It’s that moment when you find that the package of chicken you were counting on for dinner is two days past its “best by” date. Or the panic that hits you when you suddenly realize at the end of a hectic work-from-home day that you completely forgot to go to the grocery store. Moments such as these demand improvisation, and when catastrophe occurs, I have one Plan B that I can always count on—breakfast for dinner.
Even if it’s slim pickings in the refrigerator, there’s a very good chance I have eggs and few random vegetables. There’s always some kind of cheese in the deli drawer, and that already sounds like an omelet in the making, which is our go-to dish when we are looking at breakfast for dinner. But this time, I went all in on a big-flavor frittata, pulling together a Greek theme with spinach, onions and red bell peppers I found in the fridge, along with some feta cheese, kalamata olives, oregano and dill. And though frittatas—which are basically quiche’s crustless cousins—usually only have eggs and fillings, this one takes advantage of that half-bag of shredded potatoes I found in the back of the cheese drawer. OK, who’s hungry?
Turning random leftovers into a flavorful breakfast for dinner on a busy weeknight? That’s Comfort du Jour.
Simply Potatoes is a brand of pre-shredded potatoes, usually found in the refrigerated breakfast section of the supermarket, or sometimes in dairy (though I don’t know why). I use this convenience product when I make our favorite Easy Hash Brown Waffles, so I frequently have them in my fridge. If you prefer, use about two cups finely shredded fresh potatoes, but wrap them first in a clean towel and squeeze out as much water as you can. Better yet, skip the potato crust and make it a more traditional frittata. May as well keep it simple. 😉
For readers abroad, “half and half” is a common dairy ingredient in the U.S. that is essentially equal parts cream and whole milk. If you are minimizing fat in your diet, you may also substitute with evaporated whole milk.
This was simple to make, as you’ll see in the photos. If you’d like written instructions, or a downloadable PDF for your recipe files, keep scrolling.
Preheat oven to 350° F with rack in center of oven.
Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add chopped bacon and cook until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain off most of the bacon grease.
Sauté onions and peppers until slightly soft and translucent. Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
Add chopped spinach, one handful at a time, and cook until wilted. Transfer veggies to a separate bowl and set aside. Sprinkle with dried dill.
Increase the skillet heat to medium-high and drizzle in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the shredded potatoes to the skillet, using a spoon or utensil to press it into the sides. Cook the potatoes in the skillet for about five minutes, then transfer the skillet to the oven for about 20 minutes (or additional 10 minutes for crispier crust).
Combine eggs with half and half, whisking only until blended.
When potatoes are golden at the edges, spread the veggies over the crust, and then scatter the crispy bacon pieces.
Pour egg mixture evenly over the frittata filling. Crumble the feta evenly over the frittata.
Transfer to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until eggs are set and edges are pulled away from the skillet.
Cool about 5 minutes before cutting into wedges. Top portions with fresh chopped parsley and chopped kalamata olives.
After 30-plus years in the Southeast, I’ve come to appreciate many of the traditions, especially the ones related to food. There’s a particularly tasty tradition that occurs here in the fall, when churches, civic groups and Boy Scout troops set up giant, outdoor cast-iron kettles for their Brunswick stew fundraisers. They sign up volunteers, who take turns stirring the simplest of ingredients into a delicious aromatic stew, and folks arrive in droves to enjoy it by the bowl, and to take home quarts for freezing. It’s tradition and it’s delicious.
If you look into some of the old-time church cookbooks, you’d likely find Brunswick stew recipes that begin with fresh-caught rabbits or even squirrels, but (thankfully) my introduction to this homey, comforting soup was a chicken version, and that’s what I’m sharing today.
Brunswick stew is one of those comfort foods that tastes rich and hearty, but checks in on the low end of the fat-and-calories scale. Feel free to swap in other vegetables that suit your fancy—it’s what folks do in different parts of the South and depending on where you are, you might find potatoes, green beans or carrots in the bowl.
You can roast your own chicken if you’d like (overnight in the slow cooker makes amazing broth at the same time), but to keep it quick and simple, I’m using a rotisserie chicken this time, plus packaged broth, a few simple fresh and frozen vegetables, and a can of tomatoes. Whip up some corn muffins while it simmers, and dinner is served.
First, the essentials. This is a Southern classic comfort food, so the “holy trinity” of peppers, onions and celery is the foundation of the recipe. Any color bell pepper is fine for Brunswick stew, but I personally find the red and orange bells to be a bit on the sweet side, so I’m using a green bell.
