Cooking half a dinner

Many people are struggling with fixing meals during this challenging time.  With restaurants closed, people who relied on eating out are forced to cook.  Many grocery stores are struggling to keep staples on hand.  A friend recently remarked “I wish I enjoyed cooking like you do.”

One solution is to cook half a dinner.  Notice, I didn’t say eat half a dinner.  🙂  Tonight I made polenta and served it with meatballs that I had made and frozen a few weeks ago.  That meant I really only had to cook half a dinner.  Staying at home creates a great opportunity to fill your freezer.  Alternatively, you could make the meatballs and you use store bought polenta (or pasta) or make the polenta and buy meatballs.

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Meatballs

  • 2 lbs meatloaf mix (a combination of ground beef, pork and veal
  • 1 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • olive oil
  • Jarred marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 and line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.  (This will make cleanup much easier!)

Put the meatloaf mix in a large bowl and toss with your fingers.  Combine breadcrumbs, cheese and seasonings in a separate bowl and add to meat mixture.  Add the eggs, wine and 3/4 cup water.  Mix with your hands until well combined.

Roll into balls about 2 oz each and place on parchment.  (Samantha said mine weren’t evenly shaped and were more like meat blobs but they still tasted good.)   Brush with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool and then refrigerate if making ahead.  They can also be frozen.

Heat marinara sauce and add meatballs to heat through.  Serve on top of polenta.  meatballs and polenta

Chicken and polenta

I decided to use the leftover chipotle marinade from last week’s flank steak on chicken breasts for tonight.  Keith grilled the chicken and I bought extra so I’ll use the leftover chicken on Thursday.  (I put chicken wraps on the original menu plan but am now thinking I might make chipotle chicken salad – we’ll see what I think by Thursday.  I wanted something as a side that would provide nice balance with the spicy chipotle flavor.  I haven’t made our favorite polenta in a while so I went with that.

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Grilled chipotle chicken and polenta

Grilled chipotle chicken and polenta

Catching up

We started the New Year with a little more entertaining.  Keith’s sister and her family came to town on Friday.  We don’t get together often enough and we wanted to give them a nice meal.  We reprised the slow cooked filet of beef from Christmas Eve with Keith’s parents and reused the basil parmesan mayonnaise.  With it we served potato gratin and a green salad.  Here is the recipe for the potato gratin:

Potato Gratin

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (a food processor speeds the process)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut garlic clove in half and rub shallow porcelain dish with garlic.  Spread half of the potatoes in dish.  Top with half of cheese and half of cream.  Spread with remaining potatoes and top with remaining cheese and cream.  Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes.  Gratin should be golden on top.

Not health food for every day but nice for a special occasion.

Last night we had a classmate of Samantha’s and her parents over for dinner.  We don’t know them well so I wanted something likely to appeal to almost any palate.  I opted for one of my winter favorites and a great company dinner – braised chicken over rosemary polenta.  I’ve made this before and always gotten rave reviews.  Here are the recipes for these:

Braised chicken and polenta

  • 4 bone in chicken breasts, washed and patted dry and cut in half
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 TB olive oil in a heavy saucepan and cook chicken until browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and place on a plate.  Pour off the fat from the pan.  Add remaining 1 TB olive oil and add onion, pancetta, rosemary, sage, bay leaves and cloves.  Saute 5- 10 minutes or until onions are browned.  Add wine and scrape pan brownings.  Add tomato paste and stir in.  Return chicken to pan and add chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer 20 – 30 minutes or until chicken is done.  Serve over:

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Grace tried it and liked it.  I was hoping that this would rub off on Samantha but she stuck to chicken tenders and applesauce.

Cool weather cooking

Although the weather this afternoon is pleasant, it’s been getting cold in the evenings.  If you follow blog, you know that I like to cook seasonally and this is one of my favorite cool weather meals.  It makes wonderful leftovers and is a great meal for company.  The combination of flavors is so delicious and warming.  Enjoy!

Braised chicken and polenta

  • 4 bone in chicken breasts, washed and patted dry and cut in half
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 TB olive oil in a heavy saucepan and cook chicken until browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and place on a plate.  Pour off the fat from the pan.  Add remaining 1 TB olive oil and add onion, pancetta, rosemary, sage, bay leaves and cloves.  Saute 5- 10 minutes or until onions are browned.  Add wine and scrape pan brownings.  Add tomato paste and stir in.  Return chicken to pan and add chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer 20 – 30 minutes or until chicken is done.  Serve over:

Rosemary polenta

  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp minced rosemary
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 4 TB grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.  Add milk and chicken stock and boil.  Add cornmeal and whisk, stirring over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Easy entertaining for summer

We’re having a friend over for dinner this evening.  I was chatting with another friend at the pool who asked what I was cooking for company that made it possible to spend the afternoon lollygagging around the pool.  (She didn’t actually accuse me of lollygagging.)  I wanted to have something good and simple that would allow me to visit with my friend rather than fussing in the kitchen.  We bought crab dip at Graul’s so the appetizer was fixed by somebody else.  I bought sorbet and raspberries for dessert so that will be light and effortless.  Here is the menu for dinner:

Grilled lamb chops (marinated in Worcestershire sauce)

Mache salad with vinaigrette, crumbled blue cheese and walnuts

Rosemary polenta – I made this last night and refrigerated so all I need to do is saute the triangles when it is time to serve.

Polenta

  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 cups cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • additional olive oil and butter (for sauteing)

Melt butter with olive oil over medium heat and add garlic and spices.  Pour in stock, milk and half and half and cook over high heat until boiling.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in cornmeal.  Cook for a few more minutes, stirring until thick.  Add parmesan cheese and pour mixture into a 9 x 9 pan.  Refrigerate.

When ready to serve, cut polenta into squares and then in half diagonally to make triangles.  (Or cut into circles with a biscuit cutter).  Dip in flour.  Melt 1 TB olive oil and 1 tsp butter and cook over medium heat until edges are crispy and polenta is hot.  Serve.

We’re serving a pinot noir with dinner and I’m looking forward to a relaxing evening.  Cheers!