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Five for dinner. I'm a baker, not a cook.

We're five for dinner on Friday, six for the rest of the meals this weekend. One of us is a fabulous cook & is making something seasonal with fish on Saturday night. One of us doesn't eat red meat.

Any suggestions for a Friday night menu that's low stress for this non-cook? Maybe a couple of roast chickens, polenta & "pot-stuck" brussels sprouts (http://food52.com/blog/8621-pot-stuck...), and something orange: thyme-roasted sweet potatoes or roasted butternut squash with onions, brown butter & sage? Somehow (at this hour) the whole thing seems uninspired.

If I can get everyone through to dessert, I'll end with a french apple tart or something, but any help with the meal you can offer would be appreciated.

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  1. I'd eat roast chicken any time, anywhere. A real oven roasted chicken, browned to perfection, with fresh rosemary and bay leaves tucked between skin and flesh is marvelous.

    I don't see anything wrong with the rest of your menu. I personally would prefer a brown rice pilaf to the polenta, but I think you should produce the starch that you are most comfortable with. If you roast butternut squash, then you can do those in the oven with the chicken. And, come to think of it, you don't need a starch if you serve the squash.

    I love Brussels' Sprouts any way at all.

    If you skip the polenta or other starch, my idea, you could put out a plate of veggie and cheese nibbles before the dinner. And any home made dessert is bound to be wonderful. Your French apple tart would be a great end to the meal, with a little cheese perhaps and freshly brewed coffee. Washington state apples have hit the market. I imagine you would have a choice of several local and fresh apples to choose from to make your tart.

    6 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      Cheese to start would be easy. I don't know how I feel about the polenta. Do you have a rice pilaf recipe you would recommend? I could drop the squash, but I feel like I need something more on the plate, and some color...

      I've had really good success with the french apple tart from For Love of the Table.

      1. re: sueatmo

        I agree with sueatmo - this menu sounds lovely, but I would do something other than polenta. If you do sweet potatoes, I wouldn't think you'd need another starch - maybe just some good bread. You could start with a salad that incorporates some seasonal ingredients (apples or pears, maybe), or do the crudites that sue suggested.

        1. re: biondanonima

          All this sounds good to me.

          You don't really need a lot of sides, but you might want to fix plenty of each dish. At least that is my philosophy, except at Thanksgiving.

          If you balance everything, and offer something before hand that is easy and good, and then finish with your amazing tart, as I know it will be, your guests will feel fiiled and amazed by your hospitality.

          1. re: biondanonima

            A voice in support of polenta. I love polenta in autumn and winter. And love it with roast chicken. I'd much prefer it over rice.

            1. re: debbiel

              Me too.

              But I'd serve mashed potatoes and gravy.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                Agreed. There aren't many carb-eaters who don't like potatoes but polenta is not as universally favored. I hate it, although I like corn in general.

        2. Roast chicken parts, skin-on, on a large cookie-cooling rack above a roasting pan in the buttered bottom of which you have arranged thickly sliced potatoes that have been nuked for a few minutes to jump-start, and some thin-sliced onion.
          Sprinkle an herbed seasoning mix on the chicken before putting the pan into a 400F oven for 45-50 minutes, depending on size of pieces. If you use any breast pieces, put them in the center of the rack so they get less heat than the dark meat. Don't use wings unless you want to take them out by 30 minutes so they don't overcook. The potatoes will be basted in the seasoned chicken fat, and will have brown edges. Use russet or sweet potatoes, or a combination.

          5 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            Embarrassed to say this, but I'm scared to cut up a chicken. (Hangs head in shame.) I considered a 40 cloves of garlic chicken that looked festive, but moved back toward roasting the things whole. Sigh.

            1. re: THewat

              Couldn't you just buy chicken already cut up?

              1. re: valerie

                I could. I usually get them whole, roast them or poach them, make stock from the carcass. Beast of habit that I am.

                1. re: THewat

                  You shouldn't be scared! I watched a YouTube video and played it along while cutting the chicken. Fairly easy, though a bit gross.

              2. re: THewat

                A whole roast chicken is divine. It is my favorite thing in the world. Your guests will love it. Put fresh rosemary and dried bay leaves under the skin, and a cut up lemon in the cavity. Rub all over with olive oil. Roast till skin is browned. Devour.

            2. Could you somehow incorporate a cheese soufflé into your menu? Depending on your skill set with soufflé, could wow people and still be in your comfort zone. With a nice salad and some wine, I'll be a sixth for you. . .

              2 Replies
              1. re: autumm

                Funny you ask that. I make a nice soufflé that I got off of these boards, and there's a Pépin soufflé that I've always wanted to try: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sa.... Where would you insert it? There's also the problem of the oven - I only have one, so I'd have the balancing act between the chickens & the soufflé...

                1. re: THewat

                  A cheese souffle could be a nice first course - if you do that, though, I'd make sure there was a salad and a green vegetable on the menu to balance the richness.

              2. I love this Indonesian Ginger Chicken and it doesn't get much easier and it is delicious. Prep on Thursday night, cook on Friday.


                This basmati rice is good too but if you have a rice cooker, plain rice will do just fine to soak up the sauce from the chicken. Or couscous works well too.


                And I love all brussels sprouts.

                6 Replies
                1. re: valerie

                  Vegetable lasagna, salad, crusty bread?

