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The secret to surviving the holiday feeding frenzy: make-ahead, one-dish entrees

SAVVY COOKS, FACED with the challenge of hungry house-guests or yet one more holiday gathering, have a secret: keep it simple, preferably one grand dish, and do some of the work ahead of time.

This holiday season, go hot or cold, light or hearty. Choose a cool Italian seafood salad, a meaty French lentil cassoulet, or a Thai curry casserole. Their robust flavors hide a bonus: most are low in fat.

To round out the party, start with a simple appetizer (perhaps purchased), offer salad and bread with the entrees, and conclude with a spectacular dessert (for some make-ahead choices). Each main dish serves 8 to 10.

Italian Fisherman's Salad

3 cups regular-strength chicken broth

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

2 pounds large (31- to 35-per-lb.) shrimp, shelled, deveined, and rinsed

1 pound bay scallops, rinsed

3 to 4 dozen small mussels or clams in shells (or a combination), suitable for steaming, scrubbed

Lemon dressing (recipe follows)

2 pounds dried linguine

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Thin lemon slices

Spinach pesto dressing (recipe follows)

In a 6- to 8-quart pan, combine broth, wine, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in shrimp; cover pan tightly, remove from heat, and let stand just until shrimp are pink and opaque but moist-looking in center of thickest part (cut to test), about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, put shrimp in a large bowl.

Return broth to a boil; stir in scallops. Cover pan tightly, remove from heat, and let stand until scallops are opaque in thickest part (cut to test), about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer scallops to bowl with shrimp.

Return broth to a boil. Discard any gaping mussels or clams that do not close when tapped. Add mussels or clams to boiling broth, cover, and simmer until shells pop open, 5 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer them as they open to bowl with other seafood (discard unopened ones).

Pour broth from pan into a bowl, holding back gritty sediment; discard sediment and rinse pan. Also, drain off and collect accumulated broth in bowl of seafood. Let broth cool; reserve 3 3/4 cups for dressings (following). Save remaining broth for other uses (chill, covered, up to 1 day; freeze to store longer).

Mix cooked seafood with 1 cup lemon dressing.

To pan, add about 4 quarts water; cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Add linguine and cook, uncovered, just until barely tender to bite, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain, rinse well with cold water until cool, and drain again. Pour pasta into a large shallow bowl or rimmed platter (at least 15 by 21 in., or 16-in. diameter). Mix pasta with remaining lemon dressing.

Mound marinated seafood over pasta; drizzle any excess lemon dressing over salad. If making ahead, cover and chill up to 1 day.

Garnish with parsley and lemon slices. Offer spinach pesto dressing to add to individual servings. Serves 8 to 10.

Per serving: 541 cal. (15 percent from fat); 38 g protein; 9.3 g fat (1.3 g sat.); 74 g carbo.; 274 mg sodium; 134 mg chol.

Lemon dressing. Mix 1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel, 3/4 cup lemon juice, 1 3/4 cups broth from seafood (see preceding), 1/2 cup minced shallots, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse-ground pepper, and 2 or 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced. Makes 2 3/4 cups.

Spinach pesto dressing. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart pan, bring about 1 quart water to a boil. Plunge 3 cups (about 5 oz.) lightly packed, coarsely chopped spinach leaves into water just until they turn bright green, about 30 seconds. Drain; let cool and squeeze dry. In a blender or food processor, smoothly puree spinach, 1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise, 1/2 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, 3 tablespoons dried basil leaves, and 1 clove garlic. Gradually add 2 cups broth from seafood (see preceding); blend until smooth. If making ahead, cover and chill up to 1 day. Just before serving, stir in 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Per 1/4 cup: 83 cal. (78 percent from fat); 2.8 g protein; 7.2 g fat (1.4 g sat.); 3.9 g carbo.; 87 mg sodium; 4 mg chol.

Lentil Cassoulet

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds country-style pork ribs 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon pepper 1 pound turkey Polish sausage About 10 cups regular-strength chicken broth 2 large (about 1 lb. total) onions, chopped 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves 2 teaspoons coriander seed 1 dried bay leaf 2 pounds (5 2/3 cups) lentils 3 large (about 3/4 lb. total) carrots, coarsely chopped 1 cup coarse soft bread crumbs 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Trim and discard fat from pork; cut ribs apart between bones. Mix salt, sugar, and pepper; rub all over pork. Seal meat in a plastic food bag. Chill, turning occasionally, at least 6 hours or up to 1 day. Rinse meat well and pat dry.

