Before the family arrives…before the eggnog hangover…before your house is covered in turkey and tinsel, might I suggest reconnecting with your spouse over a nice dinner for two. It’s the only responsible thing to do. You owe it to yourself as a couple. After all, you might be in the same space through the holidays but face it, you’ll hardly talk other than the occasional “Please cut Uncle Joe off and take his keys.”
But the holiday list is long and daunting (and yet “Quiet Dinner for Two” never seems to make the list). So to make this happen, you’ve got to keep it simple. Simple, but delicious. We start with oysters. A pain in the ass for ten (all that shucking); a treat for just two. Then a really tasty cod dish which marries so well with chorizo. It’s hearty over beans, and in advance of 5,000 calorie a day eating, a relatively virtuous treat. To end, let’s head to Italy and enjoy a quick and delicious dessert….espresso over ice cream. It’s so good and so easy, and let’s face it, you need all the caffeine you can get. Pick a night between now and just after Thanksgiving. You and your partner deserve it.
Tips and Notes
Awesome Easy Cod Recipe
It’s a week away, people. Maybe you’re ready. Maybe you’ve got your plan. Perhaps you’re already cooking.
Or maybe you’ve done nothing and are paralyzed by impending turkey doom.
If you’re in Camp Turkey Panic, let me help. Put aside your fears. You can do this. It’s just another meal, and a lot of it can be made ahead. Just click the link below and see. It’s a Thanksgiving Game Plan I created for myself years ago, and it works. It’s a great menu with updated favorites. I’ve included a shopping list (generally in order of how most grocery stores are laid out); a To Do timeline of what to prep and cook when, and recipes that are broken down by make ahead and make day of. SaveGourmet Thanksgiving Game Plan
Take a deep breath. We’ve got this covered. Any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(PS YES this omits an actual turkey recipe. I go really simple on the turkey itself and I don’t stuff mine. Roasted turkey is about weight and math. Read and do THIS. This is a classic case of keep it simple.)
Evenings are hectic. We start with the best of intentions, but then the kids are tired, everyone’s starving, the milk spills. It’s a weeknight.
Do not be discouraged. Even with a messy house and tired kids, you are still minutes away from a good tasting, healthy meal on a weeknight. Yes, you are. The answer is not McDonalds. The answer is fish. Don’t assume your kids won’t like it. On this we must remain firm – they won’t like it if it never appears in front of them. We must try. I’ve seen mine eat it and my fully formed opinion is that they want to dislike it more than they actually dislike it. How can I expect them to develop their palates if I cave at their resistance? Besides, I have a secret weapon. Soy sauce. In general, soy sauce conquers all. Tonight, we cook a healthy fish meal that is ready in minutes for tired, hungry, backpack dumping kids (thank you, Melissa Clark).
When we get home the first thing the kids do after dumping their backpacks is open the fridge. I will be ready. Raw vegetables and dip…Asian inspired dip which you (yes) made ahead. This is a tactic I regularly employ – a bowl of cold vegetables for them to pick at while I cook. They are starved and it’s a great time to work the vitamin chain. While they eat that, I will quickly steam mild tasting flounder and greens. I usually have rice cooked ahead and tonight is no exception. If you still think this won’t work, offer dessert (it’s not a bribe…it’s an incentive.). A little green tea mochi (they are cute and fun) keeps the Asian theme going and provides a great bribe incentive for kids to clean plates.
Give this a try Monday or Tuesday.
Tips and Notes
Asian Style Dip (add the liquids less than recommended – if it needs more you can always add more later)
Flounder with Ginger and Garlic Mustard Greens
For the mochi, check your freezer section. A little handheld ice cream fun.
So you went apple picking…and now you’re feeling overrun. What on earth are you going to do with 85 apples? It seemed so fun at the time. The web is filled with ideas for apple overflow (pies, sauce, butter). But maybe you want to create a meal, or, surprise surprise, a menu out of your apples! There is a restaurant near us called Applewood that hosts theme dinners where an ingredient is highlighted throughout the meal. That is what I am doing here. Bring on the apples!
