Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Three ridiculously easy meals

All containing chicken stock; 2/3 involving the crockpot:
In my dreams I lounge at home on Sunday afternoon, flipping through cookbooks and planning five meals for the impending week. Afterwards I head to the grocery store to purchase only what I need, and nothing goes to waste. In reality, during a good week we cook three times and have leftovers/takeout to fill in. These are three fail-proof staples that we return to over and over, because they can be made a million different ways, depending on what we have in the kitchen:
1. Whole chicken in the crock pot
I think this one was born out of pure lazyness - I hate dealing with chicken breasts and they tend to turn out dry and tasteless unless I put some work into the preparation.
- Acquire a whole chicken. I really like the ones from Bell and Evans
- Soften ~3-4 Tbs of butter and mix in whatever chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley) you might have. Alternatively, skip the herbs and just add a little ground pepper/salt
-Rub the butter mixture underneath the skin of the chicken
(Sometimes if I have a leftover lemon or orange I will slice it very thin and place that under the skin, too. I've also done a thai version with ginger, lemongrass and some coconut milk stirred into the resulting broth).
- Salt and pepper the skin
- Place the chicken in your crockpot and add ~32 oz. of chicken or veggie stock. I try to use a low-sodium version.
- Add veggies if you like (carrots, potatoes, chopped onion, garlic)
- cook on low for 8 hours or so
The result: the chicken will literally fall off the bone; we often have trouble getting everything out of the crock pot in one piece. The skin will come off easily and the meat will be flavorful and tender. Generally we eat this with brown rice and a simple green salad.
2. Pork tenderloin in the crockpot
- Acquire a pork tenderloin. These tend to run $8-15, depending on the size and quality. It might seem expensive, but the two of us get at least dinner and lunch out of it.
- freeze the pork tenderloin. I've tried this with fresh tenderloin, it just isn't as good.
- Place the frozen tenderloin in the crock pot and season with salt/pepper
- Add ~32 oz. chicken, veggie or beef stock.
- Add veggies if you wish. Also good with sauerkraut and onions.
- cook on low for 8 hours
I have made this one so many times. We will be having it for dinner tonight, as a matter of fact. Occasionally I'll make dumplings or spatzle (Joy of Cooking recipes) to simmer in the broth. I like to eat this with a little horseradish and of course a veggie on the side!
3. Poached fish
- Any white fish (tilapia, orange roughy) will do
- preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
- place in a 8x8 inch pyrex dish or similar (we use our Le Creuset 3.4 qt. covered braiser)
- salt and pepper both sides
- Add chicken or veggie stock to a depth of about 1 inch
- poach until flaky (usually ~15 minutes)
- There are so many possible variations - add lemon slices, herbs (cilantro/mint/basil is a nice mix), sprinkle with lemon pepper, a can of chopped tomatoes... we tend to keep this one simple.
We do eat vegetarian food quite a bit, but in general I find this requires a bit more planning, so that I have fresh ingredients/spices on hand. I'll try to do another post about our recent veggie favorites sometime soon, my Mom got me a new cookbook for Christmas and I've made a bunch of new things that have been simple and delicious.



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