Weekly Menu Chez Magpie.

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):

Magpie Vinaigrette

-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?

Post Scripts.

+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!!!

+This lamp is chic and super affordable, as is this one, which looks a lot like a more expensive designer style!

+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.

+Three other home decor books in my cart right now: this one by Rebecca Atwood, this one by Cathy Kincaid, and this one by Tom Scheerer.

+Will be doing a larger post on all the new pieces of furniture we’ll be buying for our new digs (wheeeeee!), but

+The best kitchen gear.

+Surprisingly affordable and sleek bar stools.

+Love these low-profile swivel club chairs.

+I think I MUST order this matchbook watercolor print of one of our favorite hotels!

+A cool gift for a finance guy looking to spruce up his desktop. (More gifts for men here.)

+This juice glass is still my favorite way to enjoy a glass of cava or red wine.

+How do you meal plan?

20 Comments

  1. Sounds like you guys eat really well! Love that you are not afraid of a fat or carb. Just makes a meal much more satisfying. Would love a lunch-focused post in the future!

    1. Ohhh yes! We are totally on board with eating a little bit of everything, including fat, so long as we eat a varied and balanced diet and small portions.

      Noted — thinking of doing more of a recipe series including suggestions for meals, including lunch!

      xx

  2. Um, 100% making that shrimp stat. And oven fries—how have I never considered those! I do, however, make a mean twice-baked potato… Thank you so much for sharing all of these—It’s so voyeuristically fun to peak into other people’s meals-in-the-life!

  3. More of this please!! Have bookmarked this post for future reference, I love it so much.

    It’s so fun hearing about what recipes other people go back to time and time again, or what recipes you’ve somehow just made up and cobbled together over the years. Also finding it sort of funny how I often make something thinking no one else eats this and yet…1, 4, 6, 7, and 9 on your list are eerily similar to regulars in our rotation.

    1. Haha! I’m so glad to hear that!! I had no idea this post would go over so well. Going to do some more similar ones in the future 🙂

      xx

  4. Love this post SO much! I’m inspired and have acquired so many good ideas from your posts about food & cookbooks. Love, love, love.

    I wholeheartedly agree on the Lodge cast-iron skillet comment — and OH, I wish I could get Ample Hills Postmated to me in Cambridge!! It’s so good. xx

  5. This is definitely in my top 10 – maybe top 5 – Magpie posts ever. I’m becoming increasingly interested in food and making great things so I am definitely bookmarking this to return to later.

    Does Mr. Magpie have any tips on getting to his level of home-cook? I know it’s achieved over time and through practice, but thought he might have a few good ways to be better outside of that.

    PS. Do you guys watch MasterChef? If not, I think you definitely should!! It’s inspiring and that’s really what has ignited my desire to be a better cook.

    1. Hi JC! WOOHOO! High praise from a loyal reader 🙂 Thank you for letting me know. I will ask Landon for his two cents on honing his cooking skills. I do know he spends a lot of time reading/googling/comparing recipes and I’m 100% certain he’d say the first thing is getting the basics down like how to hold a knife, how to dice vs. mince vs. chop, etc. I’m curious what else he’d add. Will report back!

      We don’t watch MasterChef but I will absolutely look into it!

      xx

    2. Hi JC (and hi Magpies)!

      I love this question and have seven points that come to mind in response. I’ll need a full-fledged post to capture all the details if you all are up for it — what do you think?

      Without further ado, my tips to elevate your cooking…

      1. Properly season your food! I know, I know. You likely have seen this in countless cookbooks already, but it is fundamental to great cooking. (Still, for some reason, it seems to be overlooked or misunderstood by home cooks.) One quick win: buy Diamond Crystal kosher salt. It’s been described as having a “clean flavor” due in part to the fact that it doesn’t contain anti-caking agents. It’s just salt. I also think it is forgiving to a cook that is interested in exploring the limits of seasoning food.

      2. Don’t overlook your cooking equipment – most especially your cookware, oven, and stove top – as critical factors in the success of a dish.

      3. There is a such thing as a bad recipe writer. How many of you have cooked a dish exactly as written only for it to turn out terribly? Cookbooks and recipes are often edited to make them more appealing to a broader audience (in other words, watered down to make them more accessible). Other times, recipes are not thoroughly tested in the kitchen so they are never going yield good results to begin with.

      4. Shortcuts come at a cost. There is beauty in simple dishes, but I’m often skeptical of a recipe that includes phrases like “30 minute ____” or “5 ingredient ____.” Other terms I’m leery of: weeknight, quick, easy, simple.

      5. Don’t be afraid of fat. Fat is flavor. Fat is rich in nutrients. Fat is filling and satisfying!

      6. Get the best ingredients you can.

      7. Pay attention to what the food is telling you. For instance: a recipe may tell you to sauté a finely chopped medium onion over medium-low heat for five minutes (until translucent). However, the time may be longer or shorter based on a wide variety of factors: your burners may run hot (see point 2 above), your chop may be larger, the pan may be smaller (again, please refer to point 2 above), or your onion may be fresher.

      Lots more to say here, and with greater specificity — let me know if you want more and I’ll beg Jen give me space to write a full post!

  6. Please share the actually recipe for the Mmmmm Chicken – especially the sauce. Now I’m dying to try and make it because it sounds so good!

    1. YIKES – Landon has just informed me that it’s a kind of “make by memory” type of dish, but he said he’ll write down every step and proportions next time he makes it. xoxo

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