We start with a cocktail. Forget apple martinis – we are going hard cider here with The Pork Chop from Miami’s Yarbird. Next, a big bowl of a crisp salad from Eye Swoon (click, it’s gorgeous – and do not skip the basil, it makes it). Because you called 10 friends to join you, you need a huge pork shoulder like the one from Pioneer Woman roasted with apples and onions, and smartly paired with wild rice (we need more wild rice in life). To finish, you’re taking everyone to Russia with a simple and gorgeous Apple Sharlotka from The Smitten Kitchen. Happy eating!
Tips and Notes
But first, a hard apple cider cocktail…The Pork Chop
and then, this lovely crisp SALAD…served alongside Pork Shoulder With Apples and Onions and wild rice.
To finish, this gorgeous Apple Sharlotka
Really? You still have apples? Ok. Pickle some (http://food52.com/recipes/16743-quick-pickled-apples) and serve cold the next day with leftover pork. Chop them and mix them with breakfast sausage (more pork!) and freeze. Infuse some vodka and make this cocktail: http://www.whatkatieate.com/recipes/apple-ginger-and-cranberry-vodka-cocktail/. Mix up apple pie filling, freeze it and use in pie, a galette or over pancakes.
Still more? Jeez. Drop them in brown paper bags, create a cute drawing and give them to your dinner party friends as parting gifts (look at you the creative host).
AND then there’s THIS great idea – use the apples for the table! Look at this gorgeous table design from the super talented Little Green Notebook!
I am lucky. I like my mothers-in-law (I have two). One recently came for a visit. She is funny, eccentric, opinionated. She raises her eyebrows a lot. She calls me “darling”. She buys me clothes that actually look good on me. She is, in short, a riot. She also is dying to go back to Paris but has no plans in sight yet. So for her visit, we thought we would do our best to take her there.
This menu starts with gougères. They are a home cook’s entertaining secret weapon. They are made ahead, baked from the freezer and wildly impressive. Next, potato leek soup but glammed up with some fried parsley…PURTY. For the main course we go old school but with a modern twist – spiced duck à l’orange. Do not freak out – if you can cook chicken you can cook duck. In fact, everyone should cook duck, it’s delicious. And last but not least, a flashback to 1970s dinner parties with creamy delicious (make ahead) chocolate mousse. Dreamy.
Tips and Notes
Leek and Potato Soup
Please make THIS DUCK
lick the bowl Chocolate Mousse
For the duck you will need to order a couple of items in advance – the Orange Blossom Water, maybe the Buckwheat Honey and the Ras Al Hanout. Amazon carries each of these things. You may also need to ask your butcher for the duck. Make the effort…your mother in law will appreciate it.
REQUEST: If you make one thing from this menu, I would URGE you to try the gougères. They are the killer app (ha!). Go straight for gruyere…don’t mess with inferior cheddar. I follow the linked recipe exactly, and I mix by hand. There is always a scary moment when you add the eggs and you’re SURE you’ve ruined it – just keep stirring and trust…it will come together. They are hot light steamy cheesy awesomeness. They go straight from your freezer to the oven to a plate where people will swoon and loudly proclaim your greatness. Feel like a hero.
Sunday dinner is a THING. Or at least I want it to be a THING. I want my family to know that on Sundays, we have a family meal. Family meals happen other nights too but on Sundays, always. More often than not, we grill a steak or roast a chicken. This week we are planning ahead, keeping it classic and cooking enough for leftovers. And while it may seem extravagant to do a standing rib on an ordinary Sunday, why the heck not? It’s family – let’s make dinner special. Break out the nice china while you’re at it.
We are not raising our kids to eat like animals. They need to understand courses. Start with soup. Lucky me, my kids eat almost any soup I put in front of them. Start with zucchini soup (make ahead/easy). I’ve been dying to try this roast beef recipe – it’s a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. I’d serve it with straight up horseradish but if you want to make more of a cream, go for it. Beef is heavy – steamed asparagus is crisp. And of course, potatoes. Your oven will be occupied…this twice-baked version can be made ahead and heated when the beef comes out. And of course a little sweet treat. It’s family, after all.
Tips and Notes
I’ve GOT to try THIS ROAST BEEF RECIPE– legendary. In the comments there is a consensus around leaving it in for only one hour after you turn the heat off. I would do that rather than the two hours in the recipe.
Martha, for potatoes. And for those that eat good dinners, COOKIES!
