One of my most requested posts (for years now) has been a list of weeknight meals in our house and today I thought I’d oblige. One important caveat is that cooking is Mr. Magpie’s principle passion in life–and that he is willing to spend the time and money to eat very well. In so many words: some of these recipes are not exactly amateur-level or require complicated ingredients or multi-day preparations. (I’m personally more of a pragmatic cook — which makes me the effusively grateful beneficiary of his taste for the labor-intensive and exotic.) Below is a sample of some of the recipes we make over and over again:
1// ORECCHIETTE WITH BROCCOLI RABE + ITALIAN SAUSAGE. From the Sauces + Shapes cookbook (our favorite pasta cookbook). I love this because the bitter rabe plays nicely with the spicy/fatty/salty sausage and the textural contrast with a chewy orecchiette can’t be beat. I also love that this is “one-dish.” No sides needed — starch, veg, and protein in one. A MUST: really good pecorino romano cheese (we buy our from Eataly) and high-quality dried pasta (we love Afeltra, which you can order in bulk on Amazon, but for this dish, we buy this brand from Eataly — if you’ve not yet tried Afeltra’s pasta, please please please do yourself a favor. It’s a different beast from the Barilla you buy at your supermarket). Mr. Magpie would also insist this recipe requires homemade chicken stock, which he makes in bulk on Saturday afternoons every few weeks after stocking up on chicken necks and feet from the butcher (yikes).
2 // HALIBUT, CORN, AND TOMATO IN PARCHMENT. From the Fish Forever cookbook. Absurdly light and delicious — the jalapeno and ginger add such a welcome kick — and crazy healthy. Plus, it’s always fun unwrapping your dinner. Like a gift on a plate. This is super easy to make.
3 // ZUNI ROAST CHICKEN, ORZO, FRESH PEAS. If you’ve not yet tried Zuni’s roast chicken, you are in for a treat. Though I find Judy Rodgers’ recipes overly fussy, they do yield incredible results and the entire cookbook is a must-own for any kitchen with serious food-lovers. The key here is dry-brining the bird at least a day in advance and leaving in your fridge. This ensures you get that super crispy delicious skin. We serve ours with buttered orzo and fresh peas.
4 // SKILLET HAMBURGERS, OVEN FRIES WITH MALT VINEGAR, GREEN SALAD. We buy our hamburger meat from Dickson’s in Chelsea Market and the quality is nuts. We tend to serve our burgers on English muffins with sharp cheddar; we recently read a scathing critique Bourdain once wrote on the subject of pairing burgers with brioche buns and we felt chastened by past decisions. BUT — you do you. Since we do not have access to a charcoal grill, we cook ours in a cast-iron skillet (if you don’t own a Lodge, do it ASAP — inexpensive and you can cook almost anything in it, to perfection; we inherited one of ours from Mr. Magpie’s grandmother and it is so well-seasoned). And we pair with oven fries prepared in a unique way: we slice potatoes fairly thick and then soak them in water spiked with a few splashes of white vinegar for an hour before letting them sit out on paper towels to dry out REALLY WELL. Then we preheat the oven and place a pan coated in vegetable oil inside so the pan and oil are pretty hot. Then we add the potato spears to the hot pan and bake for 20 minutes before flipping each fry individually and painstakingly and toasting on the other side. These are about as good as you can get a “fry” without actually frying it. We like dipping ours in malt vinegar (#midatlantic) rather than ketchup. I usually pair burgers with a big mound of greens dressed simply in my favorite homemade vinaigrette, which I’ve perfected for over a decade and use constantly (even works great to make a quick pasta salad with roasted veg):
-3 tablespoons vinegar (I like sherry, balsamic, or champagne vinegar best, but you can use anything you have on hand)
-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
-1 tablespoon honey
-1 smashed garlic clove
-5-6 tablespoons olive oil (or sometimes I combine a blend of olive oil and canola oil)
-Salt and pepper to taste
Put everything in a small jar and shake.
5 // SPICED SHRIMP, TATER TOTS, AND GREEN BEANS. A Shoop family classic. Bring a few bottles of beer (we usually use Heineken) to a boil in a small pot and toss in a bay leaf or two, a sprinkle of peppercorns, a few lemon slices, and a heavy shake of Old Bay. Add shell-on shrimp and cook until firm (rule of thumb: if the shrimp are in the shape of a “C”, they are cooked; if they are in the shape of an “O,” they are overcooked). Drain in a colander and absolutely smother in Old Bay (a lot of this will come off when you peel the shrimp — you can’t be too generous here). Chill in the fridge. (This is also a great recipe for parties since you can make it in advance.) We serve with homemade cocktail sauce: ketchup or a blend of chili sauce and ketchup, dash worcestershire, squeeze of a lemon, a mess of prepared horseradish (we like it super piquant), dash of hot sauce. For some reason we like to serve this with store-bought tater tots and steamed green beans with butter. Don’t ask me why, but this is almost always the case. It’s a fun meal to eat, sprawled around a table with messy hands.
