5 (Easy!) Ways To Spice Up Any Boring Midweek Meal



Photo: Courtesy of Dinner: A Love Story.
Let's face it: You're busy — too busy to mess around with complicated cooking at the end of the day. Still, dinner should be more than just a cup full of cereal and the dream of a brighter tomorrow. Enter: Jenny Rosenstrach, a busy mom who makes dinner happen with style, simplicity, and just the right amount of sizzle. Whether or not you're cooking for kids, we love her easy, delicious approach. In fact, we love it so much, we'll be sharing one of her recipes every week, so you can have a life — and a REALLY good meal, too.

I know it seems hard to believe, but there are a handful of people out there in the world (OK, the immediate family) who have never heard of Andy’s seminal “grilled chicken for people who hate grilled chicken.” This, in spite of us linking to it so many times on DALS that I actually hear my early readers (Yo Amanda in SF!) thinking what I used to think at my childhood dinner table: “Oh jeez, not the chicken again.”

The secret of course, is the yogurt marinade. Which yogurt marinade? Well, that’s up to you. As long as you have the basic template ingredients (yogurt, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper) you can go in almost any direction that feels good to you. (Remember, this is marinating, which, I believe is Lithuanian for “You can’t screw it up.”) Start with this template:

2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 large onion
1/3 cup olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper

Once you have all that in the blender, you can choose your own adventure:

Option 1: Lemon-Pepper, “The Classic”
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
Juice from two lemons
1 really nice squeeze of honey
Even more black pepper (about 10-15 grinds)

Option 2: Tandoori, “The Crowdpleaser” (from Bon Appetit)
1 cup cilantro leaves (no need to chop since it’s going in the blender)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon garam masala (McCormick now sells this — it’s an Indian spice blend that’s kind of sweet)
1 2-inch piece ginger
juice of one lime

Option 3: Middle Eastern, “The Middle Easterner” (I’m pre-coffee; can’t do better than that at the moment)
1/2 cup fresh oregano, stems removed
1 clove garlic
juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons cumin

Option 4: Mustard and Herb, “The Pantry Special”
½ cup Dijon mustard
leaves from a couple sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Option 5: Chutney, “The Cheater”
1/2 cup your favorite chutney (these are my favorite)
1/2 cup cilantro

Whichever direction you’ve chosen:

Give the ingredients a good whirl in the blender, then pour into a large freezer bag along with your meat — 2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs or breasts (pounded flat between two pieces of wax paper), drumsticks, or…here’s some breaking news: SHRIMP! I’ve discovered that a good flavorful yogurt marinade is a great way to kick up the sometimes bland frozen shrimp we pick up in the Northeast. (The photo above was made with the tandoori marinade — the dipping sauce is chutney mixed with lime and more yogurt!)

Marinate your chicken or shrimp (thawed if frozen) in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush grill grates with oil. Scrape excess marinade off chicken or shrimp. If you are making shrimp, thread them onto skewers. Grill chicken turning once, until browned and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. The shrimp will take a little less time, about 2-3 minutes a side.


Jenny Rosenstrach is the author of Dinner: A Love Story and the blog of the same name. She and her husband write The Providers column for Bon Appetit.