Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Suzee's 30 Minute Meals

I love watching Rachel Ray – I think she makes cooking very accessible for many folks who may not try some of the cuisines, spices or combination. Lots of people say that watching Food TV is Food Porn. I disagree. Life is to short to have meatloaf every Monday night of your life, and Spaghetti and Meatballs every Wednesday.

But her meals always take me longer than 30 minutes. Mostly because I count the very important part that she doesn’t. The Clean Up. I hate cleaning, but I hate a dirty kitchen even more. Cooking on a weeknight should be no more than 30 minutes of active time in the kitchen, and that to me includes what happens after you eat.
There are key pieces of equipment required for Suzee’s 30 minute meals.

The first is a heavy professional sheet pan. I almost always use the sheet pan for my 30 minute meals.

And I line my pan with tin foil. (note to self – I have now removed the need to wash my pan – that’s worth 5 minutes right there).

I also judiciously use my dishwasher. I will put everything that I think will possibly come clean in it. The good news is my dishwasher is freaking amazing. When I do the remodel the kitchen, I sure hope I’m able to afford a dishwasher that actually heats the water and steams the dishes prior to washing them. I hope they still make such a luxury.

I have kitchen shears which come apart and go in the dishwasher. I use these to cut open the vacuum locked meats I usually get from Fresh Direct, and to open veggie packages. I wash them after every use. I got them from my Cutco Sales Kit I bought at least 25 years ago when I was a kid trying to make a buck. Really good shears if you have a kid in your neighborhood trying to make a buck.

I have a pair of OXO tongs and an OXO spatula– both get tossed in the dishwasher and come out gorgeous after I’ve used them to remove roasted meats and veggies from the pan.

I have a porcelain oven to table dish – simple white, and whether I serve in it or bake/broil in it, the dishwasher always makes it clean. It may not be shatterproof like corning wear, but I’d rather have the easy clean anyday.

So those are my tools.

My 30 minute meals are simple, generally involving a 350 degree oven, some protein and some fresh vegetable.

Proteins include boneless, skinless chicken breast (25 min), pork tenderloin (20 min at 400) or white fish (10 min at 400). The point here is simple protein, off the bone for quick cooking. I add one of the myriad of spices out there to make it taste a little different from the last time. McCormick’s Montreal Roasted Garlic Chicken Spice is a favorite on Pork, Tarragon and garlic powder is tasty on chicken, and to fish I’ll add a bit of Jamaican Jerk seasoning. Or I’ll add a relish or sauce, such as salsa, cilantro cream sauce or jarred marinara sauce (heated gently in an easily rinsed out and dishwashed pan) at the end just before serving.

On my tinfoil lined sheet pan, I’ll add a veggie – lately it’s be asparagus, or brussel sprouts, or broccoli, or cabbage ribbons, or onion, or fennel, or zucchini – or some combination there of. Sprinkle a bit of olive oil on and roll it about a bit, and add either a dusting of parmesan cheese or sea salt. The veggies are done in 20 min in 400 degree oven or 30 in a 350 oven. Notice all these choices stay pretty well in the fridge for a few days. If I add a sweet potato or butternut squash, I pre-bake in the microwave so it’s at least ½ - ¾ of the way done (5 min on high or so), and bake them with the other parts of the dinner on the sheet pan.

So – most times I’m able to plop it all on the pan, and go enjoy a cocktail with my feet up for the next 30 minutes or so. Prep is less than 10 minutes. When it comes out, I let the meat rest while I set the table ( 5 min), and then I slice and serve on the individual plates for the meat, and add a home style bowl if there are more veggies than our luncheon plates can really hold.

After we eat, it’s maybe 5 minutes to rinse plates and fill the dishwasher, and put away anything ( like that sheet pan) that needs put away. This includes prepping the coffeemaker for tomorrow.

Should I rename this entry to Suzee’s 20 minute meals? Nah – I like it when you think you got a time bargain :)