Cooking During Covid Quarantine

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I. Am. Sick. Of. Cooking. Every. Day.

There, I said it. And I feel sure you feel the same way. It has been a very long March and April for all of us. At this point, I do not have my usual zest for trying new recipes. At all.

That said, I am very grateful for Alison Roman’s One-Pot Chicken recipe and Melissa Clark’s myriad of pantry recipes, and have had some success testing out several. So I thought, as we continue to quarantine, now might be a good time to  highlight some meals I’ve tried that are heart-healthy, simple to make with limited ingredients, and stretch into several meals to minimize time in the kitchen.

First, if you haven’t yet tried Alison Roman’s One-Pot Chicken with Caramelized Lemons, I highly recommend it. If I were to revise my original blog post about this amazing dish, I’d retitle it. Instead of Easy, delicious chicken dinner—for weeknights or company! I’d now call it My Favorite Batch-Cooking Recipe, as it is hands-down the recipe I’ve made the most during these Covid-trying times. Read my blog post for both a link to Ms. Roman’s recipe, as well as some tips on making this dish.

Why try the One-Pot Chicken recipe? Why stick your hand in a bird (ugh) and remove the gizzards? Why deal with carving a whole chicken? Because this easy, tasty, heart-healthy recipe delivers a lot of chicken which can then turn into wonderfully varied second and third meals.

I’ve been making this recipe (or roasting a Trader Joe’s Spatchcock Chicken) once a week in April. First I serve it as a ‘Sunday dinner’ with a vegetable side and either rice or potatoes…and gravy!  (This recipe makes its own amazing gravy – all you do is remove the caramelized shallots, dates and lemons to the serving platter/plate and stir in a little slurry made with cornstarch & cold water). Then for lunches and dinners I’ve been using the leftovers to make: homemade chicken soup, chicken tacos and enchiladas, and chicken grain bowls. For all those meals, all you need is one 4 lb chicken (and did you know you can freeze a whole chicken?!), shallots, a lemon, and dates (which our Trader Joe’s continues to have in stock). For the leftover meals, all you need is onions, celery and carrots for the soup, and Green Sauce (or salsa) and your choice of vegetables for the tacos, enchiladas and grain bowls.

My favorite cookbook / recipe writer, Melissa Clark, has been posting recipes you can make from your pantry. If you’ve missed it, check it out here: Let Melissa Clark teach you how to cook with what you already have on hand. She’s also been creating recipes for her usual column. Here are three Melissa Clark recipes that have been go-to’s for me this March and April:

  • Lentils, Rice, Caramelized Onions and a Dinner to Remember. Original Melissa Clark article here.  As there was no actual recipe to easily follow in her article, I turned her words into a recipe and included it, at the bottom of this post. It’s also on my Recipes page.
  • Sheet-Pan Chicken with Jammy Tomatoes (and Pancetta).  Original Melissa Clark article here.  I made this with amazing dish without bacon or pancetta and it was fantastic. PDF here of Ms. Clark’s easy, delicious Sheet-Pan Chicken With Jammy Tomatoes Recipe – NYT Cooking. I roasted asparagus at the same time the chicken was roasting and served over rice with some leftover string beans thrown in as well.  I’ve included this recipe on my Recipes page.
  • Creamy Braised White Beans. Original Melissa Clark article here. I’ve included it as a PDF as well on my Recipes page. As I’ve switched to almond milk (turns out that’s handy now, as it’s shelf stable) I never have milk—much less whole milk—in my refrigerator. But I buy it for this dish.

Lastly – a chicken soup. Made from the actual carcass, which is not usually my thing. In fact, I have tried in the past and failed at making chicken stock (it’s easy, I know. I don’t understand what I did wrong but decided pre-covid it wasn’t worth trying again. But now I’m making soup for lunches every time I roast a chicken.)

Here’s the recipe I used and (that worked!) for a delicious stock and a delicious chicken with rice soup. It’s from Food Network’s Nancy Fuller and it’s called simply, Chicken and Rice Soup. PDF of it here: Chicken and Rice Soup Recipe.  Mine came out much more red than the photo in this recipe—I must have used the tomatoes incorrectly and will be trying a second time today.

Hope you enjoy and that we can all venture (safely) out to eat in the near future.

Here’s that Melissa Clark lentil recipe:

Lentils, Rice, Caramelized Onions and a Dinner to Remember - Melissa Clark
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
 

From Melissa Clark's HOW TO COOK WITH PANTRY STAPLES series (during Coronavirus) - NYT article, March 30, 2020. I've included direct quotes from Melissa Clark (MC) in the directions.

Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 White onions, peeled and sliced OR 1 large OR equivalent amount of shallots and/or leeks
  • Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and thinly sliced "A couple" of garlic cloves - so, to taste. I randomly decided on 4.
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Allspice if you have it!
  • 1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
  • Herb Sprigs - thyme, oregano, rosemary A few sprigs, if you have. Otherwise a large pinch of dried herbs.
  • 5 cups Broth or Water or a combination
  • 1 cup Rinsed Lentils (any kind)
  • 3/4 cup Rinsed Rice
  • Juice - 1/2 or 1 lemon OR other acid like Vinegar or Sumac
  • Red Pepper Flakes For garnish, if desired
Instructions
Prepare
  1. Slice onion and garlic and set aside.

  2. Rinse lentils and rice and set aside.

Cook
  1. Slick a 'medium saucepan' (I'd use large saute pan) with olive oil.

  2. Once hot, add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions turn golden brown, 15-25 minutes. MC: "Watch them carefully, especially toward the end of cooking. If they are cooking too quickly, turn down the heat. If they’re not getting brown, crank it. Some dark brown strands mixed in with the golden ones are OK, but you don’t want them to burn." 

    Note on amount of onions and cook time: MC: "The browned onions are the best part of this dish, so you really can’t overdo it, but just know that the more onions you add, the longer they will take to caramelize. I used two shallots and two small onions, because that’s what I had, but in a perfect world, I’d use one giant white onion, thinly sliced."

  3. When done, remove onions to separate plate. Add the sliced garlic to the hot pan. Sauté the garlic until fragrant—about 1 minute—then add ground cumin, allspice and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Stir for a few seconds then add herb sprigs or large pinch of dried herbs.

  4. Add 5 cups of broth or water (or combination) and bring to a simmer.

  5. Add enough olive oil and salt so it tastes good.

  6. Add 1 cup of RINSED LENTILS (any kind) and let simmer, partly covered, until they are almost but not quite done. For GREEN or BROWN lentils, about 25-30 minutes. For RED lentils, about 15-20 minutes

  7. Add 3/4 cup RINSED rice to the pot. Simmer until everything is very tender - about another 18-25 minutes.

    MG: "As it cooks, keep an eye on it. If the mixture looks too thick, cover the pot, or add more liquid. If it seems too thin and soupy, turn up the heat and boil off some of the liquid. The consistency is up to you."

  8. Taste and add lots of salt, pepper and LEMON JUICE for brightness.

  9. Top with the reserved golden onions and served in bowls, drizzed with olive oil and garnished with red pepper flakes, chopped fresh herbs (if you have) and flaky salt. 

    MG: "Without the garnish, it’s a drab-looking dish. But even unadorned, the earthy flavors of the lentils combined with those sweet golden onions will shine bright."

Recipe Notes

NOTE - Depending on what kind of lentils you use and whether you are using a food processor or hand-slicing onions, this recipe looks like it takes 1 - 1.5 hours.

Original  Melissa Clark article (with recipe in paragraph form) here:
Lentils, Rice, Caramelized Onions and a Dinner to Remember.

 

 

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