Tag Archives: weeknight meals

Chicken & Dumplings

Chicken & Dumplings

It has been super cold in NYC these last several days—perfect weather for Chicken & Dumplings.

This is a bowl of pure comfort: creamy chicken stew with plenty of nourishing vegetables and fluffy, parsley-flecked dumplings. Yum! It’s the best kind of stick-to-your-ribs meal to have in your culinary arsenal during the winter, alongside its spiritual sibling, Chicken Pot Pie, of course.

Chicken & Dumplings

Chicken & Dumplings starts with a stew which, in this case, is nothing more than a slightly-enhanced chicken soup. To that end, I follow a similar method to my Sopa de Pollo recipe, cutting the vegetables into larger chunks and simmering them with bone-in skin-on chicken until cooked through. The chicken gets shredded and returned to the pot, and then it’s time to thicken the stew and simmer the dumplings.

Most chicken & dumplings recipes I have seen rely on a roux of flour and butter for thickening, but I decided to go with a slurry here because I am somewhat averse to creamy savory things and didn’t want to cook the milk in this recipe for very long (but very much wanted Chicken & Dumplings).

Like a roux, a slurry is a way of thickening a liquid by adding something starchy, usually cornstarch or flour. Where the roux involves cooking the starch with fat (like butter) at the beginning of the recipe before adding liquid, a slurry is a paste of starch and a small amount of liquid that is added at least part-way through through. Each has its strong points and I regularly use both methods, but since I based the recipe off Sopa de Pollo and am decidedly squicky about dairy, I went with a slurry here. A mixture of flour, milk and dijon mustard is added right before the dumplings go into the pot, adding flavor and a velvety, creamy texture to the broth.

But that’s enough about the stew—the dumplings are the stars of this show! They’re basically a biscuit dough that gets dropped into the pot, then covered and simmered in all that chicken-y goodness until fluffy and light and wonderful. Though they start as a sticky dough, they expand dramatically in the closed pot. Don’t be tempted to open it and check on them—you’ll release all the steam and end up with leaden results. Yuck. The dumplings only take fifteen or so minutes to cook up into buttery little pillows, so just trust the process. It will be worth the wait!

Once the dumplings are done, stir some frozen peas and parsley into the pot, set the table and serve yourself some Chicken & Dumplings! Between the creamy, vegetable-heavy chicken stew and fluffy dumplings, it’s easy to understand why this recipe is a cold weather comfort food classic.

Chicken & Dumplings
Chicken & Dumplings
makes 6-8 servings

3 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (I used a mix of white and dark)
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt + more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper + more to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
6 cups chicken stock (I use Better Than Bouillon)
4 medium carrots, peeled & trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 stalks celery, cleaned & trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium or 2 small turnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large white or Spanish onion, large-diced
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole milk (or half-and-half or heavy cream)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Dumplings:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup whole milk

Use paper towels to pat chicken dry, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add oil and butter to a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides, about 5-7 minutes per side. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add carrots, turnip, onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Once the stock returns to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the dumplings. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and parsley. Combine butter and milk in a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup, then microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between, until butter is melted (90 seconds in my microwave). Set wet and dry aside.

Once the soup has simmered 30 minutes, turn it down to the lowest heat. Use tongs to fish out the chicken and remove it to a heatproof plate. Fish out and discard bay leaf.

When the chicken has cooled enough that you can handle it, remove and discard skin and bones. Shred or slice chicken into bite-sized pieces, then return it to the soup.

Make a slurry to thicken the stew. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together flour, mustard and milk until smooth (or very close to smooth). Stir the mixture into the soup and return it to a simmer over medium-low. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Mix the dumplings. Stir wet ingredients into dry just until combined. The dough will be sticky and shaggy; don’t overmix. Use a medium cookie scoop or a pair of spoons to scoop dough into 1 1/2 tablespoon dumplings and drop them in a single layer on the surface of the soup. Put the lid on the pan and keep covered for 15-18 minutes. Do not peek until 15 minutes have passed. Remove one dumpling, and slice it open to determine if it is done to your liking. If not, return the lid to the pot for another 3 minutes.

When dumplings are done, remove the pot from the heat. Gently stir in peas and parsley. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving with additional parsley if desired.

