Without a solid foundation, just about anything is destined for failure. Houses. Businesses. Marriages. Even the weeknight dinner. Having recently returned to a more traditional work schedule, I’ve revisited the notion of a building a sturdy foundation for the weeknight dinner plan. That chicken you see above is this week’s foundation. Starting on Sunday night, I roasted up a bird with aspirations of stock and soup for the week to come. While tweetie roasted, I began making this lovely lentil and quinoa pilaf. The recipe makes enough for lunches, so I’d tackled that problem as well. I wanted to make reference to two birds/one stone here, but there’s only one bird in this story…you get the idea.
Not the least bit coincidentally, the pilaf includes vegetables you’ll need later in the week. The fennel will be used for as a side for a dinner with roasted halibut. The leftover cauliflower also provides a nice side, simply steamed and tossed with olive oil and sea salt. Done. Another dinner down.
When Sunday night dinner was over, I picked the rest of the chicken meat from the bones and set it aside in the refrigerator. It would be added to soup later in the week. While my husband cleaned up the dinner plates, I did what I do best – continued to make a huge mess. I pulled down the slow cooker and tossed the chicken carcass in it with the makings for my basic chicken stock. In this particular case, I skipped the thyme and instead sliced up a 3″ piece of unpeeled scrubbed ginger. This addition gave the broth a gentle but pervasive heat that would compliment the soup I intended to make later in the week. I put the slow cooker on low and let it bubble away all night. In the morning, I turned it off, strained it and set it in the fridge to chill. Does this sound like a lot of work? It’s really not. It’s mostly the planning. I swear these steps just take a few minutes.
No slow cooker? No problem. Just set the chicken carcass in a pot with the rest of the ingredients, bring it to a boil, then let it simmer uncovered for the rest of the evening as you fold laundry, pack lunches, put away laundry, pay bills, put in yet another load of laundry and maybe even watch some mindless reality TV. Strain and refrigerate before you finally collapse into bed.
Once the chicken stock was nice and cold, I skimmed off the fat that had risen to the top and it was ready to use. It made a terrific base for this coconut lime soup, which is not only tasty but practically brainless in terms of execution. By late in the week, I’m tired and lazy. This was just the right end-of-week answer to the question that, much like the laundry pile, never seems to go away: What’s for dinner anyway?
What’s in Season?
What’s for Dinner?
- Simple Roast Chicken with Lentil and Quinoa Pilaf
- Roasted Halibut with Wine-Braised Fennel
- Coconut Lime Soup with Chicken and Rice Noodles
1 head garlic
4 medium fennel bulbs
1 yellow onion
1 small head cauliflower
6″ fresh ginger root
5 oz. shiitake mushrooms
1 small bunch scallions
* Can be made from scratch (recipe linked) or purchased in store. Choose low-sodium varieties if purchasing in store.
3-4 pound whole chicken
2 pounds halibut