6 // “HARD-SHELL BEEF TACOS.” There is something delightfully homey and throwback about a hardshell taco with crumbly seasoned beef — I ate these growing up, though we used kits from Old El Paso and the like. This is just like that but with way better ingredients and a homemade seasoning mix. We use the unimpeachable recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, available online here. (We also own several of the ATK cookbooks and they are INCREDIBLE. They really do their due diligence and all of their recipes turn out perfectly and are approachably written.) We serve ours with shredded iceberg, diced tomatoes, minced red onion, shredded cheddar, limes, and homemade guacamole. (One secret to Mr. Magpie’s guacamole: he blanches the garlic before mincing and adding so that it’s not potently garlic.)
7 // “MMM! CHICKEN” WITH ANGEL HAIR + BROCCOLI. Basically chicken scallopini. I frankly forget why we started calling this “mmm! chicken,” but it is delicious. We pound out chicken breasts very thin, dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, dip in egg wash, and bread with panko crumbs — then pan-fry in butter. Mr. Magpie accompanies this with a lemon-white-wine sauce he deglazes in the pan we’ve just cooked the chicken in. We always serve with a mound of buttered angel hair pasta and roasted broccoli.
8 // GREEK SALAD WITH SKILLET CHARRED CHICKEN. The skillet charred chicken comes from Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites book and is outrageous. You marinate in yogurt and some spices/aromatics for up to a day in advance and then cook in a hot skillet. You’ll be astounded that you made this in your kitchen, on your stovetop, because it tastes like it’s been on a spit or something. It’s so delightfully crispy and seasoned! We put this on an enormous Greek salad recently and it was incredible.
9 // BUCATINI WITH CHERRY TOMATOES. Another Oretta favorite. This is a great dish for a late summer dinner. It requires minimal effort and calls for minimal ingredients — just the kind of dish we love. We picked up some fresh farmer’s market cherry tomatoes, roasted them per the recipe, and tossed with Afeltra dried bucatini. Mr. Magpie served this in an enormous ceramic bowl in the center of our table and it made for a toothsome, satisfying meal.
10 // HANGAR STEAK WITH RED WINE-SHALLOT REDUCTION, CHERRY-GOAT CHEESE PANZANELLA, CORN. We usually make this in the dead of winter and serve it with mashed potatoes and roasted brussels, but it’s just as delicious in the middle of summer served with a seasonally appropriate panzanella and whatever looks good at the farmer’s market. The hangar steak is a Boulud recipe from this book. Though my favorite cut of beef is the ribeye (I mean, it’s just the best), the hangar steak is often called “the butcher’s cut” in that butchers often keep it for themselves! It’s usually far less expensive than other cuts but absolutely delicious. I serve this with Molly Wizenberg’s cherry-goat cheese bread salad and whatever looks good at the market at the end of summer — fresh corn, pole beans, etc.
And nearly always — per the photo above, though mostly enjoyed with two spoons, “right out of the bucket,” as Mr. Magpie puts it (read to the end to understand the reference) — ice cream for dessert. Mr. Magpie loves Van Leeuwen ice cream and I prefer Ample Hills, both of which can (dangerously) be delivered straight to our apartment via Postmates…
What are some of your favorite go-to recipes?
+A roundup of our all-time favorite cookbooks (many referenced above).
+The first thing I’m buying for my new apartment. We made it two years with a compact, battery-powered little guy and we need the upgrade. (Now that we will have the closet space to store it.)
+These gorgeous Aerin for WS frames are on sale!!!
+I pulled out a bunch of my decorating books in advance of our move, looking for inspiration. I just adore Nate Berkus and enjoy revisiting this book of his every few months. I love all of the animal accents/prints/pieces he includes in his interiors and feel like he’d approve of these inexpensive tortoise shells as decor in a library.
+Will be doing a larger post on all the new pieces of furniture we’ll be buying for our new digs (wheeeeee!), but
+I think I MUST order this matchbook watercolor print of one of our favorite hotels!
+This juice glass is still my favorite way to enjoy a glass of cava or red wine.