I originally wanted to name this blog “Work, Eat, Run, Sleep” because that is basically my life — day after day, week after week, month after month — especially when I am training for a race. When I am in full training mode I often tell friends and family that my life is WERS. So while my weekends are filled with delicious and elaborate meals, my weekday dinners are exponentially more hectic and haphazard.
On a regular (i.e. not busy) day, I leave my office anytime between 6:00pm and 6:30pm. After running five to eight miles, strength training, stretching, and commuting, I usually arrive home around 9:00pm, hungry and tired. Therefore, I try to manage my meals so that I only have to cook one quick meal during the week (two, if necessary), which is really for the next day’s lunch and dinner and not for immediate consumption.* After years of this WERS routine, I have a handful of go-to weekday dinners that take 20-30 minutes to make and can be easily reheated for lunch or dinner the next day.
My Top Five Weekday Dinners That Can Be Made in 30 Minutes or Less
1. Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken
2. Ziti with Sausage Onion and Fennel
3. Salmon with Andouille Sausage and Green Olives
4. Crusty Chicken Thighs with Mushroom Sauce
5. Lemongrass Chicken
My favorite fast weekday meal is a recipe from Food and Wine magazine for lemongrass chicken. I really love the taste of the curry powder coated chicken after it cooks in the caramel sauce. The end product is wonderfully fragrant and spicy. Best of all, I can pick up the ingredients from the Safeway near my apartment on my way home from work so advanced planning is not a necessity.
The key to making this meal as efficient as possible is to start cooking the rice first so that it will be ready by the time the chicken is ready to serve. Additionally, the lemongrass can take a while to mince so if you can, do this the night before so you can just toss it into the pan at the appropriate time. However, not doing so will not set you back that much time-wise provided you are handy with the knife.
Lemongrass Chicken (from Food & Wine Magazine)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 fresh lemongrass stalks, tender inner white bulbs only, minced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
5 cilantro sprigs
Steamed rice, for serving
In a bowl, combine the fish sauce, garlic, curry powder, salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the sugar. Add the chicken to coat.
In a small skillet, mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1 tablespoon of the water and cook over high heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Cook without stirring until a deep amber caramel forms, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Transfer to a very small heatproof bowl.
Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the lemon grass, shallot and chiles and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken and caramel and stir-fry over moderate heat until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and top with the cilantro. Serve with rice.
*Yes, I realize I have other options than cooking for myself. However, I absolutely refuse to buy or consume microwave dinners and unless I am really desperate, I avoid eating at the fast food/sandwich shops near my apartment at all costs. Further, I never have the foresight to pre-order take-out or delivery which can also be costly.