I’m cooking dinner for my parents…but it’s August and I don’t want to heat my apartment. What can I cook that doesn’t involve the oven and a minimal amount of long boiling pots?
This is a tough call for me, because I am a full-fledged kitchen sado-masochist. I have no compunction about turning on the oven in 90-degree weather, torturing myself and my extra-furry, extra-sheddy cats in the pursuit of delicious cherry pies, peach galettes, the best breakfast bread, and even mac and cheese. But maybe it’s time to rethink my ways.
I mentioned this in my compound butter post, but if you don’t have an outdoor grill, the next best item might not be a stovetop grill pan but a toaster oven. When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just throw my dinner protein in there instead of firing up the burners.
True, this doesn’t work when you’re making an entire roast chicken or pork tenderloin, but unless you’re a crazy person like me, you’re not contemplating this on an August weekend anyway. Go for smaller portions, like lamb chops (10 minutes at 450˚ for medium-rare, slathered with rosemary butter upon removal) or my summer take on what the Italians call involtini (basically a meat roll).
Summer Chicken Involtini
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I like to grind the ends of my baguettes or ciabatta in the food processor for soft, big crumbs but you can use panko too, and Whole Foods now sells cans of house-brand panko in the baking aisle!)
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- zest of one orange
- 1 handful chopped golden raisins
- 8 boneless chicken thighs
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
Mix the bread crumbs, parsley, rosemary, orange zest, and golden raisins together in a bowl. Lay the chicken thighs flat on a work surface, sprinkle with salt and pepper, fill with the mixture as if you were assembling a burrito, and roll each up into a neat little package.
If you were doing these in a real oven, I’d recommend tying with twine or stabbing with toothpicks, but it can get dangerous when doing this in a toaster oven. Carefully move the rolls over to your foil-lined toaster oven pan, brush the tops lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper once more.
Cook four at a time in a 375˚ oven for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is browned and the juices run clear. Please note that cook times vary greatly in toaster ovens vs. big ovens, so always keep an eye on your creations.
If you don’t have a toaster oven, this can be done stovetop-style too. You don’t have to brush with olive oil—just brown the rolls in a bit of butter and olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, then flip, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low until the rolls are cooked through, about 7 minutes.
As a side, salads are obvious solutions for a course that doesn’t involve the oven or stove, but as the garden lettuces start to fade away, how about making a peach caprese? Just substitute peaches for tomatoes (a good idea considering this summer’s tomato blight) layered with fresh mozzarella and drizzled with your best olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add a little mint to the traditional basil chiffonade to further the sweet/savory connection.
Finally, I haven’t tried it yet, but White on Rice Couple’s one-pot stovetop mac and cheese looks like a worthy alternative to my traditional version. You’re still going to be burning some BTUs while you stir the mixture, but it’s better than resorting to baking or the broiler. To pump it up for an impressive parental dinner, try a combo of fontina, istara (a great Spanish cheese similar to manchego), or Gruyère cheese instead of basic cheddar.
Ask Casey about anything food-related (unfortunately, I’m not very good at answering home improvement questions or giving advice on housebreaking puppies) at caseyATgoodfoodstoriesDOTcom.