Dinner and Dessert on a Weeknight

26 Aug

Orange Chicken and Potato Gratin

I’m always looking for something easy to make after work that still requires enough effort to make it feel gourmet without just throwing pasta and sauce together in a bowl.

This combination of new recipes by Melissa d’Arabian (the new Food Network star) and a little spin on an old French classic is the perfect weeknight dinner. The ingredients are simple but the results are outstanding, which is always the benchmart of a great meal for me!  But also, the timing was right. Everything was ready in about the perfect amount of time for me not to have to waste time waiting for one side dish to be done before kicking the oven up a notch.

So here’s how to manage your time for the following three recipes and how to get dinner on the table and dessert in the oven in an hour and a half. I mean seriously, dessert is included!

Here’s the menu: Crispy-skinned Chicken a l’Orange with 5 Minute Individual Potato Gratins and a side salad, followed by a French Apple and Cream Cheese Tart. It’s plenty for four people or enough for lunch the next day!

French Apple Tart slice

Step 1: Get the ingredients (I listed them below in italics or you can find Mellisa’s at the links above). Find a mandolin or a willing-to-help-slice friend (Steve!). Set-up your oven (if you only have one) to allow at least a large saute pan and a muffin tin at the same time (and later a pie crust, but there should be room if the potatoes come out).

Potato Gratins

Step 2: Start working on the potatoes

Ingredients: Vegetable spray, 2 large russet potatoes, 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese, 2 green onions, Salt and freshly ground black pepper, 3/4 cup heavy cream

  • Preheat the oven to 375 (it will stay at this temperature for all the recipes)
  • The potatoes need to go in first. Roughly peel and thinly slice 2 large russet potatoes (you do NOT need more than two potatoes). This is where a mandolin would come in handy. If you don’t have one. I would suggest cutting the potato once longways down the center, which lets you thinly chop that half more quickly. Throw the potatoes in a medium bowl.
  • On the same board, finely chop two green onions. Throw them in with bowl with the potatoes.
  • To the same bowl, add 1/2 c grated Swiss cheese, 3/4 cup of heavy cream, and salt and pepper. Mix it all up.
  • Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable oil.
  • Using your hands, evenly layer the potato slices in the muffin tin, letting the potatoes mix with the cheese and onions. Any left over cream mixture in the bowl should be drizzled evenly on top of each of the potato stacks.
  • Cover the muffin tin with a layer of foil and place in the oven (leave enough room for a large saute pan of chicken on a different level!)
  • Set your timer for 20 minutes.

Chicken a l'Orange

Step 3: Get the chicken going

Ingredients: Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, 4 skin-on bone-in chicken breast halves, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, 4 tablespoons honey.

Note: Melissa recommends skin-on bone-in chicken breast halves, but I think if you would prefer, skinless boneless would be very good as well. Just adjust the cooking time so as not to overcook or burn them.

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saute pan (whose handle can go in the oven) on medium-high.
  • Leaving the 4 chicken breast halves in their opened package (skin side up), liberally salt and pepper the skin side.
  • Put the chicken skin side down in your pan and sear the chicken, skin side only, in the pan until brown and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes.
  • In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of orange juice concentrate, 4 tablespoons of honey, and salt and pepper, to taste, over medium heat. Boil for three minutes and remove from heat.
  • Turn the chicken over (skin side up) and brush each piece with the glaze.
  • Transfer the pan to the oven, and while you’re in there, remove the foil from the potatoes.
  • Bake the chicken 20-25 minutes (or until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 170 degrees F), brushing on more glaze halfway through. Move the chicken around on the bottom of the pan to spread the glaze around on the bottom side of the chicken, too.

French Apple Tart pinwheel

Step 4: You’re already on dessert!

Ingredients: 1 pre-made pie crust, 4 oz cream cheese, 1/3 c powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1 green apple, 2 tbsp. lemon curd, cinnamon (optional)

  • Roll out a pre-made pie crust into a shallow pan. Do as you wish to the edges.
  • Poke the tip of a fork into the bottom of the crust about five times to create air vents.
  • Pre-bake the crust as soon as the oven is available for about 10 minutes, which it already should be, but maybe you are faster than me! (Your potatoes should be done about 5 minutes before the chicken.)
  • Melt the 4 oz of cream cheese for about 30 seconds in the microwave.  Mix in 1/3 c. powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
  • Core and thinly slice 1 green apple. You do not have to peel it. (Don’t do this ahead, as the apple browns quickly. If you must, splash them with lemon juice.)
  • Remove the pre-baked pie crust from the oven.
  • Smooth the cream cheese mixture into a thin layer on the bottom of the crust.
  • Elegantly arrange the thin apple slices in a pinwheel pattern. Start from the center and work your way out.
  • Melt the 2 tablespoons of lemon curd in a saucepan or briefly in the microwave, and spread a layer over the apples.
  • Lightly sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
  • Put the assembled tart back in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tart shell is golden brown.

Step 5: Salad – (You could do whatever you would prefer here)

Ingredients: Pre-washed salad mix with arugula and dill (Yum!), 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. good mustard, a sprinkle of crushed rosemary, a sprinkle of minced onion or shallot, salt and pepper.

  • To make the dressing, combine all ingredients except the salad mix :).
  • Whisk it together and dress.

Step 6: Plate!

  • Turn the potatoes upside down next to a piece of chicken and a handful of greens.
  • You should eat your food while it’s hot and let the tart do its baking.
  • The tart is good with whipped cream (perhaps you have left over whipping cream from the potatoes??) AND ice cream, but maybe just one at a time. It’s also good hot OR cold. Ahem, lunch.

Step 7: Enjoy. That was good. I can’t wait to try a few more of her recipes. So far, these are awesome and highly convenient.

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2 Responses to “Dinner and Dessert on a Weeknight”

  1. goodiegoodiegumdrops August 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

    whoa those potatoes made my mouth water

  2. Lynn September 12, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    Holy smokes! All this on a weeknight?! You are impressive, my friend!

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