What’s for Dinner?

2010.May.22 Saturday · 10 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“What’s for dinner?” is the only question many husbands ask their wives, and the only one to which they care about the answer.

– Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966

After “How long have you lived in Argentina/Buenos Aires?” and “How long ago/Why did you start Casa SaltShaker?”, the next most common question I get asked by guests is, “Do you guys eat like this every night?” The answer is, of course, no. We couldn’t possibly manage a five course tasting menu every day of the week – we don’t even tend to eat all five courses – at least not in full portions – on the nights we have the dinners. Any more than the chefs in any restaurant out there sample through their entire menu every night.

So what is a typical evening here at home? First, we rarely eat together – our schedules are too different. Henry often doesn’t get home until 10 p.m. or later and I tend to eat earlier. He also prefers to eat sitting in front of his computer and the television, at the same time – actually, that belittles his multi-tasking abilities – he’s the only person I’ve met who can be sitting at his desk with half a dozen chat windows open and active on facebook and hotmail, the television on, a youtube video playing, be surfing the web for info on whatever he’s working on, chatting with one of his sisters or a friend on the phone, and be eating dinner, all at the same time, and he’s actually aware of what’s going on in each of those realms. Dinner is also usually his big meal of the day whereas mine is usually lunch. That doesn’t mean we eat different things, but usually for whatever I’m preparing for the evening, assuming I’m cooking, I make three portions, one for me, two for him. We order in Chinese food once a week on the average, we rarely get other delivered or takeout food.

As to what I cook – oft-times it will be one or another dish for an upcoming menu that I want to try out beforehand, or for one of our cooking classes. Other times it’s a dish that I read about in one or another of the myriad of books, blogs, magazines and newspapers that I comb through on a daily basis. And, of course, there are the “let’s use up whatever’s in the refrigerator” nights. Usually over rice or pasta. So, what have we had recently…?

Smoked Turkey Pizza

A “kitchen sink” sort of pizza that we plowed our way through in a matter of minutes. Made the dough, of course, Chicago style crust, mas o menos. Drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped garlic. Topped with slices of smoked turkey that I’d bought for making the crespéou a few days before, yellow bell peppers and tomatoes that were starting to get a little soft, some blanched broccoli leftover from making pasta, red onions, and a couple of very spicy yellow chilies.

Duck a l’orange

We had a couple of duck breasts leftover after our recent duck and chocolate dinner. I stuck them in the freezer, and wanted to use them up, so pulled them out to thaw in the morning. A quick “a l’orange” sauce from a couple of oranges sitting in the fruit and vegetable drawer with various herbs, spices, onions and garlic that are always around, and used up some frozen peas and corn that were in the freezer from, well, I’m not sure.

Who doesn’t like roast chicken? But it takes so long to cook, right? So there I am, reading through Jonathan Waxman’s A Great American Cook, which I downloaded from the Kindle site (I don’t have a Kindle, but the reading software is free, and I have it installed on my netbook), and he came through. You see, he’s one of those undersung chefs whose work I truly respect, because he doesn’t screw around with the food, he just makes what comes to mind, let’s the ingredients speak for themselves, and keeps it simple. My style. If you haven’t seen him on this year’s Top Chef Masters being very Yoda-like, or, as they keep saying, Obiwan Kenobi-like, which is more fitting visually, you’re missing something.

The broiled chicken

So back to the chicken, he has a simple recipe for a broiler cooked chicken that takes, from start to finish, about 30 minutes. The hardest part of the whole recipe is simply cutting out the breastbone of the chicken and flattening it, and that took me a whole minute. Sprinkled it with coarse salt and pepper. Had the broiler already turned on to its highest setting (electric broiler, such is life), and had stuck a cast iron pan under it to heat up – about 4-5″ below the broiler. Plopped the chicken into the pan, skin side up, shoved it under the broiler for 12 minutes until the skin was light golden brown.

The broiled chicken

After those 12 minutes and the skin being a beautiful golden hue, flipped the chicken over with a pair of tongs, and stuck it back under the broiler for 5 minutes to lightly brown the underside. Then flipped it back over and cooked it another 13 or 14 minutes, until the skin was a deep golden brown and crispy – and the chicken is, amazingly, cooked completely through in that time – and still juicy! Pulled it out, cut the chicken into quarters. Put the pieces on a serving platter and meanwhile I’d melted some butter over high heat to get it sizzling and thrown in a handful of chopped up herbs – whatever was sitting around, some parsley, rosemary, oregano and sage. Poured that over the chicken pieces and served.

The broiled chicken

I’d also made a quick stir-fry of some vegetables, a Japanese style called kinpira – I had leftover broccoli stems (I don’t throw them out, what a waste!) which I peeled and cut into matchsticks, a bit of red cabbage and carrot as well, sauteed them in some sesame oil until just starting to get soft and then finished with a splash of soy sauce, some sesame seeds, salt and some red pepper flakes. Perfect accompaniment! And we’ll be having roasted, or, broiled, chicken quite a bit more often – it was just too easy.

Candice May 22, 2010 at 10:54

I am definitely going to make chicken this way !
Does it get all smokey in the kitchen from spitting grease?

Candice May 22, 2010 at 11:02

Dan .. Free Kindle software ? How do I do it ?
chau, gracias

dan May 22, 2010 at 12:22

Just go to the Kindle part of Amazon’s website and download it. Then sign up for Kindle account, all free. Just buying the books that costs! http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=sa_menu_karl3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

Candice May 22, 2010 at 22:12

Thank you !
Now I have to find a chicken and smash it and broil it : – )

msmarmitelover May 23, 2010 at 07:15

Nobody has asked me that question, funnily enough.

dan May 23, 2010 at 11:05

Maybe they don’t want to know…?

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