Okra came to the Americas from Africa in the 1600s, and it remains a staple of Southern cooking. You’ll find it in many Cajun and Creole recipes in Louisiana, and it’s not unusual to see it breaded and fried, or even pickled, which I love in a Southern-style potato salad or on deviled eggs. The pectin in okra gives it some thickening power when it’s cooked in liquid, but some people are turned off by the slightly slimy texture. Two things can minimize this: don’t overcook it (for this recipe, it’s added at the end), and cook it in combination with tomatoes, which is what’s happening in this Brunswick stew.
If you make this stew in the late summer or fall, of course you would want to use fresh corn, lima beans and okra.
1 deli roasted chicken, dark and white meat shredded* (see notes)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups frozen lima beans
2 cups frozen sliced okra
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
2 to 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
A few shakes hot sauce (optional, Frank’s RedHot or Texas Pete recommended)
Salt and pepper, of course
If you prefer to roast your own chicken, more power to you! If you have time to work ahead, you might also want to make your own stock. Or you could make your own stock from the frame of the rotisserie chicken. After de-boning and shredding the meat, toss the bones and skin into a pot with cut-up onions, celery, carrots and just enough water to cover it all. Simmer a few hours then strain out the solids, and you’d have a great alternative to the packaged broth (or, at least, some of it).
If the pictures here seem to defy the ingredient amounts listed, there’s good reason for it—on this particular day, I only had half a rotisserie chicken, so I halved the entire recipe. The ratios are the same, and this stew is so satisfying and delicious, I’m already regretting that I didn’t run to the store for another chicken!
Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Swirl in olive oil. Sauté onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, shredded chicken and broth. Add bay leaf, reduce heat and simmer up to an hour.
Add frozen corn and lima beans, but reserve frozen okra until about 20 minutes before serving, to prevent the okra from breaking down too much. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper to your preference.
Stir in BBQ sauce (and hot sauce, if using), and add the okra to the pot. When the bright green color of the okra begins to fade a bit, it’s ready to serve!
Nothing makes me crave soup more than a snow day, or as is usually the case in North Carolina, an “ice day.” Like much of the U.S., we have been under threat of severe winter weather this week, and it finally arrived overnight in the shape of freezing rain. Bleh. Rather than stare out the window at the ice accumulating on the trees behind our home (beautiful, but dangerous), I’ve decided that I will make soup, and I am thankful once again to be cooking with gas. Power outages be damned, we will have a comforting bowl of something to eat. I wish I had a pot large enough to feed all of Texas this week.
Soup is a very forgiving meal, allowing you to use whatever you already have in the fridge and pantry, and this one is very true to that. A few cans of beans, some stock from a carton, basic vegetables and thick-sliced bacon comes together to create hearty, soul-warming goodness.
A few slices of thick-cut bacon, cubed (measuring about 1½ cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
Several carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
Salt and pepper
3 cans (15 oz.) white beans (cannellini, great northern or navy)
1 carton low-sodium vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 or 2 bay leaves
Heat a medium-size soup pot over medium heat. Toss the bacon cubes in the pot until all edges are crispy and fat is mostly rendered. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined bowl and drain off excess grease, keeping about two tablespoons of it in the pot. You’ll return the bacon to the soup after it is simmered and pureed.
Add the mirepoix (onion-celery-carrot) to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until onions are translucent and carrots are just tender.
Drain and rinse the canned beans and add them to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
Add vegetable broth, tomato paste and bay leaves. Stir to combine and bring soup to a low boil, then reduce heat, cover pot and simmer an hour or two.
Remove bay leaves and puree some of the soup, using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor. If the power is out and you’re cooking in the dark, use a potato masher. Blend as much or as little as you like; for me, this is usually about 2/3 smooth with chunks of bean and vegetable throughout.
Return crisped bacon to the pot and continue to simmer about an hour, until bacon is softened and its smoky flavor has infused the soup.
There has been a fresh and flavorful shift in our kitchen over the past couple of weeks, and it feels so right! My husband, Les, and I have been eating healthier after the holidays, not for keeping resolutions (we don’t bother with those), but out of simple desire to care for our bodies better after a season of splurging. Seafood has been the star of this menu reboot, and I’ve brought back into rotation one of my favorite all-time recipes, a seared fillet of fish rested on a mélange of tender sautéed fennel with creamy cannellini beans and sweet tomatoes.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll confess right here that I actually did not use salmon this time, but steelhead trout. This is a sweet and creamy fish, similar in texture (and appearance) to a farm-raised salmon, and when I can get my hands on steelhead trout, I love to swap it into favorite salmon recipes, including the salmon in phyllo dish that I shared in December. But steelhead trout isn’t always easy to find, especially while adhering to the best practice standards set by the Marine Stewardship Council (sustainability means a lot to me). The dish is every bit as delicious when made with your favorite salmon, which is usually much easier to find.