And with any leftovers, try this Beef Farro soup.
It’s important not to look frazzled in front of your boss. But you feel compelled to have her over and (not look frazzled) serve a meal. The best plan here is brunch. Risk of drinking too much and acting crazy – LOW. Risk of ruining the meal – ALSO LOW ASSUMING SHE EATS BACON. Risk of yawning because you’re tired from a long night – LOW. Let’s get started.
The key here is ease of use plus creativity. You could do bagels and salmon – but everyone does that. Try this instead – a not too scary yet impressive quiche. We’re going tall here (springform pan = impressive). Bacon, which you will cook in your oven so your stove isn’t a splattered mess. A little fruit is always nice and pretty…adding candied ginger gives it an “oh wow what a nice touch” sentiment. Drinks – risky but let’s assume you don’t work for a fuddy duddy. Go ahead and serve an eye opener like champagne with a dash of bitters and a twist of orange. And of course, coffee.
Tips and Notes
Crust is scary, I get it. But you get to make this crust in advance and then pour in the filling the next morning, bake and you’re done. If you mess up the crust you can try again, or buy pie crust from the store and use that. Bake the springform on a cookie sheet in the event your crust isn’t 100% together. RECIPE
Look how pretty: COCKTAIL
A more interesting fruit salad
WHAT? You don’t know how to make Bacon In Your Oven?
The kids are back into the school swing and it’s time to have some folks over to gossip about the teachers. Host a Back to School Open House! Nothing hard here – but a few old favorites guaranteed to make everyone happy. Set out homemade onion dip with good/evil dippers (vegetables and chips – good chips). With a chili bar and hot dogs, the possibilities are endless. Chili dog topped with onions? Chili over rice with lots of cheese? Plain hot dog (maybe not). And everyone loves Tater Tots. Make the chili and dips ahead. Organize your toppings. Cook your hot dogs and keep them warm in the oven. And when did you last bake snickerdoodles, the king of cookies? The time is now!
Tips and Notes
Beer – where to start. Use THIS as a guide.
Onion dip. Why mess with a good thing, right? But we’re going homemade here. Pick one of THESE
My friend Sharon makes incredible, award winning chili. Look HERE
Tater Tots – don’t even CONSIDER trying to fancy these up. Get to your freezer aisle and buy the ones we know and love.
Snickerdoodle’s from the amazing Smitten Kitchen
Deck eating really is the best. We especially love it after the kids are asleep – a peaceful evening for 2. Fall is coming but there is still time to enjoy eating outside. We are dreaming of Tulum this week and are inspired by Mexican cuisine. Tuck those kids in and get going…
A michelada is the perfect start. This is not a drink for the faint of heart. If you like bloody marys, you will love this…if you don’t like bloody marys, well then can’t be friends. Tomatoes are still glorious so start with chili spiked crab salad stacked on an heirloom slice. The asparagus dish has a “put hair on your chest” chili topper, so let’s keep the lamb chops simple with salt and pepper. Now that the sun has set and the grill is cooling, finish the evening with Mexican chocolate pot de crème and a nice big spoon.
Tips and Notes
The Michelada! There are a lot of recipes out there. I like THIS one. This is not a Corona drink – use Negra Modela, Bohemia, Pacifico, Dos Equis, or Tecate.
Asparagus. A little involved but the pasilla cream can be made ahead. Oh and where to get the chilies? Amazon of course.
Pots de Crème, oh my.
Still not ready to give up summer, so you get a cabin for a night or two on a lake and keep the spirit alive. So many meal opportunities. There will be pancakes and bacon, strong coffee, BLTs with avocado, chips (with ridges!), smoked trout on crackers with cocktails, and of course ice cream. For one dinner you might go cabin style and do a Chili Night. Make the second dinner a plated affair. In the morning, blend the gazpacho and create the icebox cake. Assemble your potato foil packets. Go hiking then swim in the lake. Around dinnertime, get your grill going. Have someone mix together sour cream, capers and dill. Someone else mixes up cocktails and sets the table. Once the salmon and potatoes come off the grill, dinner is served.
Tips and other notes
The Gazpacho – so many recipes – this one looks great.
Potato/Spinach packets, consider THIS for inspiration.
Classic Icebox Cake, because you don’t need to spend time baking this weekend.