The title is a term used by a friend of mine to refer to those dinners that you know you like, that are easy to put together from stuff you usually have around and don’t take a ton of time or Kelleresque technique. For a long time I used various chicken sautés like this - sauté some chicken meat, deglaze, make a pan sauce, pour over chicken. Combine with some french bread and salad (or couscous, etc) and you have a quick, tasty, easy default dinner.
Well, lately I’ve been getting bored of the stuff I usually do. So… what are your default dinners? What do you cook during the week when you want a good meal but don’t feel inspired to dive into something complex?
Wagyu Rib-Eye or Strip, baked Russett Burbank tater or oven roasted Yukon Gold taters and Haricot Vert with roasted garlic. Standard option here…I had it last night along with a 2007 Herb Lamb EII Cab.
Like I have Wagyu hanging around the house at all times.
Fresh Caesar Salad with grilled Chicken Breast. I always seem to have all the ingreients in the house, even to make my own garlic croutons. Keeps the vampires away.
My kids favorite:
1-1/2 lbs gr beef
1 Tsp Dry Mustard
1 Tsp Poultry Seasoning
1/2 Tsp Thyme
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 Can Tomtato Soup
Brown meat, add remaining ingredients a nheat through 15 minutes
Toast buns under broiler, little mayo and a slice of cheese. Mmm mmm good.
Salmon & broccoli. I buy large salmon pieces from Costco & cut into smaller filets, which I wrap & throw into the freezer. Few minutes on each side under lukewarm water (while still wrapped in plastic), s&p then into the pan. Flip, add broccoli to pan & saute while the salmon finishes. One pan, healthy, clean. Deglaze for pan sauce if I’m in the mood.
I do this enough that I mix up the salmon prep–soy sauce, smoky spices/sauce, lemon-heavy, etc. This is usually dinner a couple times a week for me.
Pork chops, steak or chicken thighs, seasoned with my rub and grilled. Side dishes of fresh spinach sauteed with garlic-infused olive oil, and fresh tomatoes, halved, seasoned and topped with meyer-lemon infused olive oil and parmesan, then baked. Maybe one of those 5 minute cous cous packages.
This is a pretty subjective topic. What’s easy for one, may not be for another. That said… we keep a fairly well stocked freezer. There are always chicken breasts & thighs, pork tenderloin, shrimp, assorted sausages and various cuts of beef. We also keep homemade chicken and beef stock in the freezer.
My go-to dinners when I want to not think too hard include:
Grilled Chicken & Asparagus Caesar-style Salad
Shrimp & Sausage Paella (I love to make paella, so I always have bomba rice on hand)
Bacon-wrapped Shrimp & Grits with a butter chipotle sauce
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Assorted Grilled Vegetables (whatever I’ve got that can be grilled) with an Orange-Chipotle Sauce
Risotto is easy to do with whatever is in the fridge.
Pasta with whatever sauce is lurking in the freezer or a quick alfredo sauce.
Becca, bless your heart for saying Caesar-style. I’ve ranted about this before, and to my mind once you put stuff in it that wasn’t in the original recipe, it’s no longer a Caesar. It’s heart warming to see someone else who recognizes that.
I see lots of people are freezing meat, fish and poultry. I never do this. How do you make a quick dinner with a frozen piece of protein? Or you think ahead and defrost, but doesn’t it lose its juice/flavor? I have always had a joke: whatever goes into my freezer, never comes out (until I throw it out). Educate me.
In the morning I pull out whatever protein we are going to use that night. It thaws while I’m off living life. I haven’t found any issues with loss of juice or flavor. Of course, we turn our inventory fairly often.
I’m cooking for 2. We buy our chicken parts, pork tenderloin and shrimp at Costco. If I didn’t freeze my proteins, I’d be throwing most of it away. Two people only use about 6 to 8 oz of protein at dinner.
A frequent winter supper at my house is Benton’s country ham, cannellini beans, and broccoli rabe, drizzled with fruity olive oil and topped with Parmigiano.
You can use other greens - broccoli, broccolini, kale, escarole, mustard, whatever is on hand - but I like broccoli rabe best, thus keep it on hand. You can also use a different brand of country ham, or a different kind of ham altogether, or a different pork product like bacon or pancetta, but I won’t vouch for the results. And, obviously there are many choices for white (and other color) beans.
I cook about 6-8 ounces of ham (cut into bite-sized pieces) in a bit of olive oil with some diced onion (sometimes add garlic), then add a couple of cans of cannellini (drained) and heat through. At the same time, I steam a large bunch of broccoli rabe (trimmed and roughly chopped) until crisp-tender. Add the steamed greens to to the hot beans-and-ham and stir to mix. Season with pepper (no salt needed if you use country ham). Plate, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve.
Great with Chianti.
365 (Whole foods house brand) no-salt-added cannellini beans are excellent.
Benton’s ham: Order - Bentons Hams" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Place a salmon filet on a piece of tinfoil. Add olives, capers, sundried tomatoes (preferrably in oil), thinly sliced shallots and a dollop of grainy mustard. Drizzle with the oil from the sundried tomatoes, EVOO, or white wine. Seal package in foil. Grill on high heat for about 8 minutes and you are good to go.
Leaves virtually no mess to clean up and the variations are endless. You can do halibut (or any white, flaky fish with lemons slices, white wine, capers, and cherry tomatoes. You can substitute chicken breast, etc. etc. etc.
Guests flip over this dish and I just laugh cuz a trained monkey could pull this off.
One of my warm-weather quick’n’easy standbys is grilled sausages w/ mustard, coleslaw, and a baked potato or sweet potato. If I don’t have fresh sausages on hand, I always have Aidell’s Chicken & Apple - http://www.aidells.com/product/27" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; - in the meat drawer or freezer (expensive at the grocery, inexpensive at Costco).
I’m with you on this Merrill. It’s really not an issue of defrost time for me, but more one of purge, the loss of moisture when raw protein is thawed. Sausage is one exception for me but other than that, I refrain from freezing meat or fish.
That being said, I always have marinara frozen in quarts and usually there’s one thawed in the fridge. Pasta with some sort of riff on a tomato based sauce is my default. Match that with a large green salad and we’re done.