                  1. re: GourmetWednesday

                    Pasta of some kind would be so sane, and I could leave the birds alone. In the past I've made this crew Spaghetti Alla Foriana. It was a hit, and I gave out the recipe, so now I don't want to serve it to them again. Teaches me, I guess.

                    1. re: THewat

                      Do you have individual size ramikens? I went to a party with "lasagna" made in individual servings that made it more special somehow. That with a fall salad- this one is my favorite and best made hours earlier with dressing massaged in- http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kale...
                      And maybe an appetizer of figs stuffed with blue cheese, and cantelope with proscuito

                    2. re: GourmetWednesday

                      Yeah, that was my first idea too. I heard someone yesterday say she was going to make a butternut squash and thyme lasagna, which sounded delicious (and I jokingly invited myself over for dinner - note to self, don't do that again with a stranger!). Lasagna or any other baked pasta dish has the advantage of do-ahead cooking, so you don't need to be "active" with it just before dinnertime.

                      1. re: truman

                        Chow is featuring a delicious-looking butternut squash lasagna in their "38 Fall Recipes" or some such - it called for gorgonzola and fontina cheese, and a bunch of other fabulous sounding things. That would be a great main!

                    3. re: valerie

                      Thank you! Wow - a quarter cup of ginger!

                    4. Since you like to bake, how about a quiche? Pair with a fall salad and you are set.

                      1. It seems to me that roasted chicken would be so easy to do; season it and put it in the oven. Roasted squash or sweet potatoes; again, season them, put them in the oven. Easy. Although I like lasagna, it's much more work than roasting a chicken. And if you decide to go with lasagna, and it contains cheese, please don't put cheese on your salad. It's just cheese overload.

                        I love your apple tart idea.

                        1. Thanks all. I love your suggestions, and I really love your company. I've been shopping, so barring disaster, the final menu is:
                          Fennel, Sunchoke and Apple Salad (Saveur)
                          followed by
                          One whole roast chicken
                          Thyme-roasted sweet potatoes (Epicurious)
                          Pot-stuck Brussels sprouts (Food52)
                          French Apple Tart (For Love of the Table)
                          I'll be thinking of each of you as I serve. (I was already thinking of Valerie as I considered the chicken pieces at the grocery.) Thanks again.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: THewat

                            Sounds perfect. BTW, if those thyme roasted sweet potatoes from Epicurious are the ones with garlic and a little chile flake, they are WONDERFUL. Since you're a baker, I'd be sure to have a loaf of fabulous homemade bread alongside.

                            1. re: THewat

                              It's so funny because the reason that I buy cut up chickens all the time is that I am afraid to roast a whole chicken!!

                              1. re: THewat

                                I agree sounds perfect. Hope all goes well.

                              2. Your menu sounds pretty darned delicious to me, but you don't make clear whether the difference between Friday and the rest of the weekend is if these are "guest meals? (Or maybe the wee small hours is not a good time for me to read and understand clearly?)

                                Anyway, your menu sounds good to me! But you say you want to add something orange and mention butternut squash. So.... Does the something orange HAVE to go on the dinner plate? I have a stupidly simple recipe for butternut squash soup, and since it's getting cooler these days (at least here in Dallas) a soup course might just be the answer! Here's my stupidly simple scratch recipe.

                                .................Stupidly Simply Butternut Soup.................

                                1 large butternut squash fully cooked. Two ways to do this. First is to cut the squash in half stem to blossom end, put face down in a large glass lasagna baking dish, add a cup of water and bake until squash is soft, then scrape out the pulp and discard skin. The second way to do this is buy precut and diced butternut squash from your supermarket and boil/steam it. The first way is the more economical by far (usually).

                                Place squash pulp in the blender with a fair amount of butter and puree until it's smoother than baby food! Heat a can of organic low sodium chicken broth in a good sized saucepan and add the pureed squash. When all is hot, stir in some cream to suit your taste and achieve the creamy color you desire for the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in mugs or in soup plates for a first course at table. Oh, and a pat of real butter makes a delicious garnish in a soup plate!

                                Sometimes I make this for myself without the chicken broth as it really accentuates the butternut squash flavor. OF COURSE IT DOES, CAROLINE!!! It's just creamed squash in a bowl! /-)

                                If you invite me too, can I have seconds on the tart?????

                                1. Dinner was great. Thanks again, all. I can recommend each of the recipes listed above, which I followed fairly closely.

                                  I made the fennel salad last night and it held beautifully. I also made & chilled the tart crust - I could have gained significant time by rolling it out & fitting the pan last night, but I wasn't that organized, so I did that this morning & chilled it again while I made the filling & sliced the apples.

                                  I cooked the sweet potatoes (which I actually think were yams) in the late afternoon & let them sit out until just before we ate. Chicken went in about an hour and a half before we sat down. I did the brussles sprouts in two big pans right at the end. It would have been great to parboil them earlier than I did, but it was fine - just one step I could have taken care of before folks arrived.

                                  I added good bakery bread and vanilla ice cream to go with the tart, and that was that. Really satisfying.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: THewat

                                    Bravo! And here you thought you were a baker. Turns out you're a chef! Sounds delicious. :-)

                                    1. re: THewat

                                      Sounds like you're a baker AND a cook!