Place pork and sausage in a single layer in 2 pans, each 10 by 15 inches. Bake in a 450 |degrees~ oven until meat is browned, 30 minutes. When sausage is cool, diagonally cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

In a 6- to 8-quart pan, combine 1 cup broth with onions, garlic, thyme, coriander, and bay. Stir often over high heat until liquid evaporates and a brown film forms in pan, about 10 minutes. Deglaze by stirring brown film free with 1/3 cup broth. Boil until liquid evaporates and brown film forms again; stir often. Repeat deglazing 1 or 2 times until onion is well browned; use 1/3 cup broth each time.

Meanwhile, sort and discard debris from lentils; rinse lentils. Add lentils, pork, 8 cups broth, and carrots to pan; cover and simmer until lentils are tender to bite, 30 to 40 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, set aside pork. Pour lentil mixture into a shallow 5- to 6-quart casserole (about 12 by 16 in.); nestle pork and sausage slices into lentils. If making ahead, cool, cover, and chill up to 1 day.

Tightly cover casserole with foil. Bake, covered, in a 350 |degrees~ oven until hot in center, about 35 minutes (about 1 hour and 30 minutes, if chilled).

Mix crumbs and oil; uncover casserole and sprinkle with crumbs. Bake, uncovered, until crumbs are golden, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 8 to 10.

Per serving: 631 cal. (26 percent from fat); 54 g protein; 18 g fat (5.5 g sat.); 65 g carbo.; 739 mg sodium; 94 mg chol.

Thai Curry Casserole

3 1/2 pounds banana or butternut squash, seeded and cut into large chunks

1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 large onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup minced fresh or 2 tablespoons crumbled dried basil leaves

1/2 cup minced fresh or 2 tablespoons crumbled dried mint leaves

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (coriander)

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot red chilies

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup regular-strength chicken broth

4 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or 4 tablespoons rice vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon sugar)

2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla) or soy sauce

2 to 2 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced

Coconut-citrus topping (recipe follows)

2 cups finely shredded carrots

1 or 2 fresh small chilies (optional)

Sprigs of basil, mint, and cilantro (optional)


Place squash, cut side down, in a 4 1/2- to 5-quart casserole (about 10 by 15 in.). Add about 1/2 inch water and cover tightly. Bake in a 350 |degrees~ oven until squash is tender when pierced, about 1 hour. Let squash stand until cool enough for you to handle; cut off and discard skin. Cut squash into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks. Drain casserole and return squash to it.

Meanwhile, combine chicken, garlic, onion, basil, mint, cilantro, ginger, and chilies in a 10- to 12-inch frying pan. Stir often over medium-high heat until meat and onion are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir flour into meat mixture, then mix in broth, 3 tablespoons vinegar, and fish sauce. Stir until bubbling and thick; remove from heat.

Tuck potatoes around squash pieces; spoon chicken mixture over vegetables and spread to make level. If making ahead, cover and chill up to 1 day.

Pour or spread coconut-citrus topping evenly over chicken mixture. Bake casserole, uncovered, in a 375 |degrees~ oven until topping is browned at casserole edges and juices are bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes.

In a bowl, gently mix carrots with remaining vinegar. Serve carrots from a small bowl to accompany casserole, or use carrots or chilies and herb sprigs to decorate it. Scoop out portions and add salt to taste. Serves 8.

Per serving: 327 cal. (19 percent from fat); 18 g protein; 6.8 g fat (1.8 g sat.); 51 g carbo.; 251 mg sodium; 49 mg chol.

Coconut-citrus topping. In a 4- to 5-quart pan, smoothly blend 2 cups regular-strength chicken broth with 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Add 1 1/2 cups low-fat or extra-light milk, 1 tablespoon each grated lemon peel and lime peel, and 2 teaspoons coconut extract. Stir often over medium-high heat until sauce boils; simmer gently, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Use hot or cool. If making ahead, let cool, cover, and chill up to 1 day. Stir vigorously to smooth before using.
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Title Annotation:recipes
Author:Anusasananan, Linda Lau; Hale, Christine Weber
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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