A few weeks ago, two friends and I threw a low-key birthday dinner for a fourth lovely friend. Our birthday girl requested an indoor picnic, which seemed like about the most fun and easiest at-home birthday possible. When pressed about what she’d most like to have, she went for meats and cheeses, tasty spreads, a salad, and a chocolate-y dessert. Done. Since we were hosting at my house and I knew I’d be running from work on the night of the fête, I had to do my prepping the evening before. Given that there are at least four fancy grocery stores between my subway stop and apartment (Brooklyn!), this was not exactly a difficult task. Savory treats squared away, I went home to clean up a bit and print out a silly sign for the front door. And right before I went to bed, I made the best bang for your buck make ahead and wow your guests dessert I know: pots de creme.
If your family is like my family, you spent your Easter enjoying each other’s company and soaking up the spring weather, but mainly stuffing yourselves with honey ham. No matter how much ham we eat, though, there are always leftovers. Stacks of ham slices get shoved into gallon-sized Ziplocks and sent home with every pork-weary relative. My dad, who is in all other circumstances vehemently anti-leftover, makes magic happen from that bag of ham. The night after Easter, he will put the ham to its highest and best use: the Teen Twist, a griddled hot ham and cheese topped with lettuce, tomato, and secret sauce served on a twist roll (also known as an egg bread roll).
I so far haven’t written about a recipe unless I really enjoy it (I’ve yet to document any of my kitchen fails, as Laura so awesomely did), but there are definitely varying levels on my enjoyment scale. There are the tasty but not precisely thrilling recipes that sneak into my weeknight rotation. Good, even great, and often notable especially for their easiness, but not exactly life changing. A perfectly lovely side of the scale. I don’t expect life changing from every or even most of my weeknight dinners, after all. But then. Then, there are the rare awesome recipes that pull me up short and make me say “oh YUM” out loud when I take my first bite. Recipes that I immediately want to make again, and can’t wait to proselytize about to anyone who will listen. Shutterbean’s lemon chicken is squarely on that side of the scale.
I’m starting to think that spring might truly be on its lazy way to Boston. In recent days, I’ve actually felt warm sun on my face and I’ve been leaving my puffy coat in the closet for the first time since November. And it’s about time, to say the least. I have to admit, though, that if not for this year’s extra long comfort food season, I wouldn’t have come across this insta-favorite pasta. I’ve been warming myself with rich, rib-sticking meals for nearly five months, but it was just two weeks ago that I happened upon this perfect winter meal. Spicy, cheesy, weeknight-friendly, and even better as leftovers, it’s the silver lining to this bummer winter.
I love a recipe that teaches me a new technique. Even one that, in retrospect, I probably could (should?) have thought of on my own. In the case of this hearty stew–filled with chicken, pumpkin, black beans, corn, quinoa, and smoky spice–it was cooking whole chicken breasts right in the broth that makes up the foundation of the stew, turning it into almost a one pot meal. Once the chicken is cooked you take it out, shred, and then toss it back in. Genius, right? Nothing like combining steps to impress me on a weeknight. How quickly and easily this dish comes together plus the great flavor made it an instant keeper during this seemingly endless winter. It was a perfect simple dinner for nights when I wanted something satisfying that wouldn’t take too much effort, and I have a feeling it’s going to see me into the spring.