Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Loaves and Fishes

How do 8 hungry Raisinhaters dine in New York City for under $10 per person?

On Saturday night I hosted the full Raisinhater family plus B Almost-Raisinhater and the lovely Miss K. Eight people for dinner in a one-bedroom apartment with a galley kitchen can be a tricky proposition, especially on a budget. (They brought the wine and cheese - thanks guys!)

We had staff meal chicken, potato gruyere gratin, and sesame broccoli. Not a thrilling or even particularly sophisticated menu, but it is fabulous for two reasons. It is CHEAP and all of the work can be done WAY before your guests arrive.

Here's how your day looks:

I suggest you start with the gratin. You can make this early in the day, stick it in the fridge, and throw it in the oven before the guests arrive. As an added bonus, it makes your apartment smell really good (provided you like the smell of melty cheese). The recipe is from Epicurious. If you're on a diet, avert your eyes.

Potato Gratin with Gruyere and Crème Fraiche

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated Gruyère cheese (about 6 ounces)

Slice your potatoes. A great excuse to use the mandoline if you have one!

Butter or spray a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange half the potato slices (overlapping so there aren't any big spaces), sprinkle with salt and pepper, spread with half the crème fraiche, sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat process to make a second layer. At this point you can cover it and stick it in the fridge for a while (maybe even overnight, but I've never tried it).

Next, make your Staff Meal Chicken marinade. I know I've talked about Staff Meal Chicken before but I just want to reiterate - it is scrumptious!

Marinate the chicken as follows:

Mix together the following ingredients in a large bowl:
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon granulated garlic (not garlic powder)
1 heaping tablespoon granulated onion (not onion powder)
1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 cup hot red chili flakes
1/2 cup olive oil

Here are the spices, waiting eagerly for the lemon juice, oil, and chicken.

Add 8 – 10 skin-on (important!) bone-in (also important!!) chicken thighs to the bowl, toss to coat. Marinate for a least an hour in the fridge, turning occasionally. I actually doubled the recipe and marinated it in zipper bags in the fridge.

Once the chicken is done, you can start on the broccoli. I adapted the sesame red pepper sauce from this Epicurious recipe. I simplified it quite a bit because I didn't think all of the spice grinder and sauce on the side nonsense was necessary or beneficial.

Trim and wash the broccoli and cut it into normal big-bite pieces, set aside. Toast 3 T sesame seeds in a frying pan until lightly golden. Remove from heat and add 3/4 tsp each of kosher salt and crushed red pepper (or modify to taste). Set aside.

Now, you're done until it's time to eat. See how easy!

Have some cheese. And maybe a little wine. Go on, you deserve it.

Whoops, maybe not that much, its only 3 pm. Take a nap.


Time to cook! When you're approximately 1.5 hours from dinnertime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once preheated, add your gratin. Cook for 30 minutes at 400.

After that time, turn the temperature down to 385 (yes, this is weird, but it works) arrange the chicken thighs on foil covered (important!) baking sheets and add to the oven for another 30 minutes. (Yep, the gratin is still in there too.)

After that time, turn the temperature down to 335, set your timer for 20 minutes, and cook your broccoli. You can do this any way you want, some people steam it, I just throw it in a pot of boiling water till it turns bright green, drain it, rinse it with cool water, and set it aside. (If you really want, you can even do this step way earlier in the day, just let your broccoli come to room temperature before dinner.)

Once your timer goes off, remove both the gratin and the chicken from the oven. They both need to rest for 10 minutes. Here's the chicken…

The gratin was lovely - imagine lots of crispy melted cheese.

Put the broccoli in a big festive bowl and drizzle over 1 tsp of sesame oil and sprinkle on the sesame spice mixture. Toss with your hands. Eat!


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