture to be utilized towards forming a coherent ball of dough. This kneading process should take at least 15 minutes (in my experience). Once you have a ball of dough, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes. Roll it out as thinly as you desire (either using a pasta roller or a rolling pin) and then cut into your desired shape. I folded my dough, dusting it with semolina flour between layers so the pasta wouldn’t stick to itself, before cutting so I could get uniform shapes. Voila! Cook as you would normally cook pasta, though you should know that homemade pasta will cook noticeably faster than the dried store-bought stuff.
For our lasagna, we mixed chopped scallions and basil in with the ricotta (along with some salt and pepper) and sauteed spinach and mushrooms with garlic before layering everything with parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. Yum! What will you do with your delicious pasta?
Janet here: What I plan to do with the delicious lasagna I now know is waiting for me, not M, is eat it and enjoy every last bite. I know for a fact that homemade pasta is absolutely the way to go, but the likelihood that I will add this to my culinary life in the near future is, well, zero. I will, however, promise to fill the hole in the freezer that is made when I eat Rachel and John’s lasagna.
Rachel here: For those who’ve been following, you know I’ve been meaning to get around to making a big batch of pasta sauce to freeze. I have this idea that somehow between now and when the baby comes (at the end of June) I will not only baby-fy my house, get straight As in school, spend lots of quality time with John and make sure to do some stuff just for myself, but that I will also somehow prepare and freeze months worth of food so that we can be well-fed during those early sleepless months. It’s a great idea, sure, but I am increasingly aware that there is no way this entire dream to-do list is going to get done. I’m trying, instead, to focus on the little victories, to incorporate a little of each of these things into the coming days and weeks and to figure that, though the baby isn’t here yet, this is just a glimpse of the impending upheaval in our home. But anyway, I now have two large jars of frozen pasta sauce that, some summer evening, I am sure I’ll be glad I took the time to make last night.
I should say that I love making pasta sauce. I’ve only done it twice, but there’s something so liberating about cooking without a recipe. Pasta sauce is up there with making soups for me, both leisurely and informal with lots of stirring (I think stirring calms my brain down). Plus, the end result is a hearty and simple meal that is virtually guaranteed to put a smile on the faces I’m feeding, along with my own. What do you like in your pasta sauce?
Mushroom and Olive Pasta Sauce
makes approximately 12 cups
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 lg. white onion, diced
1 c. brown mushrooms, sliced
2 lg. cloves garlic, minced
56 oz. whole peeled tomatoes (nope, I didn’t mill my own…someday)
15 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 c. olives, chopped (I used kalamata and green italian)
4-6 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
fresh thyme, stripped from stems and to taste
3/4 c. red wine
salt and pepper
In a pan, reduce the balsamic vinegar until thick and sweet. In a large pot, saute the onion. Add the mushrooms once the onion has started to brown, and then add the garlic. Add all of your tomatoes. Add olives, basil and thyme. Add the balsamic reduction a few tablespoons at a time, to taste. If you use up all of the balsamic reduction and you want a sweeter sauce, feel free to add a bit of brown sugar. Add salt and paper to taste before pouring in the wine and bringing sauce to a simmer. Simmer until sauce thickens, around 1 hour, checking periodically. Adjust seasonings as needed. Yum!
Janet here: So, yeah, I used to do homemade tomato sauce back in the day when I was childless and an afternoon puttering around the kitchen making up a huge batch of tomato sauce for freezing was something I had the time and inclination to do. And then the children arrived, and between that and the full-time job, something, as they say, had to give. So my tomato sauce looks like this:
And it is still pretty damn tasty.
Rachel here: Had John and I not already decided to make this little union of ours official under the eyes of the law before I first developed this recipe, I would be completely convinced that he married me for this meal. I imagine that when I am having one of my more, shall we say, difficult days that John thinks of this meal and it helps him get through my raging, take-no-prisoners, psychotic pregnant hormones. I was proud of it the first time I made it because I developed the whole thing myself (a personal first, I think). Then, when I put it on the dinner table and John began to dig in, I became exceedingly proud as he looked up at me between mouthfuls and said, “You really do love me, after all. This is the first time you’ve really fed me right.” Of course, this is an exaggerated statement (John is nothing if not an appreciative partner); however, the sentiment that I had really hit the nail on the head made me beam. Like, my face hurt. It was awesome.
Anyway, since that fateful evening when I finally did right by my man I haven’t made this recipe a second time (the accompanying sides, which I will post about later in the week, feature a lot of bacon…enough that neither of us would feel good eating this with regularity and enough that eating it is incredibly satisfying). This go around I did a few things differently (I made more pork for one thing since we were supposed to have company for dinner, though illness intervened in that plan, and I also used ham hock instead of bacon for the sides) and I feel like the recipe worked just as well. Anyway, give it a try and let me know what you think.
Falling Off the Bone Pork
feeds 2 to 4 depending on how many chops you use
2-5 pork chops (depending on size and how many people you’re looking to feed)
1-2 large white or yellow onions, sliced (more onion for more pork)
1+ cup of apricot jam (to your taste)
3 c. dark and hoppy beer (I used Rogue’s Mocha Porter)
2 T. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Season your pork chops in olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder and salt and pepper. Place them in the biggest pan you have over medium-high heat, browning both sides (approximately 4 minutes per side). Place the sliced onion on top of the chops. Combine 3 cups of beer with your cup of apricot jam to taste and pour into pan. Add white wine vinegar (if your beer doesn’t have much bite to it, you might want to add more vinegar). Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for at least 2 hours, until the meat falls off the bone (if you’re not sure if the meat is falling off the bone, it isn’t…this is one of those awesomely obvious moments in cooking).
Tune in Wednesday and Friday to learn about the rest of what I do for this meal (including cornbread, which isn’t pictured below)…
Janet here: Or if pork isn’t your fancy (it may be “the other white meat” but it isn’t according to my food lexicon so I don’t “do” pork) instead try this barbecue pulled chicken.
I had never made this before and, frankly, I think I missed out on a couple of decades of serving dinner to some picky kids who would have loved this. Oh well, maybe I can win points with grandchildren or lure my nearly-adult children back for a dinner if this is on the menu.
I got this recipe from my new favorite chef, Ellie Krieger (I’ll be back, Ina!) whose recipes I clearly will be copying for quite a while since I have two of her cookbooks (see post on her muffins from So Easy, which are great!) and have yet to make a bad recipe. This recipe is perfect when you have had a rough day at work or with the kids and want something really easy. Unlike Rachel’s pulled pork, which seems pretty labor intensive to me, this recipe relies on picking up a rotisserie chicken! Love that! The sauce is made from scratch, though, so this completely counts as a home-cooked meal, again referring to that personal food lexicon. Click here and enjoy!