So I had this idea to do a package and call it lazy dinners, because, I told my editor, by January, aren’t we all so tired of thinking about themed and festive (!) food and tables styled just so? Seemed like lazy would be the perfect way to launch the new year.
But the truth is I am a fan of lazy dinners all the time.
Judge me not. There is nothing wrong with lazy. Lazy is picking up a rotisserie chicken instead of roasting your own. Or buying the instant polenta instead of the one that takes 45 minutes of constant stirring. Roasted red bell peppers ready to go, right out a jar. Flatbread, which I love making from scratch, but sometimes I’m out of my already half-cooked ones in the freezer and must buy the ones at the store that you just heat up for 10 minutes until crisp. Then I figure while I’m there I might as well buy two. No guilt. No, really, I mean it.
In fact, the more I embrace lazy — i.e., look for ways to cut here and there on the time I usually spend prepping — the more time I have to do important things, like watch Netflix and see what’s on sale on the Nordstrom website.
Now I actually look for ways to up the lazy factor in my recipes, which — and this might surprise you — is something I learned in Paris.
You can always buy fresh herbs at the markets and grocery stores in France, but you know what else you can buy? Basil and chives and tarragon already chopped and frozen, in these cute little milk cartons that you just pull out of your freezer and shake onto whatever you’re making. So smart. So lazy.
There was a time when I would never make a soup without first making a homemade stock. Of course I love homemade stock, and I usually make my own, but sometimes I run out and don’t make another batch and before you know it, it’s cold outside and I want soup. Now I just buy a carton of ready-made stock, and I’ve got soup before you know it.
Instantly gratifying, this lazy approach. I’m embracing it for now, and maybe forever.
Ellise Pierce is the author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press). Read her blog (www.cowgirlchef.com), and follow her on Twitter (@cowgirlchef) and Instagram (cowgirlchef)
Paris chicken remix
Makes 6 to 8 servings
This is an updated version of a recipe that’s in my book, “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent.” Here, I used boneless, skinless thighs instead of legs and thighs, and added some broth to make it a little more soupy — otherwise, it’s still the same and I still love it.
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (32-ounce) can whole tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 pound spicy sausage, sliced in 1/8-inch discs
Flat-leaf parsley for serving
Baguette for serving
1. Put the olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. When the stockpot is hot, add the chicken and cook until light brown. Remove from the skillet to a plate.
2. Add the onion and garlic to the stockpot and stir with a wooden spoon to remove the bits from the bottom.
3. Tear the tomatoes with your hands and add them with their juices to the pot along with the chicken stock, rosemary, sausage and chicken thighs. Let cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until the chicken is cooked through and easily falls apart when handled with a wooden spoon. Press the thighs with the spoon so the chicken is broken up throughout. Serve in bowls with chopped parsley on top, and with a crispy baguette.
Doctored-up hummus and roasted vegetables
Makes about 2 cups
I forgot how much I loved hummus. This version is chunky with artichoke hearts and red bell peppers, and as much roasted cauliflower and kale on top as you want, because don’t we all call hummus dinner more often than we’d like to admit?
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
Sea salt and pepper
1 bunch kale
16 ounces hummus
1/2 of (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers
1/2 of (12-ounce) jar grilled artichoke hearts in oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Pita chips for serving
Red pepper flakes for serving, optional
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Toss the cauliflower florets onto a large baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sea salt and pepper to taste. Roast until lightly browned, for 30 to 40 minutes, turning once. Remove from the baking sheet to cool.
3. Slice the kale leaves off of the stem and finely chop. Toss onto the same baking sheet you used to roast the cauliflower, with 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and a very small amount of sea salt and pepper. Slide into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until light brown.
Save time: Roast kale and cauliflower the day before you make the hummus.
4. Put the hummus, peppers and artichoke hearts in a blender or food processor. Puree. Taste for seasonings.
5. Finely dice 1 more pepper and 1 or 2 artichoke hearts.
6. Put the hummus in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Pour a little olive oil on top, and add the chopped red bell peppers and artichoke hearts, plus roasted cauliflower and kale. Sprinkle the pine nuts all around. Serve with toasted pita and red pepper flakes, if desired.
Flatbread with chicken, spinach and three cheeses
So easy, this flatbread — no sauce required. Just heat up the oven, throw the ingredients on top of the bread, and melt the cheese.
2 store-bought flatbreads
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces baby spinach (half of 1 bag)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded mozzarella
4 heaping tablespoons goat cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1/4 cup pine nuts
Red pepper flakes for serving (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 500 degrees and put the 2 flatbreads on a large baking sheet.
2. Put the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
3. Roughly chop the baby spinach and toss it into the hot pan along with sea salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of fresh nutmeg. Stir and cook for no more than a minute. You just want to wilt the spinach slightly. Divide the spinach between the two flatbreads.
4. Add the chicken to the two flatbreads, dividing it between the two, then the mozzarella, goat cheese, Parmesan, and pine nuts. Bake until the flatbreads are brown and crisp, for 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Slice and eat.
Parmesan polenta and Mediterranean salad
Makes 4 servings
This will satisfy the side of you that needs a salad and the part that wants something a little bit more. I usually go heavy-handed with the Parmesan, because more of it makes everything better.
7 ounces arugula
Sea salt and pepper
1 cup mixed pitted olives
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 cups chicken stock
1 (9.2-ounce) box instant polenta
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1. Toss the arugula with sea salt and pepper, and the olives, tomatoes, and some of the balsamic vinaigrette.
2. Put the stock plus 1/2 cup water in a saucepan, along with a pinch of sea salt, over high heat.
3. When it boils, reduce the heat to low, add the polenta a little at a time, stirring as you do so. Add the Parmesan. Divide among four plates. Top with the salad and additional Parmesan.
Makes 3/4 cup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
Sea salt and pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Put the balsamic vinegar, mustard, shallot, and a little sea salt and pepper in a jam jar. Give it a good shake, then let it rest for 15 minutes. Add the olive oil, shake again, and taste. Will keep in the fridge for a week.