Blind date versus the List

You know meal planning for the week can be like getting married.  Yes I love you baby, but am I going to be in the mood for you on Tuesday?  Coq au Vin is a looker, I can’t argue that it doesn’t taste good, and to be desirable for as long as Coq au Vin has been desirable is impressive.  None of that is going to keep me from wanting to crack crab legs and dip them into a spicy mayonnaise, with no warning and in the middle of the week.

The reason to make a meal plan is because the reality of what’s available to you in the middle of the week without it leaves you with a choice of Fruit Loops or frozen fish sticks.  You might have to accept that not fresh crab legs or George Clooney are available where you tend to hang out. Without planning, a rotation of dinners can get locked in like an old haircut.

Start with the basics.  Always plan to make a stock.  (chicken bones or wings, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, fresh garlic, parsley, fresh thyme).  Having stock in your freezer is a necessary for cooking. It’s the same as having boiling water on hand when it’s time to have a baby–it comes in handy.

Plan on making something really basic for two nights:

1.  Roasted chicken with carrots, potatoes and string bean–go crazy and serve it with biscuits

2.  Meatballs and sauce with a salad you haven’t had in a while, like baby greens with oranges, green olives, shallot and toasted walnuts.

Now mix it up.

3.  Buy a pack of best quality puff pastry dough and make an onion tart to serve with potato leek soup.  None of the ingredients will go bad if you don’t get to it.  For the tart:  a few onions that have an onion bulb at the bottom and the greens still on the top (young onions) or the freshest onions you can find, about 4 thick slices of best quality bacon, and a few sprigs of parsley.  Cut the bacon into matchsticks, saute for just a few minutes until beginning to get crispy, remove from the pan along with most of, but not all of the fat, and give a quick saute to the onions and parsley.  Roll out the puff pastry and cover with the onions and bacon, along with some grated gruyere and bake in a 400 degree oven until the puff pastry is cooked through.

4.  Go out on a limb and choose a menu from your favorite  cookbook.  The challenge will push the outer edges of your envelope and make you feel like you learned a new language. (my favorite cookbook of the week is Sunday Suppers at Lucques) and the menu is Winter Vegetables Bagna Cauda (fennel, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, potato) blanched separately but in the same pot of salted water doused with a sauce of olive oil and butter that has had an anchovy, a tiny hot pepper, slivers of garlic and a few parsley leaves heated through in it before using.  Seared lamb chops with roasted radicchio and a flageolet gratin (you can substitute cannellini for the flageolet).  The gratin I love–you saute dried beans FIRST before simmering in the liquid with olive oil, rosemary and chile, diced onion, fennel, garlic, thyme and bay leaf.  Then you add water and salt til the beans are tender, then you add them with some of their liquid to a gratin dish that has been coated with caramelized onions, and once the beans are in there, you cover them with a layer of buttery bread crumbs before baking for a little over an hour.

The rest of the week make your standards.  Or eat grilled cheese and sliced tomato.  Or make a roast beef and have it with horseradish cream and roasted root vegetables.

3 thoughts on “Blind date versus the List

  1. Hi Faye,
    You have such great suggestions, however, the men in my house DON’T EAT VEGGIES. At all. Well, they eat starchy ones – potato, corn and that’s really it. Got any suggestions for me? We DO eat the same things week after week and I think I may go insane. As a well brought up ‘suthern gurl’ I do like my vegetables. Veggies hidden in a red sauce is getting old. Help me please!!! Please?

  2. Try roasting any vegetable cut into slivers or manageable pieces, tossing them with olive oil and salt and roasting at 375 degrees until tender. They won’t be able to resist them.

  3. Hi Fae. I’m a big fan of your writing; it never fails to inspire me.

    As to the commenter worried about serving vegetables: don’t be.

    Serve the vegetables sometimes, but only make enough for you + a little bit for leftovers. If they eat them, grand. Make more next time. If they don’t – no loss.

    Serve new vegetables up in quesadillas, tacos, or other easy-to-customize ways like Frittatas (a lot of potato, a fair bit of corn, an egg or two for binding, spice to your taste and something else for color on the top – easily removable, or not), pannini (grilled sandwiches), or cold pasta/potato salads (blanch the vegetables and cube them into fork-sized bites).

    Smothering them in bechamel sauce or cheese can make them more palatable; but really just cook them the way you love them. If you stop stressing over it, the menfolk might become a bit more experimental and you’ll certainly no longer feel like going insane over it. Worst case, make a salad and add it to the meal. Salad dressing can hide a lot of flavors.

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