Weeknight Dinner Recap: Volume XXXVI
Welcome to the thirty-sixth Weeknight Dinner Recap! A hearty week of meals that got our tastebuds sizzling and our protein-loving souls soothed. This was a week of dinners that really showcased the versatility of meat as we partnered with the great William and Co. Foods of Boston. If you’re interested in learning more about them, please let me know!
Also, we’d like to take moment and say how proud and impressed we are with everyone who ran the Boston Marathon and the thousands of volunteers who helped with the event. The weather was atrocious, to say the least, and yet everyone showed up and did their best - and an American woman won the marathon for the first time since 1985! Truly incredible! OK, enough with my awe. I hope you got to watch some of the race!
From burgers to chops and even carnitas, this week’s dinners really offered a little something meaty for everyone. So, apologies in advance if you don’t cook meat, don’t eat meat, or just don’t like it, you may not love these dishes. However, you may enjoy some of the toppings, sauces, and garnishes, so I recommend sticking around! You never know what you’ll learn or even be inspired by from these dishes.
Let’s get to the plates! My tummy is rumbling just thinking about them...
Sunday’s Dish: Chicken Parmesan with Tagliatelle
Recipe: Surprise! We did not use an official recipe, just our general knowledge on chicken parmesan after consuming it many times over the years. Thankfully, it's a pretty direct set of ingredients and variations are welcome. For this one, we stuck to a pretty traditional combination and cooking process.
GFMD: Remember to use gluten free breadcrumbs! We used Aleia's Artisan Foods GF Italian breadcrumbs to coat the chicken cutlets. And if you're serving with pasta, then of course use your favorite GF brand. As usual, we used Jovial Foods tagliatelle to serve alongside.
Outcome: This dinner was in honor of the Boston Marathon! One of my favorite days of the year, this historic event means a lot to me so we had to honor the runners and volunteers by serving one of our favorite carb-filled meals. And is there anything more comforting than a hearty chicken parmesan? I'm not sure! Piping hot with layers of mozzerella and homemade tomato sauce, this dinner was the epitome of Italian comfort food on the night before the marathon.
Did we run the marathon? Ha! No. But over the years I've known many wonderful people who have run the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston (my dad ran it many years ago!) and am always in awe of their determination, effort, and major athletic ability. I'm a frequent gym-goer and do run, but I'm not exactly in the mindset of becoming a marathon runner. Ever.
I appreciate those who put in the months of grueling training and will always support them every step of the way, but I'm pretty happy cheering from the sidelines and buying new sneakers in solidarity (I do that yearly!).
The best aspects of this incredible meal? The super-melty mozzarella and the homemade tomato sauce! Seth made his own sauce by simmering anchovies, shallots, and a little garlic together, then adding San Marzano tomatoes and cooking it all until the flavor was just right. So scrumptious and made our kitchen smell incredible!
For the chicken parm itself, we pan-fried chicken coated in Italian breadcrumbs, then topped each piece with tomato sauce, sliced, fresh mozzarella, and shredded mozzarella for the ultimate finished product. The last trick? Put the pan of cheese-covered chicken in the oven under the broiler until that cheese is bubbling and gets a tiny bit of brown on top. That makes it truly fabulous. And honestly, that is the part that makes this dinner very indulgent and absurdly yummy. :)
Monday’s Dish: Mushroomy Cheeseburgers with Caramelized Onions paired with oven-baked sweet potato wedges.
Recipe: Cherrybombe the Cookbook, recipe by Erin Fairbanks.
GFMD: Just make sure to use a gluten free hamburger bun, or skip it altogether! We used Udi’s gluten free buns, but decided next time we will skip them in favor of homemade or using a lettuce wrap. Whatever works for you! The rest of the recipe is entirely gluten free!
Outcome: Where to even begin? The perfectly caramelized onions? The melt-in-your-mouth beef that was mixed with mushrooms before being grilled? The cheddar and avocado accents? Or the sriracha mayo added to both sides of the bun that acted as the pop of bright flavor to round out an immensely satisfying meal? I simply cannot pick!
This cheeseburger landed on our “menu” this week because we’ve partnered with William and Co. Foods and I wanted to showcase their awesome ground beef that’s perfect for burgers and is a meal that I’m sure graces the table of many homes on various nights of the week! While we don’t make cheeseburgers too often, when we do it’s time to go big or go home. You know that phrase, right? So we went BIG.
I found the recipe in a very hip cookbook Cherrybombe, which features recipes from over one hundred influential women. This cheeseburger recipe stood out to me based on title alone, and the photo next to it. Let’s face it: I’m an easy sell, especially when it comes to amazing versions of classic foods.
Not only was it the beef mixed with mushrooms that made this burger incredible, it was the accompanying toppings that made it pop. Cheddar (from Cabot Creamery) and caramelized onions, two of my all-time favorite burger necessities, shined through every bite and made my mouth water immediately. Those onions were spectacular! And I love that we had some leftover because I’m definitely going to add them to my scrambled eggs. ☺️
We decided to add avocado slices to incorporate a cool element to the stack and let’s just say that was the right decision. It didn’t overpower anything else, but gave the right burst of “green” amidst the otherwise very-indulgent dinner. Plus, who doesn’t love avocado added to their meals whenever possible? Yum.