It looks and tastes more extravagant than it is, and although I’ve named it “fish with fennel,” it would be better described as fennel with fish, given that the fennel shows up in three different forms—the seeds are ground to a powder for crusting on the fillets, the vegetable is caramelized in the mélange beneath the fish, and the fronds are chopped and sprinkled on top.
Would it surprise you to know that you can have this meal on the table in about 35 minutes, start to finish? It’s true. And Les, who is practically a living nutritional calculator, announced after cleaning his plate that our meal probably checked in at fewer than 400 calories per serving, which is not too shabby for such a flavorful, satisfying meal.
2 portions salmon*, skin removed (see notes)
1 tsp. fennel seed, ground to a rough powder
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced* (should measure about 1 cup)
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (or canned, drained well)
1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth + 2 Tbsp. dry white wine* (or all vegetable broth)
15 oz. can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. fennel fronds, chopped or minced
Any type of salmon (wild sockeye, king, coho, etc.) works well in this recipe, but you might also consider swapping in another fish, such as arctic char or steelhead trout, which I used. If you are not comfortable removing the skin yourself, ask the seafood clerk to do it for you. Learn this task, and you’ll be unstoppable!
Fennel is a less common vegetable, one that you may have passed over in the supermarket for something more recognizable. It resembles something between celery and bok choy, but tastes nothing like either. It is crunchy with a slightly licorice flavor, and it pairs beautifully with all kinds of fish, especially when sautéed or stewed. The seed part of fennel might be more familiar to you. It’s the flavor that makes Italian sausage taste Italian.
If you use wine to deglaze the skillet, make it a dry one, such as pinot grigio. Alternatively, I frequently reach for dry vermouth, given that I always have a bottle open in the fridge. If you prefer to not use wine, just add another splash of vegetable broth, no problem.
Using a mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder, crush the fennel seeds to a rough powder. Don’t have either? Try putting the seeds into a bag and use a rolling pin to crush them. Season the fish fillets with kosher salt and pepper, then sprinkle the fennel powder onto both sides of the fillets and press to fully adhere it.
Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil. When oil is hot and shimmery (but not smoking), lay fish fillets into pan. Cook about two minutes, then carefully turn fillets to cook the other side another two minutes. Transfer fish to a small plate and keep warm. I usually slip it into the microwave while I make the mélange.
Add fennel pieces to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté, tossing occasionally, until fennel is caramelized and tender, about five minutes.
Add tomatoes, then broth, plus wine. Stir until combined and liquid is simmering.
Add beans and mustard. Toss to combine, reduce heat to low.
Return fish to the pan, resting the fillets on top of the mixture. Cover and simmer on low for about 8 minutes, which is just about enough time to set the table and chop the fennel fronds.
Plate the meal, with fish fillet resting on top of the fennel-bean mixture. Sprinkle the chopped fennel fronds on top and serve.
One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is an unexpected twist on a food from my childhood. I remember seeing a recipe card in some family member’s collection for a dish called “glumpkies” or “go-umpkees” or something like it. Who knows the story on the name of the dish, but I remember that I really liked these rolled up packages of seasoned meat and rice inside tender leaves of cabbage and smothered in rich tomato sauce. It was pure comfort food, and though I’ve made them plenty of times in their classic form, I much prefer this simple, one-pot interpretation.
My Comfort du Jour twist on stuffed cabbage is what you might call a “deconstruction,” and it makes the classic dish a lot more approachable with minimal effort. It’s a pain to pre-cook the cabbage for traditional stuffed rolls, and in many ways, it even feels dangerous. I’ve burned myself in some of my early attempts to make the rolled-up version, and in some other attempts I’ve ended up with too much of the cabbage head remaining, and limited options for how to use it because it’s been boiled. That certainly won’t work for cole slaw, and what else are you gonna do with a bunch of extra, partially-cooked cabbage?
One of the flavors I always associate with cabbage rolls is caraway, the same seed that gives deli rye bread a distinct seasoning. I don’t know where the caraway was introduced to this dish for me, but it adds a little something that really works with the rustic chunks of cabbage, tomato and ground beef. If your family has a favorite traditional season, consider how you might put your own spin on my recipe with those beloved flavors.
The rest of the ingredients are simple, and you only need a medium stockpot and about an hour of simmering to get it on the table. Enjoy!