Leftover chicken and dumplings will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove.

Lentil Chili

Lentil​ Chili

Being from Texas, I was raised to believe that beans have no place in chili, but that is not something I ascribe to as an adult. For one thing, I don’t want to make both a main and a vegetable side dish if I don’t have to, and for another, I happen to like beans in chili. So there.

Lentil​ Chili

Now, I do have a go-to beanless meat-based chili recipe on here, but as of today, I have two vegan variations. What can I say? I like vegetables.

The secrets to great vegetable-based chili are the same as anything else: heat, seasoning and time. The ingredients are added with intention:

First the onion, then the garlic. Caramelize the tomato paste a bit, then stir in the spices, a splash of soy sauce for depth, and most of a pound of lentils. Simmer everything in vegetable stock until the lentils are tender, then scoop some out, purée and add it back for texture. Taste for seasoning and, well, that’s it. As far as chili goes, this is simplicity itself.

Lentil​ Chili

Lentil Chili is good right out of the pot, but give it a few hours (or days) in the fridge and it’s truly spectacular. Rich and hearty and meaty in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a meatless recipe. It’s particularly good after a long day, when reheated and topped with heaps of shredded cheddar, avocado, corn muffins, and anything else you like. Because, make no mistake, cooking at home is almost entirely about making what you like.

Chili “rules” be damned. This is comfort in a bowl.

Lentil​ Chili
Lentil Chili
makes about 6 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium Spanish onion, diced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cups dried green lentils, rinsed and picked over
7 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed 4-6 quart pot over medium heat. Add diced onion and sauté until it begins to take on color, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to take on color (about 7-10 minutes). Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, cocoa and cayenne, followed by lentils. Stir in soy sauce and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Turn heat to low. Remove 2 cups of cooked lentils to a heatproof bowl. Let cool 5-10 minutes before pureeing with an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor. Return purée to the pot. Stir and taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed.

Lentil Chili will taste good immediately after it is made, but is best after a few hours or a day in the refrigerator. Serve it up with cheese, avocado, scallions and/or any other toppings of choice.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals

After baking my tail off for the final two months of the calendar year, I make a point of changing things up around here every January, leaning into more everyday foods and savory fare. I began this month with my tried and true formula for Crispy Chickpeas, and will be bringing you plenty of dinners and snacky things until February. There may be a cookie recipe in there too—I make and break the rules around here.

While weeknight meals aren’t my usual content, a person cannot live on cookies alone. Believe me, I have tried. As we settle into whatever fresh hell 2022 has for us, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite meals that can be made with minimal time and energy, but with plenty of delicious pay-off. Some are classics and some are masquerading as classy, but they’re all wonderful. These are my Easiest Weeknight Meals!

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Everyday Cassoulet

When people ask me for quick, easy, crowd-pleasing dinner ideas “Everyday Cassoulet” are always the first two words out of my mouth. A quick take on a slow-cooked French classic, this dish could not be easier—it’s just an assemblage of sausages, cherry tomatoes, white beans and aromatics that are roasted to comforting perfection. You can also make it vegan with meatless sausages or a couple of pounds of fresh mushrooms—love that versatility. Serve this up with a salad, a hunk of crusty bread or all by its lonesome. There’s no wrong way to Everyday Cassoulet.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Sopa de Pollo

This Mexican recipe is my absolute favorite chicken soup. It’s easy to make, with minimal knife work and no searing steps, and it simmers up in under an hour! Feel free to swap in your favorite vegetables to suit your particular tastes, but whatever you do, don’t skip the mint. It makes the whole thing.

How to Make Eggs 5 Ways

Eggs?! On a list of weeknight dinners?! Hell yes—breakfast for dinner rules. I work evenings, so when I finally get home and make dinner for myself, it’s frequently some form of eggs with whatever I have in my fridge. They’re a cheap, delicious protein and nearly everyone has a preparation that they love. In the linked post, I go into detail about how to scramble, hard-boil, soft-boil, poach and fry eggs, so you can make them however you like. Get crackin’! (Pun absolutely intended.)

