Friday, January 31, 2014

Quick, Post-Movie, Saturday Dinner At Home


Since we were dining out on Friday and going out to brunch on Sunday last week, we decided that we would eat in (at home!) on Saturday.  In fact, more and more, the idea of dining out on a Saturday has less and less appeal to us.  

If we are dining with others and only have a Saturday in common to get together, Saturday dinner makes sense.  On the other hand, it is starting to seem like it’s impossible to get a dinner reservation at our favorite places without advance planning—unless we want to be having our dessert at 5:15pm or starting our appetizer at 10:30pm.  Plus, if you have the earlier seating (until 7pm or so), it feels like we are being rushed out.  But if you have later seatings (7:30 or later), our table is never ready close to the time that we reserve.  You wonder if American restaurants should follow the mode of some European restaurants that assume that they will have one seating per evening and be happy if they get more, rather than trying to squeeze in 3-4 seatings between 6 and 10pm.  Don’t they WANT us to have dessert and coffee?

In brief, we often enjoy eating at home on Saturdays.  So, last Saturday, we decided to cook in, but we also had little time to prepare once we got home from our movie (we saw Nebraska—painful to sit through, though very good).  At 7pm, it was pitch dark outside, and we were hungry.  No time to fuss around with special preps and tricky recipes.  I insisted that Will shut up all his cookbooks and just follow my instructions, and talked him through a simple little dessert while I prepared the dinner. 

In less than 30 minutes flat, we had dinner for two prepared from start to finish:

Glazed Carrots:

Heat a pan of water and then slice 2 large carrots into thick diagonal slices (about inch thick), and then dump in boiling water with some salt.  Once carrots are almost done—but still having some bite, 8-10 minutes—pour out most of the water and keep about ¼ of cooking liquid remaining. 

At this point, add about 2 T of unsalted butter and drizzle in about 2-3 T of honey.  Cook this down, uncovered, until the mixture thickens, gets shiny, and the carrots are glazed. 

Nice additions: ground cayenne and cinnamon; minced ginger and orange juice (possibly a little bit of soy sauce if you want an Asian twist).

Pan-seared fish fillets:

(You can prep, but make sure you don’t actually start the cooking process until after carrots are on full boil.)
Salt and pepper both sides of thin fish fillets with edible skin (trout, perch, Artic char, etc.) or skinned (like tilapia).  Get a non-stick pan very hot, drizzle some olive oil until almost smoking, and then place fish skin(ned)-side down.  Sizzle a few minutes (with your stove fan running!) and then flip when the first side is crisp.  Another couple of minutes on the other side will do for thin fillets.  When about to serve, squeeze some lemon juice over the fillet and leave the lemon for more juicing at the table.

Pan-Sauteed Greens:

(You can choose which greens to use, but for the quickest sauté, you might go with spinach.  A bit longer for Swiss Chard, then longer for kale or mustard greens, and then longer still for collard greens.  Honestly, for fish, I go for quick-cooking spinach.)

If you are using spinach, you can just start this after the fish is out of the pan.  Just make sure that the spinach is washed and ready to go while the fish is cooking, and then remove the fish—don’t bother wiping up the pan—and add 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil.  Dump the spinach in the hot pan and stir around with a pair of tongs until wilted (which should take all of about 2 minutes) and salt and pepper and add a squeeze of lemon. 

Nice additions, especially if you are using Swiss Chard or one of the less tough varieties of kale: Skip the butter and just use 2 T olive oil and add thin garlic slices (and some crushed red pepper, optional).  If you go with an Asian twist with the carrots, you might want to continue with the greens by adding a bit of sesame oil and scallion/onion.

We added a hunk of French bread (which was actually in the freezer and which we put in a 350 degree oven for 7 minutes) to round out the meal.  With two veggies, we didn’t even need a salad. 


For dessert, we had mock lemon mascarpone cheesecake with blueberries.  I can talk about this in another post, but it’s so simple—though very tasty, and just what we needed—that I’m almost embarrassed to reveal what we did…




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