Even for those of us in the food industry who spend the greater part of our lives cooking or baking professionally, when it comes to supper we’re often at a lost just like everyone else. It’s very easy living in a foodie city to succumb to the urge to simply eat out or pick up some takeout on the way home from work. I have at least four neighborhood restaurants on speed dial, and ever since I got a car with built-in bluetooth technology it’s even easier for me to call in an order on the drive home. But this is a very expensive habit, one which I have recently tried to curb–both for the sake of my pocketbook and for my waistline.
I’ve found the best way to do this is to spend a little time on the weekend stocking up on some essential meal components so I can pull together something satisfying and (hopefully) nutritious when I get home from work. I don’t always know what I’ll want to eat during the week, but if I’ve got a few staples stashed in freezer and a couple of ready-made dishes in the frig, I’m less likely to get lazy and resort to takeout. For example, I always try to make a big batch of pizza dough every couple of weeks so I’ll have a few dough balls in the freezer. I pull one to thaw in the frig when I leave for work in the morning so it’s ready to use that evening. Fire up the oven to 495°F, stretch out the dough on a well-oiled (olive oil, that is) sheet pan, top with it whatever you have in the frig or pantry, pop it in the oven for 10-12 mins…and voilà, dinner is served!
Another one of my favorites is chicken wings. Okay, they’re not quite as healthy as say chicken breasts, but they are extremely quick and easy to make, inexpensive, versatile, and leftovers make for a perfect next day lunch. I never get bored with them because there are endless possibilities when it comes to marinades–tequila lime, sweet and spicy Korean chili, citrus soy, five-spice, bbq, and my current obsession, a Filipino-style marinade inspired by lechon manok. I found recipe a few months ago for the deliciously savory Filipino classic whole roast chicken and made it several times. The method was pretty simple. Take a whole chicken, remove the backbone, then marinate it for a few hours in a fragrant mixture of ginger, garlic, black pepper, brown sugar, fish sauce, lemongrass, shallots (or minced red onion) lime or calamansi juice, rice wine vinegar, turmeric and bay leave. Fire up the oven to 450°F then tuck the bird into a big cast iron skillet and pop it in the oven for about 40 mins., then turn off the oven and leave the bird in there for another 20 mins. For the chicken wings, I like to lop off and discard the wing tips, then detach the drumette from the wingette at the joint and marinade the parts for at least 3 hours or overnight. To save time, you can throw everything in a ziploc bag the night before, then when you’re ready to cook them off set the marinated wings on a rack to drain off the excess liquid while the oven is preheating. Since the wings cook much faster than a whole chicken, I put the cast iron skillet in the oven while it’s heating up so that it’ll be sizzling hot when I put the wings in. The wings cook for about 20 mins. at 450°F, then I turn off the oven and turn on the broiler for 5 mins. to caramelize the surface of the wings. You can cook a pot of rice in the time it takes to roast the chicken wings. Stir fry some greens and you’ve got yourself a nice little supper in less than 30 mins.
Filipino-Style Marinated Chicken Wings
- 10 chicken wings, split
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp. grated peeled ginger root
- 1 Tbsp. minced shallot or red onion
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped lemongrass (or lemongrass paste)
- 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
- juice of one lime or calamansi (about 1 Tbsp.)
- 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 bay leaves
Puree in a blender the garlic, ginger, shallot, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime/calamansi juice, rice wine vinegar, black pepper, brown sugar and salt. Place the chicken wings and crushed bay leaves in a large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over them. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the wings to evenly distribute. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Drain off the excess marinade and let the wings come up to room temperature while the oven and cast iron skillet is heating. Cook the wings at 450°F for about 20 mins., then turn off the oven and turn on the broiler for 5 mins.
Now if you want to throw together a even speedier weekday supper, try cooking up a batch of rich meaty Turkey Bolognese over the weekend and stash a few pints in the freezer.
I pull a pint to thaw overnight in the frig, then heat it up and toss in some cooked pasta and grated Parmesan or Pecorino for a satisfying no-fuss meal…complete with a nice glass of red wine.
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1/2 cup half & half
- 5 small ripe tomatoes, chopped or 1 large can plum tomatoes
- 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dry oregano)
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 1 large sprig of basil
- olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family or friends, having these easy recipes in your arsenal can turn making supper into a relatively stress free, relaxing experience…instead of a maddening kitchen fail.