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic sounds fancy, but it’s dead easy and so good. I make it extra easy (and cut the cost!) by using raw frozen shrimp. The rest of the ingredients are kitchen staples, making this an absolute snap to make. While I’m recommending you make it for weeknights here, it’s also perfect for company.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Spicy Turkey Tacos

I have made this recipe approximately 250 times over the last six years and it has never once disappointed. I mean, who doesn’t love tacos? This recipe for easy homemade taco seasoning and saucy, spicy turkey tacos is a staple in my personal chef and home-cooking repertoire. It takes half an hour start to finish and makes amazing leftovers.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

15 Minute Stovetop Mac & Cheese

I started making this mac & cheese while I was acting as craft services on student film sets approximately 147 years ago (2009). I learned how to make it on a sketchy hot plate that I bought at the K-Mart in Penn Station, but it works just as well in my home kitchen ☺️ Made with minimal ingredients, effort and time, this is my go-to recipe for creamy, comforting macaroni & cheese in minutes. Oh, and pro-tip: if you can’t get your hands on cream cheese right now, a scoop of full-fat sour cream works just as well.

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals​

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

I used to be shocked at the number of people I know that don’t know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, but then I realized that maybe nobody ever taught them how to make one. If you are one of those people, this post is for you. Learn how to make classic grilled cheese low-and-slow, step-by-step, and pair it with a simple homemade tomato soup for maximum comfort and nostalgia. Once you’ve perfected the original, get fancy with my Awards Season favorite Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese—yum!

Friday Favorites: Easiest Weeknight Meals

What’s your favorite easy weeknight meal? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicThere is a time for involved, long-cooking, multi-dish recipes, and then there’s the time for a 30 minute main that can be made in two steps and served with any carby thing that makes you happy.

This is the second thing.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicWhether you’re looking for something you can throw together on a weeknight or an easy special occasion meal for when dinner parties are a thing again, Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic fits the bill. It’s light and refreshing, a snap to make and can be on your table in half an hour! Yesssss.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicThis is one of those dishes for which I almost always have the ingredients. My kitchen is always stocked with lemons, fresh garlic, onions, red pepper flakes, salt and olive oil, and I usually have parsley, too. Just add a couple of pounds of raw shrimp (I used frozen/thawed) and we’re ready to roll!

To make this bright and lemony main, begin by tossing the raw shrimp, minced garlic, thinly sliced onion, red pepper flakes, salt, olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice in a casserole dish. Bake everything for 12-15 minutes at 375F, stirring every five minutes, until the shrimp are pink and opaque, and the thin strands of onion have lost their rigidity. Squeeze another lemon over the top, stir in a big handful of chopped fresh parsley and…um, well that’s it. Told you it was easy.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicServe Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic over rice, orzo (or other pasta) or with crusty bread—anything to take advantage of all that lemony, garlicky oil! Oh, and a glass of something crisp and cold never hurt anything. Just saying.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic
makes 4-6 servings

3 medium lemons, divided
2 pounds fresh or frozen (thawed) raw shrimp (I use 21-30 count)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white or Spanish onion, very thinly sliced
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

For serving (optional):
sliced lemons
baguette or other crusty bread
cooked pasta
cooked rice

Preheat oven to 375F.

Zest and juice two lemons.

Combine lemon zest & juice, shrimp, garlic, onion, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil in a casserole dish. Toss together until fully combined. Bake 12-15 minutes, gently stirring every 5 minutes, until all shrimp are pink and opaque.

Squeeze over remaining lemon and stir in parsley. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired. Serve with toasted baguette, pasta or rice.

Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Do not microwave leftovers, as it will drastically over cook the shrimp. Instead, reheat gently on the stove in a pan over medium-low heat.

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupOver the past couple of years, I’ve learned that a shocking number of people I know and love don’t know how to make one of the simplest recipes in the wide world: Grilled Cheese. It’s not because they’re incapable in the kitchen—it’s just that nobody ever taught them how to make it so that the bread cooks and the cheese melts at similar rates, and the butter doesn’t blacken and smoke up the house.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupLuckily (maybe?), they’re friends with me, a person who will make them a grilled cheese in the moment and then spend four months dwelling on the (non-)event until the middle of January when she decides to write a blog post about the whole (inconsequential) thing. And that’s how we got here. Luckily. Maybe.