And that sriracha mayo. The recipe called for a similar version using ketchup, but we don’t keep ketchup around any more (I know, relax), and so I did the next best (better) thing: sriracha! I mixed a hearty amount with some mayo and the result was a perfect, slightly-spicy sauce that really was the “icing” on our proverbial cake. Cake being the cheeseburger tower. ;)
Just a quick note on the bun: we bought Udi’s gluten free hamburger buns for the purpose of creating a whole “look” for the burger even though we haven’t had the best experiences with them in the past. However, we pan-grilled them with a little melted butter so that they got a little crispy which worked well!
I did like these buns and was surprised that they mostly held together, supporting the massive burger stack. But in truth, we will probably go another bun route next time for the sake of health (these were not exactly minimally processed) and our own preference. Udi’s buns did their job (deliciously unhealthy), but for my own burgers I’ll skip them next time around and go bunlesss or with a lettuce wrap. Or maybe I’ll try and make my own! Only time will tell... 😎
Of course, a cheeseburger like this one isn’t exactly the picture of perfect health, but it was all-natural with amazing, high-quality ingredients, and entirely gluten free! So I’ll give it a pass and enjoy because it was definitely one of the most delicious burgers I’ve EVER eaten. 😮
Tuesday’s Dish: Cumin Lamb Chops with Charred Scallions and Peanuts, side of Smashed Cucumber Salad with Hot Vinegar
Recipe: Lamb Chops recipe is from Dining In by Alison Roman. Cucumber salad can be found online at Bon Appètit, recipe by Chris Morocco.
GFMD: Cheers! This dinner was entirely gluten free! No modifications or replacements necessary.
Outcome: If you’re in the mood for a super-flavorful, “mixed media” type of dinner, then this is the one for you! Also, it’s low-carb, so you know, hooray for that, too! But mostly, it’s delicious and that’s what matters most of all.
Since we had not made lamb chops at home before, I was interested in watching the prep a little more closely than usual as Seth sliced up the chops and moved forward with seasoning. The fun part was using our mortar and pestle for its intended use! What? It’s not just a pretty paperweight? I kid, I kid.
This recipe called for blending together cumin seeds with a number of other ingredients so we hand-blended it all into a powder-ish substance using the mortar and pestle. Even before we started cooking, there was such a pleasant aroma wafting through the kitchen! But then, once we coated the lamb chops with the blend and starting cooking, the kitchen's scent got even better. ;)
The lamb chops, cooked to perfection, were immensely delicious and juicy. And the topping of charred scallions and peanuts was just awesome and a great compliment to the meat. I was definitely scraping up the leftovers from the pan after dinner; I have no shame. ;) Also, charred scallions? Amazing.
Lamb chops should be served with something that goes with them well, which could be any number of options. We opted for an easy Smashed Cucumber Salad, which was really yummy and was a nice, spicy pairing to the chops. However, next time we need something bigger (as well as the salad). I won’t lie: I was still a bit hungry after dinner since we didn’t include a starch or carb-y side. Just something to keep in mind for next time!
If you haven’t made the jump to having lamb chops like these at home, then I think you’re missing out! Incredibly juicy and pretty simple to cook, these were a delicious weeknight meal that offered major flavor without major effort. And isn’t that the best part?! Besides, they look very cool so make sure to whip these up for your friends for a great dinner party option. They are sure to be impressed. ;)
Wednesday’s Dish: Sous vide carnitas tacos with salsa verde, pickled red onion, queso fresco, and lime.
Recipe: For the carnitas we used the recipe from the book Guerrilla Tacos by Wesley Avila with Richard Parks III and for the salsa verde and pickled red onions we used the book Tacos: Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman.
GFMD: Make sure to buy or make corn tortillas for your tacos because other than that, these babies are entirely gluten free! We made corn tortillas using Corn Masa Flour (from the brand Goya) that was labeled gluten free. And now we have a giant bag of Masa in our home. :)
Outcome: Let me start by saying that this meat, this amazing pork shoulder, cooked for days. So by the time it was ready and time to eat, I was incredibly excited and relieved. Finally, it was taco time!
Using the sous vide cooking method, the pork cooked very slowly (in air tight bags) in a warm water bath, for a few days. Literally. Now, that setup isn’t exactly pleasing to the eye on your countertop for that long, nor is the quiet humming of the device keeping the temperature on track, but it’s the things we do when we need to eat carnitas. At home. Thank goodness, the meat came out perfectly!
Since we do everything from scratch as much as possible, Seth decided on making salsa verde and pickled red onions for our topping options (along with queso fresco and chopped raw onion). Major yum! The salsa verde seemed fairly spicy on its own, but amazingly it calmed down against the carnitas. The spice suddenly wasn’t as strong, but the overall flavor was awesome and was a great compliment to the meat.
