For Lou’s birthday feast this weekend we ended up with a very simple menu centering around your basic roast chicken. I’ve served roast chicken several times to these same guests and each time the way folks gush, you’d think that I had served the fanciest of gourmet dishes. For my family, roast chicken is rather ho-hum. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty, but we’ve had it so many times we often wonder what the big deal is. It’s just roast chicken. Is roast chicken everywhere else that bad?
When guests ask me about the recipe they’re always full of questions. Fancy pan? Rack? Spices? No, no, and just a little thyme added to the salt and pepper. Really? Yeah. 350°, breast side down for one hour, breast side up for another hour. A little olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, and thyme on it before it goes into the oven. That’s it and it doesn’t seem all that revolutionary to me, but dear reader, it is for them.
So, that’s the take home lesson this week. Sometimes simple really is best. Well, that and time really is your best ingredient. A little time to caramelize the sugars. A little extra time on the ferment to develop flavors. An extended moment to pause around the table with those you love and savor texture and flavor. Simple.
Last weeks’ menu was a resounding success. The kids knew exactly what we were having each night and reminded me along the way. I only had two questions about what was for dinner and I would just point to the board. Our birthday party guests even knew what we were having for dinner and found it entertaining. Hey, I aim to please.
I tried to prepare the kids a bit at the beginning of the week. We talked about how it’s not possible to make everyone’s favorite dishes all of the time. We talked about how sometimes the meal being served might not be something that you like, but that this is the way being in a family works. I also stressed the importance of trying new things, several times, because even if you didn’t like it in the past, you might like it today. There were fewer complaints and sad faces at the table. The biggest discovery? The kids *loved* the bleu cheese on Thursday’s salad. As in, can I have more please? Do you think it would taste good in the soup? I need more bleu cheese for my soup!
I put together most of this menu at the beginning of the week, but when finalizing things just before going grocery shopping, I tried to let this week’s lesson be my guide. Simple. Fewer ingredients and better planning so I can best take advantage of time’s special seasoning.
The broccoli soup is a carry over from last week since I subbed a frozen pizza in to give myself a bit of a break for some post-party rest. It’s still Soulemama’s recipe, but we’re going to have King Arthur Flour’s Back-of-the-Bag Oatmeal Bread to go with it instead of the focaccia.
I got my bibimbap recipe out of “The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen” by Laura B. Russell with maybe one addition I picked up from the recipe in the back of “Bee-Bim Bop!” by Linda Sue Park. If you have kids, I high suggest reading Park’s book with them before serving the dish for the first time. You’ll be amazed what kids will try when it’s related to a book they’ve read.
The meatloaf and glazed carrots are from Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions.” This is hands down the best meatloaf recipe I have ever had and we’re all really looking forward to it. The sesame greens is from “Feeding the Whole Family.”
Tomato soup and grilled cheese, like last week is your standard fare. The soup is Pacific’s Creamy Tomato Soup (Tetra-Pak) and the bread will be homemade, though I haven’t decided which recipe that will be just yet.
Spaghetti and salad is another old standby. The sauce was home canned, the salad will be a very simple greens and veggies sort of thing, and we’ll go with angel hair pasta because the kids love it.
The pork chops and creamed spinach both come from “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters and the apples I’m making up all by myself.
My family has made it clear that I need to make more muffins and bread. Specifically, they have reminded me that I really should stop buying bread at the grocery store. Some members of the family have requested that I stop serving frozen pizza and have home-made instead. I’m trying my best to comply with their wishes.
And that, dear reader, is what we’re having for dinner. What about you?