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Dinner: September 17 and 18, 2014

2014-09-18 LND

I usually cook in a more improvisational style, but with Julian starting preschool and the resulting change in our schedules, I’ve been relying more and more on recipes from trusted sources. While I sometimes miss getting creative in the kitchen, I have to admit that it’s nice to have a small rotation of meals that either Mike or I can start or finish, and it’s so nice to know that we can all eat the same dinner, even if we do so in shifts.

Last night’s dinner came to us from Bon Appétit – and while I don’t know if I’d agree that it’s “the Greatest Recipe of All Time,” this one-pot dish of meatballs and string beans was pretty darned inspired, and a great use of the green beans and heirloom sauce tomatoes we got in this week’s CSA box. Mike and I ate ours with the suggested crusty bread, while the kids enjoyed theirs with a little lightly sauced pasta. We all loved it.

2014-09-17 LND

On Wednesday night, Mike headed into the city for a swanky booze event, but dinner for me and the kids was ready when I got home from work, thanks to our trusty crock pot. We’ve been collecting slow cooker recipes on Pinterest, and this Slow-Cooker Curried Lentils With Chicken and Potatoes from Real Simple did not disappoint. It was so good, in fact, that the kids ate two bowls apiece.

LND curry kids

I’ll be back in the kitchen this weekend, and flexing my long-neglected baking muscles for a certain little guy who is turning THREE this Sunday. I can hardly believe how quickly the time has gone.

sausage and chard bread pudding

Dinner: September 7, 2014

red chard on black

The last few weeks have been… something. We’ve got the excitement of Julian’s entry into preschool, plus the countdown to the arrival of our newest “baby”, but also the stress of health concerns and a really difficult sleep regression. There’s a lot on our plates right now, and we are trying to manage it all by creating new schedules and building even more structure into our daily routines. I’ve always been a list-maker and meal planner, but now that I’m packing lunches for Julian, Mike, and myself as well as coming up with our weekly dinners, it’s critical.

Despite the heat, I find that I’ve been turning more and more to comfort food, to old, reliable dishes that I know I can get together with a minimum of fuss or mess, in a short amount of time on work/school nights. One-pot/one-pan meals are also key, and that’s where this savory bread pudding comes in. While there were multiple steps in the assembly (cooking the sausage, sauteing the chard), I cooked everything in the same iron skillet, which simplified cleanup. Here’s what I did:

sausage and chard bread pudding

I took about a pound of sweet Italian sausage out of its casing, and browned the crumbled sausage in the iron skillet with a pinch of red chile flakes. While that cooked, I mixed up a custard of half a dozen eggs, a cup each of whole milk and buttermilk, salt, pepper, and a pinch of Colman’s mustard powder. I added about 4 cups of cubed semolina bread to the custard and let it sit. When my sausage was done, I removed it with a slotted spoon and added it to the bowl with the soaking bread. My stemmed and torn chard leaves went into the iron skillet with a pinch of salt, and I cooked them in the rendered sausage fat until soft and wilted. While they cooked, I grated cheese – about a cup each of cheddar and a random hunk of an Alpine-style wheel that had been lurking in the cheese drawer. When the chard was ready, I squeezed out as much of the liquid as possible before transferring the leaves to the bread/sausage/custard bowl. I discarded the liquid left in the pan. I mixed the grated cheeses into the bread mixture, then tipped everything back into the iron skillet, grating a little extra cheese on top. It baked in a 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. And it was so good.

the usual

toddlers and tequila

on the bar

The life of a drinks writer often requires tasting your way through a lot of bottles. And sometimes, there are more bottles than the writer and his wife can taste through on their own. So we invited some friends over yesterday for an early-afternoon tasting, and while Julian entertained their twins and Mira (mostly) napped, we grown-ups sipped and sampled and shared our observations with Mike on a range of tequilas for an upcoming Serious Eats piece.

starters

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Though more booze was dumped than swallowed, I made sure we had plenty of food to fortify us. I laid out chips and my usual homemade salsa and guacamole, as well as David Tanis’ Crudités à la Mexicaine to start, then followed up with heartier fare.

david tanis's crudités à la mexicaine

esquites

There were little cups of Esquites, basically Mexican street corn off the cob; then quesadillas with zucchini butter and grated cheddar and jack cheeses.

quesadillas with zucchini butter

wings and tenders

Next came a platter of sweet and smoky chicken wings (and tenders for the kids), which I marinated overnight in buttermilk and spices and a pinch of turbinado sugar, then roasted and tossed with a little melted butter and scallions.

hanger steak bites with pickled onions and cilantro mayo

Finally, my riff on this winning Flank Steak sandwich recipe from food52: I seared chili-marinated hanger steak and sliced it thin, serving it on bite-sized slabs of Texas Toast with a smear of cilantro mayo and a pile of pickled red onions on top.

Jules and friends

little black dress

We wound down around 3, as the kiddos were clearly getting tired after their big day of play. We got Julian and Mira down for their afternoon naps after sending our friends on their way with hugs and thanks and promises to get together again soon. It’s been a long time since we entertained at home, and I’ve missed it. I wasn’t sure we could pull it off with two little ones at home, but yesterday’s gathering went so well, I’m eager to try again, soon.

a bowl of goodness

beanandricebowls

A little rice left over from a previous night’s dinner, black beans spiked with cumin and Mexican oregano, a shower of sharp cheddar, a mix of peppers – sweet and hot – roasted on the weekend and packed in olive oil to deploy during the week, crisp lime-pickled radishes and red onion, some creamy avocado, a fresh chunky salsa, and a dollop of pureed chipotle in adobo made for a warming, hearty lunch to fortify us on a chilly day.

I’m really going to miss these Thursdays at home.