I Stir-Fry With a Little Help From My Friends
Tried-and-trues from my tried-and-trues
I experience the same amount of self-dislike as most people — give or take, I suppose — and lately I am, for better or worse, fairly aware of it. (I’m working on it.)
Which leads me to this: Do you ever find yourself wondering how you managed to bring in such a crazy, wonderful group of friends? When I say “group,” I don’t mean we all hang out together all the time, because I function best on a one-on-one basis (though when we are all in the same room, that’s pretty fun, too.) No, this is more like a handful of people that in my mind make up my personal pack. Similar, different, all just ridiculously better than me. (Cue Imposter Syndrome chat.) How did I get here? I’ll (probably) never know.
I was feeling particularly mushy about it the other day, which led me to today’s post — the majority of my friends like to cook, and are very good at it. I always wanted to participate in one of those chain mail recipe exchanges, but whenever I got an email from someone asking me to participate, it’d just sit in my inbox. Because I wouldn’t know any of those people except for one, probably. Recipe recommendations are best when they come from someone you know. (I’m confident writing this because I feel like so many of our readers here trust us, and trust our recommendations, which is literally what keeps us going … we love knowing that, and take it so seriously.)
So I asked a few of my closest friends to recommend one of their go-to weeknight meals. Probably not surprisingly, four out of five of the dishes (none of which are technically stir-fries, but hey, the headline was cute) I’d already made multiple times. Call it a mind meld, or kindred spirits — or, okay, just common tastes. We’ve got a soup, a bean dish, a bowl with lots of things in it, and a cauliflower dish, all “mains,” and (not that you need me to), I can vouch for all of them. (I’ve now made the one that I hadn’t made before, the cauliflower.) I’m happy to share such staples with you, staples that are loved by me and my girls.
One note: My BIG LOVE, Heidi, mentioned Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onions and Butter, as a favorite. We and everyone else have written about Marcella’s magic sauce multiple times and if you don’t know about it at this point you need to stop reading right now and go make it.
Okay. The mush ends here. Go cook.
Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 25 minutes
This recipe is from Lynn, the one who brought me smushed yet perfect black and white cookies to the hospital after I had Holden and is all-around amazing at pretty much everything. It’s a smart adaptation of Ali Slagle’s easy Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake, with tweaks that Lynn has incorporated (the onion, oregano, and diced tomatoes), and I tried and found to be excellent. It’s been in her regular rotation for about two years now, and her family loves it. We eat it with bread, but I could also see it working with grains, rice, or noodles.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus one tablespoon
1 onion, chopped
3 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (like cannellini or Great Northern) or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup boiling water
Salt and black pepper
6 ounces mozzarella, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1. Heat the oven to 475°F. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add remaining olive oil and the garlic and fry, stirring occasionally, until it’s lightly golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste (be careful of splattering) and cook for 30 seconds, reducing the heat as needed to prevent the garlic from burning. Stir in the oregano and diced tomatoes, with their juice.
3. Add the beans, water, and generous pinches of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Let simmer, stirring once or twice until the mixture thickens, 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, then bake until the cheese has melted and browned in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. If the top is not as toasted as you’d like, run the skillet under the broiler for a minute or 2. Serve at once.
— Recipe adapted from The New York Times
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 1 1/2 hours
This is a pick from my sister, Emma, the better version of me: the soup that Mark adapted from a dish served at the Rose Garden restaurant in Anthony, Texas. This might just be my favorite soup ever, and, from Emma: “it’s the right amount of ‘work’ or ‘project’ to be satisfying, but doesn’t take all day. And I love a thing with many toppings, so customizable. Really good leftovers, too.”
2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs or legs
1 pound beef bones, or a cut of beef with a lot of bone in it like short ribs, optional
1 medium onion, quartered (leave the skin on)
1 head garlic, halved across the equator (leave the skin on)
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or more as needed
6 corn tortillas
2 tablespoons canned chipotle chilies in adobo, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados, pitted, peeled and cubed
4 to 8 ounces plain melting cheese, like mozzarella (not fresh), Oaxaca or Jack, shredded or cubed
Lime wedges for serving, optional
1. Put the chicken, the beef bones if you’re using them, 3 of the onion quarters and the garlic in a large pot. Add water just to cover (about 10 cups) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the liquid bubbles gently. Cook, skimming the foam off the surface every now and then, until the chicken is very tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, put the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, fry 2 of the tortillas (one at a time if necessary), turning once, until crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes per tortilla. Drain on paper towels. Cut the 4 remaining tortillas into strips, add them to the skillet and fry, stirring to separate them, until crisp and golden, another 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt while they’re still warm.
3. When the chicken is tender, transfer it to a plate or cutting board with tongs or a slotted spoon (or put it in the fridge or freezer so it cools faster). When it’s cool enough to handle, shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bones and the skin. (If you used beef, discard it or save it for another use.)
4. While the chicken is cooling, strain the stock and discard the solids. Peel the remaining quarter of an onion and put it in a blender with the chipotle, 1/4 cup of the cilantro and a sprinkle of salt. Crumble in the two whole fried tortillas and add enough stock to fill the blender a little more than halfway. Purée until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
5. Pour the purée and remaining stock back into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the mixture bubbles gently and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken, taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve the soup, passing the avocado, cheese, tortilla strips, remaining cilantro, and limes if you’d like at the table for garnishing.
— Recipe from The New York Times