Friday, January 09, 2009

30+ Minute Meals

The mess after a simple dinner.

I made a quick and easy weekday dinner last night: broiled chicken thighs, steamed rice, and sautéed broccoli with cherry tomatoes and feta. I used wholesome ingredients and avoided the canned “detritus” shortcuts that Mark Bittman slams in this article. It was a dinner worthy of Living Simple.

Now, here’s the planning and work it actually took:

-The night before, I removed some chicken from the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost (30 seconds, but quite a bit of foresight).

-The next evening, I washed the chicken, which hadn’t fully defrosted, and soaked it in cold water for a while (the fastest way to defrost something). Then I trimmed the fat and prepped the meat for broiling (25 minutes).

-While the chicken was in the oven, I made steamed rice, which took little work on my part (2 minutes).

-In the meantime, I washed and chopped the broccoli, halved the cherry tomatoes, minced the garlic and crumbled the feta (12 minutes).

-When the chicken was almost done (30 minutes in the oven), I sautéed the broccoli and tomatoes in olive oil, 7 minutes.

-The meal took about 10 minutes to eat.

-Afterward, the cleanup effort: 15 minutes to wash the dishes; 10 minutes to clean the oil-splattered stove and tea kettle that’s on the back burner; 7 minutes to clean the counters; and 5 minutes to sweep the kitchen floor.

Here’s the tally. It took 34 minutes of active time to prepare this quick, simple meal, and then 37 more minutes to clean up. That’s more than an hour in the kitchen, not including eating time.

I cook because I like it.* I make my own chicken stock, I avoid canned ingredients, and I never, ever, eat frozen dinners. But I have to admit that even simple weekday cooking can take a hell of a lot of time and effort. Let’s take 30-minute/quick-and-easy meal advocates with a grain of kosher salt.

* No, I don’t like cleaning, but I stick to a “if you want something done right, do it yourself” philosophy in this area.


Anonymous said...


Good job! I had to laugh about cleaning the teakettle. I have to do the same thing. I usually try to remember to put it elsewhere before frying.

Canned vegetables are awful. Who knew asparagus could be the same olive color as old military trucks and squishy like overcooked pasta? They are when canned. Who knew potatoes could have such a lovely metallic taste? They do when canned. About the only thing canned that is decent are tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes. That's because those tomatoes are actually ripe, unlike the fresh ones at the store.

We make our own broth also out of everything. Chicken, rabbit, lamb, beef bones...


Yulinka said...

Kevan--I hate sauteeing on weeknights. There's always too much cleanup afterward. Like you, I avoid canned vegetables, with the exception of tomatoes and pumpkin puree.

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