1 lb. lean ground beef (90% lean is good)
1 tsp. caraway seed, crushed or milled in a spice grinder*
1 medium onion, rough chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cups green cabbage, rough chopped
15 oz. can diced tomatoes, preferably low sodium
Salt and pepper
1 32 oz. carton beef broth, preferably low sodium
Cooked brown rice for serving
Caraway seed is the same spice that gives rye bread a distinctive flavor. I’m not sure how I came to associate this flavor with stuffed cabbage rolls, but it is really delicious with the cabbage, tomato and meat. Substitute your own favorite flavor, or simply omit this ingredient. The soup will be delicious either way!
Press ground beef on a cutting board or parchment into a flat shape, about 1/2″ thick.
If you have a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, use it to crush or grind the caraway seed into smaller bits. This is not essential, but it contributes flavor without the seed texture.
Sprinkle the caraway powder or whole seeds all over the surface of the ground beef, and press to fully adhere it.
Place a medium, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Swirl in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and sauté until slightly softened and golden. Season with salt and pepper.
Tear off bits of ground beef and add them, only a few at a time, tossing in the hot oil to cook the edges before adding another small handful. Repeat until all ground beef is lightly browned. Avoid the temptation to add all the meat at once, as this will result in mushy meat rather than browned, individual bits.
Add the chopped cabbage to the pot and toss to begin cooking. Add tomatoes, sauce included.
Add beef broth and stir to combine. Allow mixture to come to a light boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer about an hour, until cabbage is tender.
I can’t remember exactly when I ditched boxes of potato flakes and started making mashed potatoes the real way for Thanksgiving (and every other time I wanted mashed potatoes). But I can say the process has evolved over the years. As my wife, Terrie, creator of this blog often says, cooking is about being inspired, taking chances and elevating your dishes. Just as I continue to try new methods and ingredients on the first dish I ever successfully created (chili), I’ve tweaked these garlic mashed potatoes over the past 20 years. In fact, they didn’t even start out as garlic mashed!
When I was growing up, I would sometimes take the baked potatoes my mother made, scoop out the innards, add margarine (Parkay, to be specific) and mash. It seemed to make them more tolerable.
For the current version, I’ve upped the ante by adding real butter, roasted garlic, our grated parm-romano blend and heavy cream, none of which were in the early year versions of this dish. About a decade ago, I decided to experiment with the potato mix. I loved Yukon Gold and had a hunch doing a 50-50 mix of Yukon and russet would work well. I was right. The garlic mashed I’m serving up here is a silky blend of flavor that kind of melts in your mouth. I usually add more butter than what the recipe calls for. Just because, as Terrie and I say about certain recipes, “There’s too much butter (or parm-romano blend, bacon, bourbon, chocolate). Said nobody. Ever.”
Preheat oven to 350° F. Roast the head of garlic by cutting off the top, adding oil (olive oil preferred) either from a bottle or a spray can. Wrap tightly in foil and roast for about an hour. You can check out Terrie’s post from yesterday for more detail and step-by-step pictures, but it goes like this:
Peel and dice the potatoes and heat stove-top on high. As the water begins to boil, add salt and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork. Drain potatoes and return to pot.
Add butter and heavy cream, add salt and pepper. Squeeze out the roasted garlic bulbs into the potatoes. Use a potato masher and mash by hand if you like. Or use a potato ricer if you like (before adding ingredients) for an even silkier texture. There was a time when I added the blend to a stand mixer, but I’ve since disavowed those years (the potatoes get too pasty).
As you mix, continue to taste, adding salt and pepper as needed, but also adding additional butter and/or cream if it feels too potato-ey. Add the grated cheese blend and continue to mash until it completely disappears into the mix, which won’t take long.
Serve with an additional pat of butter, gravy or your own preferred alternatives. Terrie is already eating it straight from the pot.
The blend of potatoes Les uses makes these so special because the Yukon golds are smooth and creamy, while the russets add a soft fluffiness. The roasted garlic and parm-romano add new levels of savory flavor. They are good for Thanksgiving, but we also make them as a side for more casual meals, such as meatloaf, steaks, pork chops and beer can roasted chicken. I confess that I’m always on the lookout for another new main dish that would be an excuse to make these again. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section. 🙂
We are inching toward a special day—and time of year—in Jewish tradition. Rosh Hashanah, in the simplest of terms, is the onset of the “High Holidays,” a 10-day celebration that concludes with Yom Kippur. The whole event is a spiritual reset button of sorts, a time for personal introspection leading to atonement. When I became engaged to my husband, Les, in 2016, I joined him for High Holidays services, and though I likely will not ever convert to Judaism, I love learning about this sacred part of my husband’s heritage. Going through the Hebrew readings and stages of reflection is something Jesus would have done as a regular practice (he was Jewish, remember?), and I have found that it gives me richer insight into my own Christian faith.
