Working With What You Have: One Stop Shop, Dinner Times Two

DINNER ONE: Chicken Milanese, Rosemary Potato Galette, Spinach Salad with Cannelloni Beans, Red Onion, and Balsamic Vinaigrette
DINNER TWO: Rosemary-Balsamic Chicken, Tuscan Baked Beans, and Spinach Potato Cakes
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Chicken Breast, Potato, Spinach, Cannelloni Beans, Rosemary
TYPE: Weeknight Dinner for Two, One Stop Shopping, Reinventing Ingredients

One challenge inherent in cooking for multiple people multiple times a week is the time that needs to be allocated to pre-planning and picking up the ingredients. When I fail on both fronts, and am forced to combine menu-making with speedy grocery-shopping, the result is a panic-ridden, ingredient-induced, mid-aisle mess.

Such scenes tend to occur less than an hour before my guests are supposed to arrive, and, due to convenience, usually at smaller or gourmet grocers closer to my apartment. The proximity of these markets is undermined by what I end up paying for an organic chicken breast–more than the cab fare to a larger, cheaper market. And it all goes downhill from there: slightly over budget, I’m so frazzled over the price of arugula that I forget to buy lemons for my dressing and return home frantic, unprepared, and much to my type-A horror, irreconcilably late.

9am to 7pm work days have caused this to happen frequently enough that I am no longer fazed by having to cook the majority of my meal during the first half hour that my guests have arrived, and can usually manage to let go of the over-priced arugala, regroup, and execute under their watchful eyes and growling stomachs.

But as I’ve become more practiced in the behind-the-scenes skill of workweek entertaining, I’ve discovered that if I plan well on Sunday or Monday, and limit my trip to the grocery store to a one stop shop, the rest of the week’s meals unfold seamlessly. More importantly, I no longer have to welcome guests while I’m cooking, which means no more small talk while my broccoli silently burns in the oven (more on this particular incident in a later post).

The key is choosing main ingredients that can live in the fridge all week long and easily be reinvented as two or more simple, impressive meals without insulting your stomach with a repeat performance of the same dish. This particular reappropriation of chicken, potato, beans and spinach was prepared all at once and then served on separate nights, the second of which I found myself doing sprints at the gym instead of on the pasta aisle the hour before my friends arrived to eat.

From my kitchen, stocked for the week and moderately-zen, to yours,



Two Weeknight Dinners for Two
Budget: $30

To save time and make my second night of entertaining as easy as possible, I chose to make both meals at once, leaving only cooking the chicken and potato cakes to 15 minutes before the meal. Each meal is designed to stand on its own and can be made completely independently, just make sure to read the whole recipe through as each item is outlined separately.

Chicken Milanese, Rosemary Potato Galette, Spinach Salad with Cannelloni Beans, Red Onion, and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Makes 2 Servings

For the chicken:

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin using a rolling pin or small frying pan
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp salt
four for dredging

For the Galette:

1 lb yellow potatoes (3 large), peeled, blanched, and thinly sliced (on a mandolin if you have it, but let’s be honest, who has room?)
1 tablespoon rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp butter

For Salad:

1/3 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
4oz baby spinach
1/3 red onion, sliced in very thin half crescents

For the Dressing/Marinade:
3 tbsp balsamic
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
pepper to taste

Rosemary-Balsamic Chicken, Tuscan Baked Beans, and Spinach Potato Cakes
Makes 2 Servings

TIP: Double up the cakes, and you will have an incredibly hardy, protein-heavy vegetarian meal.

For the Chicken:

2 chicken breasts
Remaining dressing as marinade
1 tbsp rosemary, minced

For the Beans:

1 2/3 15oz cans cannelloni beans (using the remainder of the can used for salad)
1 15oz can diced tomatoes and their juices
2/3 medium red onion (leftover from salad)
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp rosemary, minced
salt to taste

For the Spinach Potato Cakes:

2 lbs yellow potatoes, halved
5 oz fresh baby spinach (or you can use frozen)
2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste

Night One:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a medium pot ¾ of the way with water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches its potential, add the potatoes. Remove the unpeeled potatoes for the galette when they are slightly tender on the outside, but not completely cooked through. When you cut these in half, they will still have a lighter, hardened core. Set these aside.

Allow the rest of the potatoes to boil until fork tender, but not completely falling apart. Once cool, remove the skins (they will come off easily). Blend the potatoes in a food processor until smooth.

In a medium pan, sauté the spinach and garlic together until the greens are completely wilted. Add to the potato mixture and pulse to combine. Set aside, stir in the butter, and taste for seasoning.

NOTE: spinach-potato mixture can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve meal number two. The spinach mashed potatoes are also delicious on their own. If you are serving this as is, I would recommend using an electric hand mixer or food mill to mash the potatoes as the texture is lighter and less glutinous than doing it in the food processor. For the cakes, it’s just important that the mixture is smooth.

For the galette, cut the potatoes into very thin slices as if you were making potato chips. On a rimmed baking sheet, lay the slices in overlapping rows making sure at least half of each slice’s surface area is exposed to the heat (see image below). In the microwave, heat the butter and rosemary until fully melted. Drizzle the butter mixture over the potatoes and place in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until the top is browned and crispy. Sprinkle the chips with coarse salt and taste for seasoning. These will need quite a bit of salt for the french fry effect.

Meanwhile in a large shallow bowl, beat the egg together with 1 tbsp of water. Combine the flour and salt on a plate. Place the breadcrumbs on a second plate. Dredge the first chicken breast in the flour, shaking off any excess. Then cover the breast with the egg mixture and place on the breadcrumb plate, making sure both sides are covered. Repeat with the second breast.

In a sauté pan large enough to fit the breasts, heat 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium flame and lightly fry the chicken until cooked through and browned on both sides.

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing. In a larger bowl, toss the spinach, red onion, and cannelloni beans with half of the dressing.

To plate, place half of the galette on each plate, top with one chicken breast and a large helping of salad.

In a large Ziploc bag, combine the two remaining chicken breasts with the excess dressing. Marinate in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve the next meal, up to three days.

For the beans, in a medium sauté pan or dutch oven cook the red onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and the rosemary and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another five minutes or so over low heat. Taste for seasoning.

NOTE: the beans can be made up to 5 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the fridge until you are ready to serve meal number two.

Night Two:

Reheat the beans over medium-low heat.

Form the potato-spinach mixture into patties slightly smaller than the size of your palm. Dredge the patties in flour. Be delicate as the patties can easily become misshapen.

Heat 1-2 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium non-stick sauté pan (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) over a medium flame. Lightly fry the patties three at a time in two batches until golden brown on both sides. Set aside on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Clean out any burnt remnants from the pan, and recoat with olive oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Sauté over medium-high heat until golden brown and completely cooked through.

Place 2 -3 large spoonfuls of beans on each plate and top with 2 -3 spinach-potato cakes and one chicken breast. For the vegetarians, hold the chicken and add an extra patty or two.

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