Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: December 28, 2010

Family spaghetti sauce with meatballs and Italian sausage; mixed green salad.

We had a rare treat tonight, as Chuck's parents, brother, aunts, uncle, and cousins joined us for dinner!  That side of the family always gets together at his Aunt Sharon and Rita's house, but tonight they bravely ventured from midtown out to the western suburbs.  We talked and talked and drank lots of red wine.  I don't think anything too scarily suburban happened (although I guess I might not even notice if it did).

My family's four-hour spaghetti sauce is a great way to feed a crowd.  All the meat cooks in the tomato puree and seasonings so at the end, you wind up with a very rich stew-like tomato gravy and--bonus!--only one pot.  (To feed fifteen, I used three pounds of ground chuck for meatballs and twelve Italian sausages.)  It's really very low effort and who doesn't like pasta and meatballs?

I hope we get to do this again, and I mean soon.  These people are fun and they bring the fun with them even if they do have to trek west. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: December 22, 2010

Roasted steelhead trout with roasted turnips and red onions over a bed of wilted spinach.

We keep on keepin' on here at chez Dinnertime.  Today was grey and cheerless, with nothing in particular to do after the boys' haircuts this morning.  Around 3 I thought, we need some cheering up--so I made a fire and put on Elf--le film and started looking for recipes, and this is what I came up with.

Tomorrow comes Nana Jean's memorial service.  We'll need some baking and like a cord of firewood to get us through.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: December 20, 2010

Chicken tacos.

The story of the chicken that went into these tacos goes back to Friday night.

We had big plans for the weekend:  a party on Friday, another on Saturday, friends to see and places to go.  We had all the grandparents conscripted as babysitters.  But on Friday morning, we got a call from my mother-in-law.  Chuck's grandmother Jean had become very ill, the prognosis was poor, she was in the hospital and would we be very upset if she had to cancel that evening's babysitting?

Well, needless to say our weekend plans changed.  On Friday evening, though, with Jean hanging in there, we still needed to go out and take care of some things.  So my parents stepped into the lurch, showing up on Friday afternoon with groceries.  "I'm making roast chicken," my mom said.  "Don't worry about it.  When do you think you'll be home?"  When we arrived home that night, we discovered that she had roasted not one, but two chickens.  "You might need the leftovers," she said.  "You can always freeze them."  Better yet, she hadn't thrown out the carcass of the one they had eaten.  I knew they would come in useful.

On Saturday, Jean was failing.  They had brought her home and the family had gathered to wait.  We rushed to get ourselves and the kids dressed and out the door and as we left, I thought, "is there anything we can bring over?"  Terrible, this time of year, to have an empty cupboard; I'd just finished grading papers, and there had been no time to bake (or to cook anything at all; I see the last time I posted here was December 7).  We hadn't yet even done the grocery shopping.  Then I remembered a complete roast chicken dinner I had frozen a while back.  The bird, vegetables, potatoes, everything sitting in its aluminum pan in the deep freeze.  I grabbed it and we went over to the house, where it became our offering.

Jean died early Sunday morning.  We will miss her awfully.  She was tough and funny and loving, the kind of grandmother who played ping-pong with kid-Chuck even when her hands were so gnarled with rheumatoid arthritis that she could scarcely hold the paddle.  The kind who didn't blink an eye when he brought over his Jewish girlfriend to meet her on Christmas Eve, the kind of grandmother who suggested it would be nice to light a menorah at her house on Christmas Eve when Chanukah fell at the same time.

Dinnertime still arrives, and someone still has to make dinner.  On Sunday, I took the chicken carcass left from Friday night, threw it in the crock pot with some celery, carrots, onion, potatoes, and herbs, and left it so no one had to worry about dinner.  Tonight, the other leftover chicken got stripped down and combined with scallions, lemon and lime juices, and canned diced green chiles for tacos. 

My friend Allison and I were talking about roast chicken the other day.  We both make it a lot, and we bring it everywhere:  when someone is sick or hurt, when someone has a new baby.  (And I remarked, if someone thinks my roast chickens are gross, they'd better tell me, because otherwise I'll just keep giving them away.)  It seems so irrelevant in many ways, really, all the cooking.  But when we came home on Friday to discover that my mom had left us roast chicken in the fridge, we both felt loved and cared for.  That's the feeling I hope people get when I leave them food.  It's how I hope my kids feel, or at least how they'll remember feeling when they look back someday.  Like someone cared enough about them to roast them a chicken sometimes, and then to turn the leftovers into tacos.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: December 7, 2010

Baked ziti.

This week I will be cleaning leftovers out of the freezer.  It's always an interesting exercise to go spelunking in there.  Last time I served this particular baked ziti (or, rather, its much younger self) the kids wouldn't eat it, but tonight they thought it was great.  I don't know what that says about my cooking.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: December 2, 2010

Latkes and applesauce.

Happy Chanukah!