Our Verdict: “Dining In”

Kirstin: This is such an exceptional cookbook. I thought she wrote beautifully and explained things incredibly well, and the recipes were well thought out. I completely trusted her, by the end of the month, I was cooking recipes from it for four friends, having never done them before. I knew that they would be fantastic recipes. The salads I’ve already made again. The pork I’ve already made again. I know I’ll be making the salads over and over again.

Maureen: Don’t forget the chicken. That sounded fantastic. I think I’m going to make that this weekend.

Kirstin: OOOOOOH. The chicken. I can’t even speak, it’s so good. And the potatoes that go with the chicken. So, so, good.

Maureen: I never thought I”d see you replace the Zuni chicken, but there we are.

Kirstin: The fish chapter was really good, and that’s unusual because you don’t normally see long chapters on fish.

Maureen: It was very nice to see a large collection of fish. And the desserts were great– for the most part. The rhubarb galette I’d rather forget about. But everything else was sublime.

Kirstin: Absolutely.

Maureen: You’ve already said this will be your book of the year.

Kirstin: Yes. Dinner from Melissa Clark was last year, this will be this year.

Maureen: Seems a bit early to be declaring a winner for 2018, but let’s see.

“Dining In”
Overall Grade (A- F):  A (Maureen) A (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Maureen: Hard to pick a favourite. Kirstin: The chicken. The chicken. The chicken. A close second will be the salmon.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A. They are my favourite photographers and they’re excellent.
Any disasters? Kirstin: The disaster is she doesn’t have another cookbook out already. Maureen: The rhubarb galette.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf, high rotation. Maureen: Bookshelf.        Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: Maureen: Yes. Kirstin: I already have.

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Our Verdict: “Dining In”

“Paprika-Rubbed Sheet-Pan Chicken with Lemon” from “Dining In”

Yum. Yum. Yum.

The rub you make for this chicken has fennel seed, hot paprika, salt, smoked paprika, black pepper, garlic and olive oil. Basically, all good things. Alison says in the introduction that she smears this rub onto other meat too– pork chops, pork shoulders, chicken wings. I can see it working well on all of those things, and may try to do it myself.

The other different approach to this recipe is that you cook the chicken low and slow– a low temperature oven for a long time. This makes the chicken extra-moist and extra-juicy. It’s definitely an excellent way to do it if you’ve got the time.

You’ll see the roasted red peppers above, which I roasted for the last hour alongside the chicken, which I then tossed in the leftover juices and spices in the bottom of the sheet pan. Just like Alison told me to do. It was an excellent recommendation.

If you’re wondering if we enjoyed the chicken, I will answer the question with a fact: there was no chicken leftover. Not one shred. That tells you everything you need to know.

“Paprika-Rubbed Sheet-Pan Chicken with Lemon” from “Dining In”

“Mom’s Trout with Herby Breadcrumbs” from “Dining In”

This post could also be called: “The Perennial Favourite of Fish Friday.”

When I first paged through this cookbook, I knew right away this dish was not only going to get made, but would be universally loved at the table. There’s so few times in life that you’re dead certain that you’ll be right, but this was one of the times. The reason I knew this was because I make a variation of this all the time.

The roots of this Fish Friday Favourite come from Gwyneth Paltrow’s second book, “It’s All Good,” which [GASP] I now know was FIVE years ago. Time flies. Anyhow, at the time, I sold the recipe to the boys by telling them it was from Pepper Potts, the character she plays in the Iron Man and Avengers films. This was so long ago that stating that fact was enough to sway them to try it. These days, I can tell you, citing Pepper Potts wouldn’t work, because as savvy teenage boys/young men (apply where appropriate), subterfuge with food is now nearly impossible to pull off.

This version from Alison Roman, in fact, is slightly better. It was easier to do, it was tastier and most of all, I didn’t have to feel guilty for using regular bread crumbs rather than the gluten free ones called for in Gwyneth’s original recipe. Trout is also a great fish as not only is it very tasty, but it’s also much more affordable [read: cheap] and sustainable than some other types of fish, which is why I like to buy it so much.