The fact that I am not Jewish, regardless of my stance on Jesus, earns me the unenviable title of “shiksa,” a Yiddish word politely translated as “a non-Jewish woman.” Some other definitions are less diplomatic and even derogatory, meaning something along the line of “sketchy non-Jewish woman who has taken romantic interest in a good, upstanding Jewish guy.” Yep, I’m guilty of all that! I take no offense, and our religious differences have never presented a conflict for Les and me. On the contrary, we find that it makes our relationship more interesting.
During our preparation for marriage, Les and I met a few times with Rabbi Mark, whom we had asked to officiate our small and informal ceremony. Over lunch, I mentioned how much I was enjoying exploration of the traditions, especially the foods. I had already learned to make latkes, one of the most recognizable Jewish foods (which I’ll share more about when we get closer to Hanukkah). Rabbi Mark made a recommendation for a next recipe to try—shakshuka. It’s fun to say (shock-SHOO-ka), and not the same as shiksa. 😀
I’d never heard of this, and neither had Les, so it was immediately placed at the top of the bucket list. Our first shakshuka turned out terrific, and when Les posted this picture of it to his Facebook page, he got an immediate thumbs-up from Cousin Caryn in Israel—“that is SO Jewish!”
Shakshuka is typically served at breakfast, so I’m counting it as part of my “better breakfast month” series, and it’s remarkably simple to make and flexible to accommodate a variety of ingredients. It usually begins with a thick tomato sauce base, though I’ve seen some interesting “green” shakshuka recipes on Pinterest. Any other favorite vegetables or ingredients can be incorporated, including cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, kale, peppers, onions, squash, chickpeas, or nearly anything else you have on hand. You stew it all together with Mediterranean spices in a cast-iron skillet, then you crack raw eggs directly into the sauce and simmer until they’re cooked to your liking, or (as I often do) slide it into the oven to finish.
The result is a savory blend of nutrition and flavor, hearty enough to satisfy your morning hunger, or for “breaking the fast,” because after the 24 hours of fasting and prayer at Yom Kippur, you’re gonna get pretty hungry!
The cool thing about shakshuka (as if the flavor and flexibility aren’t cool enough) is that you do not have to be Jewish to enjoy it! You may have seen a similar dish from Italy called “eggs in purgatory,” featuring the same stewed tomato foundation. Both dishes are likely drawn from nearby North Africa during the Ottoman Empire, and during that time, meat (not tomatoes) was the original main ingredient.
My produce and pantry inventory included everything I needed for a hearty shakshuka, and it landed on our table last night as breakfast for dinner on Meatless Monday. I couldn’t resist serving this with the soft pita breads that have become such a staple in our home.
Extra virgin olive oil (how much depends on what you’re adding)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in puree*
Depending on your taste, and your inventory, consider adding any of these ingredients. It’s your kitchen, and you can make your shakshuka as chunky or saucy as you’d like. For the most authentic experience of this dish, I’d recommend keeping with ingredients that are common to the Middle East, where shakshuka was born.
Up to 1 cup other vegetables, such as fresh cauliflower, fresh cubed eggplant, fresh chopped bell peppers
Up to 1 cup canned chickpeas or cooked lentils, or 1/2 cup in combination with your favorite vegetables (above)
Up to 2 cups fresh greens, chopped (they will cook down to small amount, so be generous)
Other flavor enhancers, such as olives, capers, spices, tomato paste, chile peppers
There’s so much tangy, rich sauce in this dish, you’ll want to have some kind of bread nearby for sopping. Pita is a great option, or any other kind of soft bread is just right.
I’ve never made the same shakshuka combination twice, but I tend to steer toward more body and texture when we are having it for dinner. And it always depends on what I find in the fridge. For this post, I used the basic ingredients, then reached into the fridge for some add-ins. Les made his fabulous pimiento cheese last weekend, and a half can of spicy Rotel tomatoes and a half jar of pimientos were still in the fridge. In they went, along with about a cup of chopped fresh cauliflower, 1/2 can garbanzo beans, a fat handful of chopped kale leaves, some briny olives and capers, tomato paste to thicken and harissa to add flavor and heat.
Harissa is a spicy paste-like seasoning that has origin in Northern Africa. It has hot chiles and garlic, plus what I call the three “C spices”—cumin, coriander and caraway. Harissa is common to Moroccan cuisine, and lends wonderful depth of flavor to stewed dishes like shakshuka.
Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Swirl in olive oil and sauté onions, cauliflower and any other firm vegetables until lightly caramelized.
Add garlic, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and any other add-ins that strike your fancy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For my recipe, I also added a little smoked paprika and ground cumin. Stir to combine ingredients evenly and cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes so that the tomatoes lose the “canned” flavor and mixture begins to thicken like a stew.
Use the back of a large spoon to create slight depressions to hold the eggs. Crack eggs, one at a time, into a custard cup and transfer them into the dents you’ve made, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, cover the skillet and simmer until eggs are set to your liking. Alternatively, you can slide the skillet into a 350° F oven and bake about 15 minutes, or until eggs reach your desired doneness.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or oregano and serve with soft pita breads or other bread for sopping all the shakshuka sauce.
So easy, even a shiksa can make it! Shakshuka is delicious, easy and economical. Serve it family style, and let everyone scoop out their own portion into a bowl.
Three favorite key ingredients, plus onions, garlic, butter and a splash of white wine—it sounds simple, because it is. This is a delicious entrée I like to call a “Sunday Supper” because there are a few extra steps that make it special without making it complicated. A recipe that takes a little more time is what I love, in part because it feels relaxing to prepare food slowly with more intention, but mostly because as the meal develops and the house becomes increasingly filled with savory aromas, it creates a tension and anticipation that isn’t often present with a quickly cooked weeknight meal.
The result of the extra care and patience required for this dish is well worth the time and effort—tender, juicy bites of chicken with a rich, onion-y mushroom gravy-like coating. It’s satisfying and comforting, in a way that only a home-cooked meal can be. You can taste the love in this kind of food. The mushrooms contribute an earthiness that is not overwhelming, and the freshly squeezed lemon, thyme and white wine give the impression of something far more gourmet than the simple instructions I’m about to describe.
I prefer to make this recipe on the stove in a skillet because it’s usually just me and my husband at the dinner table, and I like to keep my counter space open. But if you are doubling the recipe and happen to have a large electric skillet, that would be a terrific option—provided it has a cover, which is an important part of finishing the recipe. I’ll walk you through preparation of the dish, but if you’re ready to dive straight into it, you can scroll to the bottom to download a printed copy of the recipe. But then, of course, you’d miss the pictures. 🙂
Here’s how to make it.
First, the chicken breasts are sliced and pounded thin to ensure tender, uniform pieces. I do this myself at home because it’s an easy way to save the extra cost of pre-sliced cutlets. It’s OK if you don’t have a meat tenderizer; you can use the bottom of a small pot to do the same. Next, season the pieces with salt and pepper and a couple of pinches of dried thyme. It’s important to do this first, because you want the seasoning in the chicken—not just on the coating. Then drag the cutlets through some seasoned flour and let them rest while chopping a sweet onion and a couple cloves of garlic.
Clean and slice a full package of fresh mushrooms. It may seem overkill for a four-serving recipe, but they cook down considerably and they are a key component of the dish. My favorite type is cremini (sometimes called baby portabella, though technically they are not), but white button mushrooms or shiitake would work fine as well. Are you on the fence about the right way to clean mushrooms? I used to be afraid that rinsing them would make them soggy, but I learned a few years ago that mushrooms don’t absorb much water unless you soak them (thank you for that, Alton Brown!), so go ahead with a thorough cold water rinse then use a clean paper towel to dry them and wipe away any remaining debris. Finish the prep by trimming the stems and slicing them into 3/8” thick, perfectly uniform slices. Say what? Here’s how to do the slicing part in less than one minute:
My egg slicer is made of metal, with cutting wires that are sturdy enough to tackle slicing mushrooms and strawberries, and I love that I get clean, uniform slices with minimal effort. Maybe someday I’ll use this thing to slice eggs. If you don’t have an egg slicer, use your best sharp knife, and don’t sweat over the thickness—just slice them as evenly as you can, but not paper thin.
The onions go into a heated skillet with olive oil, but you’ll notice in the photos that I don’t take them very far toward caramelization. You want them to be nice and soft, so keep the heat in the medium-low range and cook just until they soften and begin to look translucent. Add the mushrooms in batches and cook them without crowding the pan. These guys give off a lot of moisture when they cook, and if you have too many at once, they will steam rather than brown. Take your time, and when the first handful of mushrooms reaches that “lightly browned” stage, move them aside and add another handful. When the whole batch is finished, add the chopped garlic and sauté briefly, then transfer the mixture to a bowl.
