There comes a point every afternoon in the post lunchtime stretch where my mind begins to think about dinner. I picture the wrinkled vegetables in my empty refrigerator, envision the dwindling supply of pastas and canned goods in my pantry, and summon the mental list of recipes I’ve been meaning to try. Will tonight be a pasta and store bought tomato sauce kind of Monday? Or an epic evening where the rice cooker and yellow cast iron play center stage in a new Quinoa salad?
The dinner dilemma is often a question of foresight. If I remembered to defrost and marinade the chicken thighs, or better yet, saute and braise a brisket in the slow cooker while I’m at my desk it’s taco night! Most of the time, these recipes are promoted to weekend status as shopping for the right ingredients and preparing a multi-step recipe is more than I can handle after a mind numbing day in the office.
Last week, a friend asked me where I get my recipes from. When I’m not cooking by heart or calling my mom for ideas, I love Food52, Smitten Kitchen, and the encyclopedic Food Network. This last week was a pretty good one as far as dinner goes. I tried a great new recipe and practiced an old one. I thought I’d share two chicken dinner ideas with you and add a few tips I learned along the way.
First up, NYT’s food writer Melissa Clark’s Splayed Roast Chicken with Carmelized Ramps, Garlic & Capers.
This easy recipe employs a unique technique I’ve never seen before, to turn out some heavenly roast chicken in no time at all. I tried it before an impromptu dinner party and I will no doubt try it again soon! Don’t fret if you can’t find the evasive ramp. Sadly, when I went to Foragers, the market around the corner, in Dumbo, they were all out of the local New York State ramps they had advertised on Twitter! What’s a locavore to do? I got on line with a bunch of scallions instead and watched the woman in front of me get sticker shock over her $200 bill (the artisanal pork chops at $30/lb was the culprit). When it was my turn, the checkout guy admitted even he gets sticker shock when he rings people up and apologized that they were all out ramps, which by the way were foraged by some dude in his backyard upstate! I began to feel like I was in my own private episode of Portlandia and quickly got out of there, laughing about splayed chicken, local ramps and foraging. Please! If you follow Ms. Clark’s directions — feel free to substitute scallions for ramps (cut on the diagonal and separate the white and green parts), you will hear a loud hissing sound as the chicken hits the pre-heated cast iron! Ahhh. This results in some seriously crispy skin and moist meat, you must try this technique at home, kids.
While Melissa Clark’s splayed chicken is actually easy enough for a weeknight, my go-to chicken dinner is always Chicken Milanese. Fried chicken cutlets topped with a fresh salad provides just the right amount of consolation after a long Monday. This is the perfect summer meal as it comes together quickly without having to turn on your oven. It also happens to be one of the Mr.’s favorite dishes, so whenever I prepare it, my husband is happy for days! Trust me, this is a surefire way to your man’s heart. The day after I made this with fresh arugula and the beautiful combo of yellow and red tomato, Joanna from Cup of Joe posted the recipe. I was in blogger heaven. Chicken Milanese is quite basic but really packs a punch. Joanna’s friend’s recipe uses corn flake bread crumbs which sound great. I typically use regular panko seasoned with any herbs you have lying around. I also skip the Parmesan cheese. Make sure your oil is really, smoking hot before you put the chicken in, let the chicken rest on paper towels to absorb the grease, top with salad and serve. Homemade fried chicken and ripe summer tomatoes are a combo that cannot be beat!