Will I make this again? Yes. Again and again and again. Because I already do.

Note: Unlike the previous post, I didn’t have a problem with the American spelling of Mom, since I use that all the time, still. Lifetime habits are hard to break.

“Mom’s Trout with Herby Breadcrumbs” from “Dining In”

“Everyone’s Favorite Celebration Cake” from “Dining In”

Writer’s note: Hilariously, this American paused after spelling “favorite” the American way in the headline above, as it appears in the book. I’ve been here too long. It looks wrong without the U.

Much like Kirstin will always test the roast chicken recipes in a cookbook we are reviewing, often I will test the cake recipes. It’s called playing to your strengths.

Luckily for me, it was a good friend’s birthday, so I had the perfect excuse to make it. Though, I should say for the record that I never need an excuse to make cake, and you don’t either. Any day is a good day for cake.

So what of this cake? It was delicious, but oh my goodness is it HUGE– and as American saying that [see above], that’s really a statement. The birthday party we attended had more than a dozen people there, and we still only managed to get through half of the cake. So that’s good if you like cake leftovers– no bad thing– but bad if you don’t live with a few always-hungry teenagers who will finish it off a few days later.

It’s a well-written recipe, too. She clearly explains how to do things and why do them, which is especially helpful when making cake, as it makes some people nervous. I learned years ago that if you’ve got the time, a crumb coat on a cake is always worth doing, and she repeats that advice here.

However, I’m not sure it would be this family’s favourite. It’s good, to be sure, but our favourite? Probably not. It was still excellent cake, though.

Want to try to make this cake? Alison wrote it up for BuzzFeed (though she made one substitution in the icing, though I don’t think you’ll notice). Click through here to see it.

“Everyone’s Favorite Celebration Cake” from “Dining In”

“Frozen blackberries and labne with honey” from “Dining in”

For the finale I made a semifreddo-like dessert. Whisked double cream, greek yoghurt and honey. Combined with slightly cooked summer fruit. Barely folded together and then frozen. You can find the recipe here.

We served it with raspberries and redcurrants from my mother in law’s garden.

A perfect way to end the meal. A meal that we shall all remember with much fondness, not only because the food was so delicious. But also because it was so easy that it enabled us to share old stories and hear some new too.

Alison Roman. You are my hero. Thank you.

“Frozen blackberries and labne with honey” from “Dining in”

“Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Garlic, Citrus and Cilantro” from “Dining in”

I cooked a pork shoulder for the main course. I was particularly curious about how orange would flavour the pork; I already have a winner of a lamb recipe that uses orange zest. This was a wonderfully simple recipe. And the gravy was already made, with later addition of some lime juice too. The flavours were wonderful. And my lunch guests assured me that this could definitely be cooked in the winter months too. The addition of the chiles was completely magical. It will be a tough decision in the winter between this recipe and our usual zuni mock porchetta recipe…

You can find the recipe here.

“Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Garlic, Citrus and Cilantro” from “Dining in”

“Watermelon and cucumbers with Spicy Sumac Salt” and “Cantaloupe with Arugula and black olives” from “Dining in”

Today I am going to post three courses made for a father’s day meal, all cooked from Alison Roman’s book, and eaten outside with family. I have not made any of these recipes before, but after a month of cooking from this book, I completely trust her. Completely.

The first course consisted of two salads from her fruit salad section. She starts the chapter encouraging you to try these recipes and not to skip the chapter. And so I carefully read all the recipes and chose these two as I thought they were more seasonal and would be good for an outdoor lunch. Oh yes! The watermelon was slightly spicy with the chilli/sumac combination, but balanced out beautifully with the cool cucumber. And the sweet melon was perfectly matched with the salty black olives. Tom has even suggested that we take sumac on our next holiday so we can have the watermelon salad again. And our family members all discussed when and how they were also going to make the salads.

They were both perfect. I encourage you to try them too. I can see I will be making these for years to come…

“Watermelon and cucumbers with Spicy Sumac Salt” and “Cantaloupe with Arugula and black olives” from “Dining in”