Give the cutlets another quick dip through the seasoned flour while you melt butter in the same skillet. It’s not unusual for the flour to absorb moisture from the chicken during the initial rest, and they should be completely (but lightly) coated before they hit the hot butter. This will create a roux-like coating on the chicken, and the broth you add later will break that down into delicious gravy as it simmers.
When the butter is melted and bubbly, carefully arrange the cutlets into the pan in a single layer, again taking care not to crowd the pan. Depending on how many pieces you have, this may need to be done in batches as well. Turn the cutlets over when they are a nice golden brown on the underside, and stack them on top of each other when both sides are done, to make room in the pan for any remaining cutlets.
Remove the browned cutlets and rest them on top of the reserved mushroom-onion mixture. This will make room for you to de-glaze the skillet, bringing all the beautiful browned bits back into the dish. Reduce the heat to low, then working quickly, pour in the white wine and use a whisk or other utensil to scrape up those flavorful remnants. Squeeze in the lemon juice and swirl the pan to combine. Place the chicken cutlets back into the skillet and pile the mushrooms and onions on top. Carefully pour in chicken broth, but only enough to slightly cover the chicken. Give the skillet a gentle shake to help the broth get under and around the chicken, then cover the skillet and walk away.
The chicken will simmer at this low temperature for 35 to 40 minutes. It will be fully cooked well before this time, but the long simmer will result in the tenderness and richness I described at the beginning. What’s great about a recipe like this is that while the magic is quietly happening in the skillet, I have time to tidy up the prep dishes, set the table and enjoy a glass of wine with my husband. This is also a good time to prep whatever vegetable or salad I plan to serve. When the main dish is more involved, as this one is, I usually opt for a simple vegetable side. The lemon mushroom chicken deserves center stage.
For this meal, I roasted fresh asparagus. If you are cooking asparagus some other way, I will be so bold as to declare you have been missing out! Try roasting once and you’ll see what I mean. Rinse and trim the stalks, arrange them on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roll them around to coat. Give them a little salt and pepper to taste, and pop them into a 400° F oven for 15 minutes. They should be slightly tender and retain a bright green color. Easy, yet so elegant.
And there you have it—this “Sunday Supper” dish takes a little more time than an average weeknight meal, but the payoff for your patience is a tender portion of delicate chicken, covered in savory mushrooms and fully enveloped in a rich, gravy-like coating. We like this on its own with a fresh roasted vegetable or salad, but it would also be beautiful on top of your favorite mashed potatoes, rice or linguine.
1.5 lb. package skinless, boneless chicken breast (or same weight of prepared thin cutlets, if you prefer)
Salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, sliced into crescent shapes
8 oz. package fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 or 3 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (cold from the fridge is fine)
1/3 cup dry white wine (I use pinot grigio, or sometimes dry vermouth as substitute)
1 fresh lemon
1/2 to 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (use enough to just cover the browned cutlets)
It’s only been three weeks since our state went into lockdown over the COVID-19 risks, but it sure seems like I’ve been rationing fresh food items a lot longer than that. We’ve managed to only do our grocery runs about once every 10 to 14 days since the middle of March, when the walls first started to close in. And the consequences of our few-and-far-between trips became evident a few nights ago when I reached for the “brand-new” package of grape tomatoes I’d purchased, and found this:
If that isn’t disappointing enough, imagine my horror when I peeked into the crisper drawer to find another so-called fresh item to be way past its prime.
I know. Kind of like those pics all over Instagram of celebrities without their makeup. Our produce drawer has been so jam-packed these past weeks, it has become a real challenge to keep up with the fresh ingredients we’re buying in greater quantity than usual. This discovery of wrinkly tomatoes and shriveled zucchini wrecked my plan for making ratatouille, one of my very favorite vegetable-centered dishes. I’m not even going to show you a picture of the eggplant. It’s rough, people.
So, a change of plans, but this need not be a disaster. I’ve been here before with the tomatoes and knew I could save them. With a little patience and the magic of slow poaching in some good quality olive oil, you can do it, too. We’re going to turn these sad little misfit vegetables into something delicious. This recipe serves two.
Let’s Get Cooking!
One pint really wrinkled baby tomatoes (of course, fresh is good, also!) 1/2 cup chopped onion (I like sweet ones, but use whatever you have) 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp. Italian blend herb seasoning About 1 1/2 cups leftover cooked chicken (shredded scraps from a rotisserie market chicken is perfect) 1 medium shriveled-up zucchini (or fresh, if you must) Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper Parm-Romano cheese for serving
First things first—we need to identify any tomatoes that truly shouldn’t be used. If they are wrinkled and a bit withered, they’re OK. Soft, oozing or moldy? Sorry fellas, you’ve been chopped.