Anyway…Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupI make Grilled Cheese for dinner at least once a week because a) it’s easy and I don’t have to think about it too hard, and b) I always have sandwich bread, butter and some sort of melting cheese (usually extra sharp cheddar). It only takes a couple of minutes to butter two pieces of bread and layer cheese in the middle. You’ll notice I don’t use sliced cheese here—that’s simply because I prefer to buy the brick and slice it myself. Do whatever works for you, with the exception of pre-shredded cheese because it’s coated in an anti-caking agent that prevents proper melting. You do not want to impede proper melting on a Grilled Cheese!Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupAs far as cooking goes, I think it’s a pretty human thing to want to cook crispy foods over the highest heat for a couple of minutes, but when it comes to Grilled Cheese (and so many other things), it’s best to ignore that thought, turn down the flame and take your time. Whereas 3-4 minutes over high will yield cold cheese between burnt slices of bread, 7-8 over medium-low will give you perfect melted cheese and buttery, golden edges every time. Those extra four minutes make all the difference in the world.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupBoom! That’s all you need to know to make a basic Grilled Cheese. You can change up the cheese and bread depending on your mood, but as long as you butter the outsides of the bread instead of melting butter in the skillet and cook things low and slow, you will always have perfect Grilled Cheese.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupAnd what’s Grilled Cheese without Tomato Soup? This combination is a classic for a reason—the tang of tomato pairs perfectly with the rich, cheesy, crispy sandwich, making for a simple, satisfying meal.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupAs with Grilled Cheese, my go-to Tomato Soup recipe is easy as can be. Whole peeled tomatoes are crushed by hand, then simmered in vegetable stock with carrots, onion, garlic, tomato paste and spices before being puréed until velvety smooth. Easy peasy.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupTwo things to note:

• I prefer to use canned whole peeled tomatoes instead of fresh. This is for a few reasons, but mainly because canned tomatoes give consistently delicious results. I love fresh tomatoes, but they are only in season for a few months of the year and January isn’t one of them.
• You’ll notice I like to add a pinch of baking soda at the end of cooking to neutralize some of the acidity, but you may also use a teaspoon of sugar or honey. Whatever works for you.Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupSo there you have it—one of the simplest meals in the world, explained. Maybe you knew all this or maybe you didn’t. Either way, I hope you treat yourself this weekend. I know we could all use some comfort. No “maybe” about it.Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices sandwich bread (I like Dave’s Killed Bread White Bread Done Right)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
small pinch of salt, if using unsalted butter
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar or other melting cheese, thinly sliced

Spread 1/2 tablespoon of softened butter over one side of each piece of sandwich bread. If using unsalted butter, sprinkle butter with a small pinch of salt.

Turn 2 pieces of bread plain-side-up. Lay sliced cheese evenly over each plain side. Top cheese with remaining pieces of bread, buttered-side-up, so that the buttered sides of each slice of bread are on the outsides of the sandwiches.

Heat a medium-large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add sandwiches and let cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip sandwiches and let cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the other side, about 3-4 more minutes.

Serve immediately, with tomato soup (recipe below), if desired.

Tomato Soup
makes about 4 servings

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-large Spanish onion, diced
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, divided
4 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled & sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or a pinch of ground cayenne)
4 cups vegetable stock (I use Better than Bouillon)
small pinch of baking soda or teaspoon of sugar, optional
chopped parsley, optional

Place tomatoes and any liquid in a mixing bowl. Use your clean hands to crush the tomatoes. Set aside.

Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and pinch of salt, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until onion is starting to turn translucent but nothing has browned. Add minced garlic and cook about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until starting to darken.

Stir in red pepper flakes, hand-crushed tomatoes & their liquid, followed by vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for 20-25 minutes, until carrots have softened.

Purée soup with a hand blender. Alternatively, let hot soup cool for 15 minutes before transferring to a high-powered blender and puréeing. Be careful, as hot liquids expand during blending.

Taste soup and add salt as desired. If soup is too acidic, stir in a small pinch of baking soda or a teaspoon of sugar. Garnish with parsley and serve, with Grilled Cheese (recipe above) if desired.

Leftover soup will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Grilled Cheese & Tomato SoupGrilled Cheese & Tomato SoupGrilled Cheese & Tomato Soup