Ever have one of those killer weeks when you have to be someplace just about every night and relying on fast food is not an option?
There is a whole genre of cookbooks and home-management philosophy designed for just such occasions. It's the cook-once-eat-for-a-week (or for the really, really industrious eat-for-a-month) school of thought.
This is one of those weeks for me. Fortunately I had a heads up when I did my calendar, so I dug out my "cook once" book to see what I could find.
Naturally the key is having a well-stocked pantry, but what if you don't? Another drawback in this particular book is that it only offers recipes for one weekend night and three weeknights. What about the other three nights of the week?
How about a four-letter word? -- Punt.
OK, for one reason or another, we have this rather large bag of chicken legs and thighs in the freezer. That can probably substitute for the two whole fresh chickens required by the book's "weekend meal" of roast chicken with lemon, garlic and rosemary; herbed drop biscuits; steamed broccoli; and chocolate cheesecake.
Now the plan for the rest of the week does not make use of the cheesecake, but it does use leftover biscuits and broccoli.
The weeknight menus suggested include: biscuit-topped chicken pie; linguine with broccoli and blue cheese; and Asian chicken salad with green onion-sesame dressing.
Probably because of the affordability and popularity of chicken, the book has two sets of week-long menus using chicken. So, an alternative to one night, or an addition, could be chicken quesadillas with tomatillo salsa, which is one of the meals in the other set of chicken menus.
4 1/2 to 4 3/4 pounds chicken
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Juice of two lemons (quarter and reserve squeezed lemons)
4 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise, or equal amount of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
6 sprigs fresh rosemary, each about 3 inches long, or comparable amount ground dried rosemary
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup, unless pan is nonstick. Place roasting, or large wire cake, rack in the pan.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat through.
Remove excess fat from chicken and place chicken (if whole, clean out and set breast side up), evenly distribute rosemary and lemon wedges (place in cavity of whole chickens). Brush seasoned butter over the chicken, coating well.
Place roasting pan in the lower half of the oven and roast, basting every 20 minutes, until the juices run clear when a sharp knife is inserted into the thigh, or when a meat thermometer registers 170 degrees. Roasting usually takes about 1 hour.
Remove the chickens from the oven, baste again and cover loosely with foil. Leave one chicken, or half -- about 2 1/4 pounds -- to cool completely. Let other chicken or half rest for 10 minutes, then carve if whole, and serve. Divide remaining chicken in half again, wrap well and store in refrigerator for up to four days.
As for the biscuits and broccoli, I have that stuff in frozen form, but to have the amount needed to make the subsequent dishes, make enough biscuits to have eight left over to freeze, and about 4 pounds of broccoli. You will use 2 pounds for the main meal and the remainder will be needed for the pasta dish.
Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pie
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned, low-salt chicken broth
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch chunks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small, yellow onion, peeled and diced
8 ounces white mushrooms, quartered, or one, peeled and cubed 8-ounce boiling potato
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2+ pounds of previously roasted chicken, skinned, boned and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
8 frozen Herbed Drop Biscuits
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a one-quart saucepan, bring the stock/broth to a simmer, add carrots, and if using potatoes add those as well, cook about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables from liquid and set aside, turn off heat under saucepan.
Using a 10-inch sauté pan or skillet, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat until the butter foams. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add mushroom, if using, and sauté until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes more.
Sprinkle the flour over the onion-mushroom mixture and stir to dissolve. Immediately add the stock/broth, bring to a simmer and stir until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes.
Add the cream, stir to blend, then bring to a simmer. Add chicken, carrots, potatoes and parsley, and, if desired, a half-cup of frozen peas, bring to a simmer again, then add salt and pepper. Remove from heat and pour into a 8-cup baking dish that is at least 2 inches deep. Top with frozen biscuits, evenly spaced.
Bake for 12 minutes or until fully heated. Serve immediately.
Linguine with Broccoli and Blue Cheese
2 pounds steamed broccoli
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup chicken stock or canned broth
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled or coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound dried linguine
1 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
Trim broccoli into bite-sized pieces and bring to room temperature. In a 7-quart, or larger, pot, bring 6 quarts of water to boil, then add salt. Lower heat to a simmer and cover while making sauce.
In a 2-quart sauce pan, bring the stock/broth and onion to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add the cream, blue cheese, hot pepper sauce and nutmeg. Cook until the cheese is melted. Cover and keep warm while cooking pasta.
Return the pasta water to a full boil, add the pasta, stir and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
About 1 minute before the pasta is done, put the broccoli in the pan with sauce to warm.
Drain noodles and return to pan, add the parsley and sauce and toss. Serves four.
Asian Chicken Salad
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and vegetable oil in a small bowl and whisk together. Put the sesame seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring until lightly browned, but not burned. Scrape into dressing mixture.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 green onions
2 quarter-size slices of unpeeled, fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 head green cabbage, about 1 pound
2 bunches cellophane noodles (1 3/4 ounces each), soaked in hot water 15 minutes, drained and quartered like a pizza
1 large carrot
1/2 large cucumber, about 6 ounces
1 cup lightly-packed fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 roasted chicken, skinned, boned and shredded
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the green onions, and mince the green tops. Mince the ginger and garlic and shred the cabbage. Peel and shred the carrot. Peel, quarter lengthwise, seed and thinly slice the cucumber. Mince the cilantro.
In a 12-inch sauté pan or skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and sauté sliced onions, the ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds. Add cabbage, tossing and stirring to brighten its color and slightly wilt it, about 2 minutes. Add noodles, toss well and turn into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients, except the dressing, toss, then add dressing and toss again. Serve.
Chicken Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa
1 can, 12 ounces, whole tomatillos, drained and diced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons minced Anaheim chili
1 serrano chili, seeded and minced (if using fresh chilies, wear disposable latex gloves to seed and mince)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
Put the tomatillos in a small bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside until ready to serve.
6 flour tortillas, 10 inches in diameter
1 cup, or 4 ounces, shredded pepper jack cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
Heat a heavy, 12-inch skillet over high heat. Place a tortilla in the pan and sprinkle with a third of the cheese and a third of the chicken. Cover with a second tortilla. When the bottom tortilla is nicely browned, use a wide spatula to turn quesadilla. Brown other side. Place on a cutting board. Repeat to cook other two quesadillas. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to slice each into six wedges. Arrange wedges on warm platter and serve, passing the salsa to spoon on top of the quesadillas.