Rinse the tomatoes that remain and set them aside on a paper towel to absorb the excess water. Place a large, non-stick skillet over very low heat and add the full amount of olive oil. It’s going to seem like a lot, but it’s all good.
Add the onions, garlic and baby tomatoes to the olive oil and tilt the pan around to “roll” and coat the tomatoes in the oil. Add the Italian herbs, and season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Keep the heat to a bare minimum. This super-slow pace might feel a little awkward if you are accustomed to sautéing in oil. We’re doing something else—rehydrating the tomatoes should not be rushed, and I can’t emphasize enough that your heat should be at the lowest setting your burner allows. You don’t want to see or hear any sizzling at all; if you do, it’s too hot. The pictures in this slideshow are time-stamped, and the captions will help explain how this should progress:
Pretty awesome, right? And you wouldn’t believe the depth of aroma and flavor the olive oil is able to extract from those sad little tomatoes. Actually, it’s more than that; studies have shown that cooking tomatoes in oil releases more of their lycopene, an antioxidant linked to heart health and protection against certain types of cancer. And to think, we almost threw them away!
If you only had the tomatoes, you could stop right here, toss this sauce with some freshly cooked pasta and call it dinner (just add a sprinkle of parmesan and a glass of wine). But today is also the deadline for that pitiful zucchini, so I’m going to take this a step further and turn the squash into “noodles.”
One day soon, I’ll share my honest opinion about the different spiralizers I’ve tried. They definitely are not created equal, and although you’d think the expensive ones would be the best, I usually prefer this little gadget—called a “Vegetti”—that I picked up for about $6 at TJMaxx (a couple years ago—you know, when things were open).
It has two sides: one for thick spirals and one for thin. I’m using the thick side today, and as you can see, after twisting the zucchini through it, there’s very little waste. Just the butt ends and these cute little swirly buttons. Lucky for me, even these will not be wasted because our dog, Nilla, is certifiably crazy about vegetables. Sweet girl has such patience.
We’re now in the homestretch, where we will see the final transformation of too-far-gone vegetables turned into a delicious and healthful, zero-waste meal. I’m scattering my leftover chicken pieces over the top of my luscious poached tomato sauce, then the zucchini noodles, salt and pepper, and covering it with a lid to heat it through.
Turn up the heat about two notches to medium, set the table and pour the wine. By then, this one-skillet meal will be ready to be tossed and plated. Enjoy!
There’s a reason “tomato bisque” is on so many restaurants’ menus. It’s a classic comfort food, and so simple to make from regular pantry ingredients you’ll wonder why you ever settled for the stuff in a can. My version includes a bit of red bell pepper and carrot for a touch of extra flavor and sweetness. This is perfect on a chilly day or rainy night, and we love to pair it with a tuna on homemade rye or classic grilled cheese sandwich.
Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped (I like sweet onions, but yellow works well here, too)
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. Italian herb seasoning (or some combination of oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary)
A pinch of crushed red pepper
28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible)
1/2 cup vegetable broth or 3/4 cup V-8 juice
1/4 cup whole milk, half-n-half or heavy cream (omit or substitute canned coconut milk if vegan)
Freshly grated parm-romano cheese blend (omit for vegan) and chopped parsley or basil for serving
cutting board and knife, heavy-bottomed tall pot, flat wooden utensil or spoon, immersion blender*
Let’s Get Cooking!
Place a deep, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add a generous swirl of olive oil (about 2 to 3 tablespoons). When oil begins to shimmer, add onion, pepper and carrot all at once. Salt and pepper to taste, then stir and cook until all begin to soften. Add chopped garlic and seasoning blend, stir and cook another minute or two until onions seem slightly translucent.
Add the plum tomatoes, using your hand to squeeze each tomato into the pot. This helps release the juices and gives them a head start on breaking up in the pot. Squeeze slowly and gently so you don’t wear it! Add all the tomatoes plus all remaining liquid from the can, but discard any basil leaves that may be in the can. Add broth or juice, stir to mix evenly and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered on medium-low about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Adjust seasoning to taste.
When mixture appears less chunky and somewhat reduced, turn off heat and use an immersion blender to puree until mixture is as smooth as you like. Simmer on low another few minutes to allow air bubbles to disperse and soup to reduce to your preferred thickness. If it’s too thick, stir in a bit more vegetable broth. Remove from heat and swirl in milk or substitute. Ladle into bowls and swirl a drizzle of olive oil over the top of the soup and sprinkle with parm-romano cheese and fresh chopped herbs as you like.