If you need any pickled red onions, then let me know. Following the recipe, we now have pickled red onions for a party of 75. Super delicious, and super perfect on top of carnitas, these flavorful slices are going to be used for a variety of other dishes for a while. They’re easy to make and just chill in your fridge until you need them. Plus, the color is incredible! I’ll never say no to a pop of pink on my plate. :)
What was even more special than the homemade carnitas (remember to broil it to get the meat nice and crispy) and the homemade toppings were the from-scratch tortillas that Seth made shortly before we ate!
Using gluten free corn masa flour (naturally GF), he was able to quickly whip up the dough that was then formed into balls which were turned into tortillas on our tortilla press! Voilà! So fresh and delicious, we got the edges a little crispy by throwing each one on an open flame on the stovetop (very quick process!). These were the perfect base for this ultimate taco dinner.
Are we going to make tacos again? You bet! Are we going to sous vide again, despite the days of waiting (and minimal overall effort)? I’m sure!
What I love about taco nights is that they are so customizable in terms of flavors and how we can make super fresh, super delicious food (from scratch) using very few ingredients. It’s just fantastic. Care to join us for carnitas next time? :)
Thursday’s Dish: Sous vide lamb ragu over gluten free farfalle
Recipe: The lamb ragu recipe is from Anova Culinary, which is a brand of precision cooker used for the sous vide method. While our device is not from this brand, their website offers numerous great recipes from their customers. I can’t wait to try others that we found as well!
GFMD: This beautiful meal is naturally gluten free! No modifications necessary. We used gluten free pasta, of course, but otherwise did not need to change one morsel of the ragu recipe. Hooray!
Outcome: Once again, our patience was a virtue and the days of waiting for our incredible lamb were well worth it! The sous vide method is not difficult, but it requires a little effort in the way of planning. However, some planning ahead and basically no cooking effort behind an amazing meal is pretty much a nightly dinner goal, right?
Following the recipe, we placed one lamb shank each into three, large plastic bags and divided up the rest of the ingredients into each one. Along with chopped carrots, celery, and onion, the bags included red wine and veal stock. What looked somewhat strange initially, and I was skeptical, turned into something magnificent and smelled of pure joy by the time we ate.
Once it was time to remove the lamb and accompanying parts from the large pot they’d been in for two days, we added everything to a small sauce pan on the stove and let the juice/sauce simmer down for a bit before eating. Oh, wow! That smelled incredible!
The scent reminded me of eating something joyful in the corner of a cozy restaurant, deep in the throes of winter. Thankfully, winter has finally (we hope) come to an end and we're able to eat this amazing dish in the comfort of our own home! I love going out, but sometimes it feels even more luxurious to have these ultra-rich-and-delicious dinners at your own kitchen table.
Not only was the flavor of the ragu pretty darn fantastic, it went so well with the gluten free farfalle (love those bow ties!). While we considered making our own fresh pasta to go with it, time ran away from us, and for this instance we used our favorite store-bought GF pasta instead. Next time though, homemade pasta would be a seriously sumptuous addition to this already pretty perfect meal. I can smell it already!
A fun final note on this dinner: if you remove the sprinkle of parmesan on top, then this bowl is entirely dairy free as well! Just something to keep in mind... :)
Friday + Weekend: Cheers to the weekend and some much-needed beautiful weather! For the first time in months, we were able to take long walks and spend lots of time outside without getting cold - or needing a heavy jacket! Rejoice! It was time to soak up the sun and welcome the spring that has certainly taken its sweet time arriving. But now, I think it has finally, finally joined us for good (fingers crossed).
Notable weekend meals: we grabbed dinner Friday night at Legal Sea Foods and shared GF fried clams as well as a few types of sushi. If you haven't had the sushi at Legal before, then I highly recommend it! Much of it is offered gluten free and they have GF soy sauce available.
Saturday was beautiful so after a stroll on Newbury Street and some errands, we got delicious gluten free sandwiches from the Avenue Deli in Lexington and ate them while sitting on a park bench - hooray for spring! That deli always carries GF bread and they take precautions to ensure the sandwiches are kept safely away from the other non-GF items. And each one is served with a big, half-sour pickle!
At night, we celebrated the anniversary of our engagement (3 years ago!) with cocktails and snacks at The Bancroft (of course). Delicious as always and I'm beginning to think they recognize us since we're there almost every weekend. Oh well!
After meal planning and shopping on Sunday, we embraced the outdoors and soaked up some sun (wearing SPF of course). And! We went to Abbott's Frozen Custard that just opened a new location in Lexington! Offering a number of GF flavors, I stuck with classic vanilla and loved it. The line was out the door and continued to grow as we had our sweet treats in the afternoon sun. So worth it. I can't wait to go back! FYI - they also have a location in Brighton Center!
All in all, our weekend was filled with the usual fun of going out to eat, some long walks and time spent outdoors, plus planning the coming week's dinners. Sure, there's a lot of routine happening here, but I love it. And it makes me that much more appreciative of the moments that are not planned and a bit more spontaneous. Although, you know how I feel about surprises. ;)
We hope you had a delicious weekend and got to enjoy the new season that seems to have finally arrived. :)
Mollie and Seth