It’s one of the easiest dinners I’ve prepared this spring – a time when easy is essential. My three kids, one each in elementary, middle and high school, are in the thick of homework, school projects, swim practice, track meets, community plays and charity work, and they all come with their own mom-involved to do list. A simple dinner is key to survival, and I’m here to tell you that Grill Night checks that box and whole bunch more.
What a word.
It’s fun to say, and even more fun to pull off.
This classic technique of deboning and flattening a chicken is honestly one of the easiest and fastest ways to create a juicy bird, and it’s done in a fraction of the time it would take you to roast one in the traditional manner. Best yet, because you’re able to expose most of the skin during roasting, you end up with lots of golden brown crispy goodness.
All you have to do is remove the backbone.
Of all the one-pot dishes you might make this holiday season, I’ll argue that a big ol’ batch of chili is the easiest. There’s no roux involved. It doesn’t require sourcing or cleaning seafood. It’s fun to serve with a topping bar. And it’s universally beloved by kids and adults.
Chili is so fast and easy that sometimes I make it too much, so I’ve been working on keeping it interesting.
Here are five ways to enliven your chili habit as you head into frenzied holiday entertaining. Enjoy.
Borrowing words from my friend, writer Renée Bacher, I threw up my hands recently upon reading my bank statement, and screeched to my children, “Stop eating! You’re devouring your college funds!”
For years, the amount of money I spend at the grocery store has been creeping . . .no. . . skyrocketing, up. I used to fantasize about how much I’d save when our children were finally out of diapers. Right. Diapers were cheap compared to the endless list of items I collect at the supermarket to satisfy their needs as growing kids, and mine and John’s as food enthusiasts. Even if we didn’t like food so much, getting meals for five people on the table (two to three meals a day, seven days a week) ain’t cheap.
I finally got frustrated. There had to be a better way of doing things. And so, after 15 years of marriage and 14 years of parenting, I bit the bullet and tried what so many people before me claim works like a charm. I started planning meals. I generally resist forced organization, and part of me sees myself as a childless gourmand who thinks she can still eat at dinner 10 pm and shop at the “market” every day with an eco-basket. “Food should be spontaneous, not restrained!” I’d think. “They don’t plan meals in France!”
I finally got over myself and started planning meals. And guess what? It does work like a charm.
Here it is early September in South Louisiana, and crawfish season seems like a thing of the past. Backyard boils, Sunday etouffée and rural crawfish festivals are fixtures of spring, not fall. But let’s not be too hasty. One-pound packages of Louisiana crawfish tails are still available in many independent grocery stores in South Louisiana, and they should be around for another few weeks, says my friend Blaise Calandro III of Calandro’s Supermarkets here in Baton Rouge. In fact, it’s only between November and February when local tails are not commercially available.
So stock up for yourself Louisiana peeps, and freeze some for your out-of-state friends, because in addition to being full of flavor, crawfish tails are one of easiest and most convenient ingredients around, especially if you’re a working parent. I can attest. Earlier this week, I found myself trying to pull together dinner at the absolute last minute, and a pound of frozen crawfish tails saved me.
Every cool, crunchy and refreshing bite of a homemade Asian-inspired chicken salad is the perfect antidote for the premature South Louisiana heat, which, no surprise to any of us here in Baton Rouge, seems here to stay. The assembly of this fresh salad is fast and easy – doable even during the nasty end-of-school rush I find myself in. It’s substantial enough to serve as a main course, and if you accessorize it with some store bought (or homemade) spring rolls, then, well, look at that. You’re done.