As The Gourmet Dad I would love to tell you that every meal made in the McDermott household is a perfectly plated culinary masterpiece. But, as any parent knows, the reality of weeknight dinners is far from Cooking Channel perfection. Oftentimes dinner in our household involves as much kid wrangling as it does cooking. Thanks to years of juggling, I’ve come up with tons of quick and easy meals that require minimal time and effort, but deliver maximum flavor and nutrition.
A lot of you requested this type of recipe on social media. Thank you for all those comments and suggestions! So, I’m excited to share three of our weeknight go-to meals below. All three of these recipes are featured in my book (along with a ton of other great stuff) so check that out if you’re searching for even more inspiration.
1. Easy Lemon Curry Chicken in Spicy Cream Sauce
You might be a little surprised, as I sure was, that kids take to this dish with gusto. Despite the name, both the chicken and the sauce are fairly mild, with just a hint of curry. I came up with this recipe for myself, because I wanted to spruce up some boring chicken breasts. The curry gives the dish an exotic flavor that is just pleasantly spicy but not overwhelming by any means.
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Sprinkle half the seasoning across a large platter. Set the chicken on the seasoning and then sprinkle the remaining seasoning on top. Pat the chicken to make the seasoning stick.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sear each chicken breast on both sides until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
4. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the internal temperature measures 165°F. Remove the chicken to a clean plate and loosely tent with foil to keep it warm while you prepare the sauce.
5. Add the lemon juice to the skillet in which the chicken was seared and cook over medium heat, scraping up any bits left from the chicken. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter, the curry powder, cumin, chili powder and coriander, and stir until the butter has melted.
6. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream. Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking continuously. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and whisk until it melts. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
7. Arrange the chicken on 4 individual plates and top with just enough sauce to cover. Serve at once.
2. My Mom’s Tuna Casserole
My mom’s tuna casserole was one of her best recipes, probably because it was one of the simplest. You can substitute whatever cheese tickles your fancy, and the same goes for the pasta. Put your own signature on the crust, as well. I keep it simple with tortilla chips, but I’m just as likely to mix it up with jalapeño chips (a Canadian favorite) for a little extra kick, or even salt and vinegar chips to add some tangy flavor.
To make this dish a bit lighter on calories, leave out the crème fraiche, use half the amount of cheese, and choose a low sodium, light mushroom soup instead of cream of mushroom soup. If you’re gluten free you can also substitute the pasta for any gluten free noodle.
Serves 4 to 6
- One 12-ounce package egg noodles
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup chopped yellow onion
- 2 scallions, root ends removed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced jalapeño pepper
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
- ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- One 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
- Two 6-ounce cans chunk white tuna, drained
- ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus ½ cup for topping
- ½ cup shredded pepper jack cheese, plus ½ cup for topping
- ½ cup crème fraiche
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 ½ cups crushed tortilla chips (or substitute a favorite chip)
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Bring a large pot three-quarters full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook them until they are al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and return the noodles to the pot.
3. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat, and sauté the onions, scallions, jalapeños, and garlic until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until slightly wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the ancho chili powder, salt and pepper.
4. Pour in the cream of mushroom soup, and then fill the empty can half full of water, stir and add that to the pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the tuna, ½ cup of the cheddar cheese, and ½ cup of the pepper jack cheese, and stir to melt the cheese.
5. Once the cheese has melted, add the tuna mixture into the noodles. Mix in the crème fraiche and chives, combing well.
6. Pour the tuna-noodle mixture into an oiled 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top with the remaining ½ cup cheddar, the remaining ½ cup pepper jack, and the crushed chips. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the casserole is warm in the center.
3. Super-Cheesy, Super-Easy Mushroom Risotto
Many people are reluctant or afraid to make risotto because they’ve heard it’s difficult and very laborious to make. I’m here to tell you it’s not. It’s easy, delicious and all the stirring is worth it!
Properly cooked, a risotto is a velvety treat, one that is the perfect platform for just about any savory flavor, especially cheese. The key to making a risotto all it can be is to slowly introduce stock to the rice so that the rice gradually absorbs the liquid and releases its starch—making for a silky smooth texture. Stirring is also key, and the best risotto requires constant stirring, which is kind of meditative. I’ve added three different cheeses to make the flavors a little more complex and the texture just a little creamier.
Serves 6 to 8
- 8 to 10 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- ½ pound mushrooms, sliced (a mix of button and wild mushrooms)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 pound Arborio rice
- 2 scallions, root ends removed and minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup cubed fontina cheese
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus ¼ cup for garnish
- ¼ cup grated Romano cheese, plus ¼ cup for garnish
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Heat the stock in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Heat the oil in another large pot over medium heat, and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic, and sauté until slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the rice to the pot with the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Do not brown the rice. Stir in the scallions and thyme, and add the wine. Cook until the liquid is almost evaporated.
4. Add warm stock one ladle at a time to the rice, stirring constantly. Allow the stock to be completely absorbed before adding the next ladleful. This step takes patience, so don’t rush. Cook the rice until it’s al dente, about 20 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and butter.
5. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the parsley for garnish. Add the three cheeses and stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and the zest, and the chopped parsley. Garnish with the ¼ cup of each Parmesan and Romano and the reserved parsley. Serve hot.
Which recipe will you try first?
Risotto Image Source: A Family Feast