Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dinner Date

After our funfilled weekend, Ryan and I decided to have a dinner date.  A dinner date doesn't necessarily have to be a night out.  To us, it just means being able to eat slowly enough to taste our food and maybe even conversate a bit.  Those with children realize that this can be a rarity during their waking hours.  As such, we opted to feed them bbq leftovers from the day before and cook our feast after they were resting peacefully upstairs.  As a rule, this is not my favorite thing to do, despite how much I do love to taste my food and appreciate the ability to finish a sentence.  I personally strive for us to eat as a family which, to me, means the same food at the same time.  I grew up that way, and it left me with cozy, happy mealtime memories.  I realize that can be a considerable challenge, especially for families with homework, sports practice, and other obligations with which to contend.  Often the fastest thing can be the old reliable chicken fingers and mac & cheese, and I promise we've gone there many a night.  But I'd like to encourage you to break out of that mold with relatively minimal stress by doing some prep and planning in advance.  I'll get to that in a bit.... 

But first, our quiet dinner:  Grilled mahi-mahi with Thai coconut sauce and brown basmati rice.  You may be thinking that though prepared differently, a second dose of coconut and rice in about a week is a bit much.  I think I agree, and sorry about that.  But I craved fish that night, and this recipe caught my eye.  Anyway, while I anticipated some sweetness after studying the recipe, the result was actually spicy and had a smoky quality as well.  To clarify, this was a pleasant surprise, not a disappointment!  The spice can certainly be managed by the amount of serrano chile you add.  I was pretty generous in this case, as it was just my mood at the time.  Ryan grilled the fish over charcoal at a perfect temperature (hot!) to give it gorgeous color on the outside while keeping it tender and flaky on the inside. The coconut sauce served to "baste" the fish as well as dress the plate.  The recipe instructs some of the chopped scallions to go into the reduced sauce and some to be scattered on top.  I enjoyed the contrast of the mellow, wilted version and the sharpness of the fresh garnish.   http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/quick-recipes/2010/07/grilled_mahi_mahi_with_thai_coconut_sauce

Back to my family dinner thing.  The dish I made earlier in the day was pretty much a 180 from the mahi-mahi, and lives in my database of easy, prep-in-advance, weeknight fare.  This is a completely non-gourmet and pretty down-home kind of dish.  I mean, it's from Betty Crocker, after all.  One of its perks is being kid-friendly.  It's tough even for a kid to be totally offended by creamy pasta and chicken baked into a gooey casserole topped with parm.  I doubled (well, quadrupled...see below) the recipe that night and brought a dish to our friends who just had a baby.  The beauty is that it can be thrown in the freezer as easily as put in the oven.  In the interest of full disclosure: friends, this is by no means low-fat.  Please forgive.

My notes on the recipe:  1)  I don't think it makes enough, so I double it.  By doing this, you can assure leftovers for further weeknight convenience!  2)  I roast chicken breasts myself because it's more economical for bulk quantities and my kids are more likely to eat the white meat.  But rotisserie chicken works great.  3)  I've used both water and sherry, and either is fine.  However, sherry is classic in casseroles and gives it that familiar flavor you (may?) remember as a youngster.  4)  I don't care for canned mushrooms, so I omit them.  5)  It's helpful to pre-measure your flour and seasonings.  This way you're prepared with the ingredients when it's time to add them, and you can continue whisking without interruption.  http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/chicken-tetrazzini/18a65d11-31f2-4656-ae95-1379551c8823


sallies2120 said...

Chicken Tetrazzini is an absolute Deringer classic - in fact, the smell of sherry instantly takes me back to 10 Sheraton Drive! The Suz still makes it all the time - even for fancier affairs, like showers - but her recipe omits the peas and mushrooms. It looks a little plain without any green, but she usually serves it with a great green salad or peas on the side (which my dad instantly adds to the tet, so there you go). Personally, I like it served with sugar snap peas. She also uses boiled chicken breasts, although Lindsay and I like it better with a rotisserie chicken. She also often doubles it, but feels that it loses a lot of flavor when she does so - I tend to agree, but with a big family you need volume! Sometimes I don't fully "double" the pasta quantity, which helps.
Loving the blog...such good tips and great writing! It's also fun to keep up with what you and the fam are doing - we miss you!

Joanna said...

Dinner dates are so nice--and so important. In my opinion, if you don't have those on a fairly regular basis, you can forget family dinners, as one of you will surely run away to some foreign land, never to return!

Apparently, Rachael Ray has a new show coming out called "Week in a Day," where she shows you how to cook 5 days worth of food in one afternoon. Knowing that nearly every single "30 minute meal" I've ever tried has taken at least an hour and a half, I think this show is pushing it. Having said that, I look forward to getting some ideas from Rachael AND you to push me to work harder on Sundays. It's hard to be creative on the weekdays, so I am making an Autumn resolution to be better about making and storing meals on the weekends to last through the week. Thanks for being my impetus!!

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