Planning a menu need not be a chore. In fact, it can be fun, and if you do it with a sense of adventure, you’ll more often than not create memorable meals.
As a matter of fact, my only problem is narrowing things down. Do I make chili, or gazpacho? Roast chicken, or basil pesto? A meatloaf, or mussels? Following a brief period of debate, I decide, yes.
All of those things are perfect, and some of them are on my What To Cook menu.
To begin, instead of gazpacho (that’s for a future installment), let’s opt for a beet and ginger soup, one made with pre-cooked beets and fresh ginger. It’s based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson, and it’s simple, healthy, and delicious. You can make this a day ahead — I used a Vitamix — and you can serve it cold or hot. The one thing I did differently from the recipe: I added three cloves of chopped garlic during mixing.
The soup is ideal as a starter for a meal that features meatloaf as the main course, a dish that is, in my opinion, vastly underappreciated and oft abused. This meatloaf, from The Food Lab’s J. Kenji López-Alt, is made with mushrooms, pork, and beef, plus marmite (which you can find at Central Market), and it’s one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
It requires about 45 minutes of active prep work, but you and your guests will be more than happy with the effort. I serve it with a smoked-paprika aioli, with a salad of spinach and tomatoes on the side.
For mussels, make Billi Bi. You can purchase a bag of mussels at Costco, as I did, or at your favorite seafood purveyor. Look for closed shells, and make sure that you don’t store them in a closed plastic bag. These creatures are alive, after all, so use them as soon as you can after buying them.
Tip: If a mussel shell is slightly open and you tap on it, it should close. If not, discard it.
The recipe I use comes from Craig Claiborne, and it’s a classic. You can’t go wrong serving this with a crusty bread and a Muscadet.
Chicken, and more specifically, a roast chicken. So simple, so elemental, so delicious, and so debated. Should you rinse your chicken? Cook it at high heat? Turn it during roasting? I’ll leave that to you; I have done all of those things, and more, and have ( almost) without exception never been disappointed with my efforts.
For now, try this roast chicken from Julia Child. It produces a moist and succulent bird, and if you make the sauce Child advises, you’ll have a lovely meal. Wine? How about a white Burgundy, such as the 2015 La Souer Cadette from Domaine de la Cadette? You can get it at Houston Wine Merchant for $26.99, or ask your favorite retailer for a bottle. Oh, now we’re watching Julia Child cook.