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”

“Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini” from “Dining In”

I have three go-to tomato sauce recipes that I use. The first, for when I have done a bit of forward planning, is the tomato sauce from Polpo and requires 90 minutes cooking. The second, from Food52’s Genius Recipes, requires 60 minutes cooking. The third, a recipe of my own design, requires maybe 10 minutes (if that) to make. So I feel as though we’ve got tomato sauce covered over here.

But now I’ve got a fourth recipe to add to my repertoire. What Alison Roman wants you to do is to roast bog-standard tomatoes for 3 or 4 hours. Following that you do the usual routine: sweat an onion, add some spices and then add some anchovies for saltiness. Then you tumble in the now sweetened, softened tomatoes. You have to gently break them down and then you have the most glorious thick tomato sauce. You can thin it to your heart’s desire using some of the pasta water you’re making alongside it.

While, yes, this method does require more forward planning than I usually deploy, the result is absolutely worth it. Delicious and highly recommended.

(The picture doesn’t do it it justice, but trust me. Yum.)

“Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini” from “Dining In”