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So Little Time, So Many People to Entertain

December 23, 2011 By:
Linda Morel, Jewish Exponent Feature
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WHAT'S COOKING?

As the year races to a close, daylight hours are scant, Dec. 31 deadlines loom, and there are more people to entertain than at other seasons.

With all that going on, there seems to be less time than ever to make dinner. For people on the run, last-minute main courses are lifesavers.

In a pinch, you can always order pizza. But there are times, such as Shabbat dinner or when family comes from out of town, that call for a home-cooked meal. With a little effort, you can meet that challenge.

The goal is to throw together a dish that's warm and tasty, even if it's not all prepared in your kitchen. The advent of rotisserie chickens, sold at supermarkets, has been as liberating to cooks as the Internet is to shoppers.

The foods you have on hand are valuable resources in whipping up last-minute main courses: pasta, olive oil, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, onions, tomatoes, barbecue sauce and bread.

To speed up the preparation process, have every ingredient you need measured and laid out on the counter, just like recipe demonstrations on television. For quicker cooking, cut food thin or into small pieces. Instead of boxed pasta, purchase refrigerated fresh pasta; it cooks up in only two minutes.

To complete a speedy entree, all you need is a salad (it can come from a store salad bar) and a loaf of fresh bread. Even if your bread is past its prime, you can recapture its tantalizing glory. Sprinkle a few drops of water on top of the loaf, wrap it in tin foil, and heat it in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes.

The yeasty aroma filling your kitchen will convince everyone you baked the bread yourself -- in your spare time.

 

Lemon-Dijon Chicken

(Meat)

Serve with a salad of baby spinach leaves drizzled with your favorite vinaigrette and sourdough bread.

2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts (2 halves each, or 4 halves in all) 
kosher salt to taste 
2 Tbsps. olive oil, or more, if needed 
juice from a lemon 
2 Tbsps. Dijon mustard 
1 tsp. dry white wine 
optional: 1/4 tsp. of dried basil, rosemary or oregano

Rinse chicken breasts under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut each whole chicken breast in half. (You'll have 4 large pieces in all.)

With a sharp knife, slice each half vertically into 1-inch-wide strips, about 3 strips per piece, or 12 strips in all. You can request the butcher do this for you. Sprinkle chicken strips with kosher salt.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard and wine, whisking with a fork. Reserve.

On a medium flame, heat oil in a large skillet.

Place chicken strips in the oil. Sauté, turning strips on all sides until slightly seared on the outside and raw in the middle. Drizzle in more oil, if needed.

Add the lemon-juice mixture and one of the herbs, if using. Stir to mix into the chicken.

Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Chicken will appear pale on the outside. Don't overcook.

Serves 4.

 

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

(Meat)

Serve with plenty of ketchup on sandwich rolls and a cucumber salad on the side.

nonstick vegetable spray 
1 lb. ground turkey breast 
1/4 tsp. each: garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and celery flakes 
freshly ground pepper 
paprika for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a 7x11-inch ovenproof baking pan with nonstick spray.

Place the turkey, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and celery flakes in a bowl; mix until well-combined. Form mixture into 16 meatballs, 1 inch in diameter, rolling meatballs in the palm of your hands until they hold together.

Place meatballs in prepared pan and dust the tops with paprika. Bake for 15 minutes, turn meatballs, then dust the other side with paprika. Return to the oven; bake for 15 minutes more.

Serves 4.

 

Easiest Pasta Sauce Ever

(Dairy)

Serve with a mesclun mix and Italian bread.

1 lb. box of fettuccini 
3 Tbsps. olive oil, or more, if desired 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1 tsp. dried basil leaves, crushed

In a large pot, boil the water and prepare the fettuccini according to package instructions. Drain. Place in a large bowl.

Drizzle the olive oil over the fettuccini. Shake on the Parmesan cheese and toss.

Sprinkle basil on top.

Serves 4.

 

Southwestern Chicken Hash

(Meat)

Serve with microwave baked potatoes and iceberg lettuce wedges with Russian dressing.

1 prepared rotisserie chicken (about 21/2 lbs.), without special flavoring, such as BBQ sauce 
3 Tbsps. corn oil, or more, if needed 
2 medium-sized onions, diced 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
4 tomatoes, diced 
2 green peppers, diced 
kosher salt to taste 
11/2 tsps. chili powder 
11/2 tsps. ground cumin 
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper, or more for a real kick

From the chicken, cut off the wings and save for another purpose. Peel skin and discard. Remove bones. Dice chicken meat and reserve.

Heat the corn oil in a large pot on a medium flame.

Sauté the onions and garlic in oil until softened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Quickly add the remaining ingredients and stir occasionally until vegetables wilt, about 3 minutes.

Spoon in the diced chicken and stir constantly until ingredients are well-combined. Add more salt, if needed.

Serves 4 to 6.

 

Pulled Chicken

(Meat)

Serve with hamburger rolls and store bought coleslaw made with a vinegar dressing.

1 prepared rotisserie chicken (about 21/2 lbs.), without special flavoring, such as BBQ sauce 
3 Tbsps. corn oil, or more, if needed 
2 medium onions, diced 
4 cloves of garlic, chopped 
kosher salt to taste 
3/4 cup, or more, of your favorite barbecue sauce 
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

From the chicken, cut off the wings and save for another purpose. Peel skin and discard. Remove bones. From the mounds of chicken, pull off pieces in thin stringy strips. Reserve.

In a large skillet, heat the oil on a medium-low flame.

Sauté the onions and garlic, stirring often, until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle in salt and stir again.

Add the chicken, stirring until warmed through.

Pour in the barbecue sauce and stir until the chicken is well-coated. Add more sauce if chicken seems dry. Sprinkle on black pepper and stir again.

Serves 4 to 6.

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