There is something universal about dumplings—we all connect over our shared love of boiled dough stuffed with a filling of sorts. While there are so many types of dumplings native to different parts of the former Soviet Union, Siberia’s claim to fame is its own signature type called Siberian pelmeni. These tiny round dumplings stuffed with a blend of ground pork and beef are consumed with a generous chunk of butter, black pepper, and sour cream or—and this is my family’s favorite—in their own richly flavored cooking broth, with plenty of black pepper, of course! My dad would often have these (as well as pretty much anything else) with soy sauce that his mother would send us from his home town of Khabarovsk way before it became widely available in shops all over Russia. Since pelmeni were usually eaten in winter when no fresh herbs were available, adding fresh dill was not common practice, but I would highly recommend this to you these days, as well as experimenting with other non-Russian herbs. Pelmeni in sage butter, anyone?
I pretty much always want something braised for dinner, and as much as I love braising the legs of a cow, pig, or lamb, they take a few hours to get tender and thus aren’t always the best option for a weeknight. A chicken’s legs, on the other hand, braise in less than an hour, so you can have a righteous braised dish any night of the stupid week! This super simple stew is inspired by autumn flavors, using bacon, fennel, and apples (both fresh and in hard apple cider). You could totally swap out the hard cider if you’re not into the alcohol, but I would use chicken stock or water rather than apple juice or fresh cider, either of which would make it a little too sweet. There’s something about the smoky, salty, sweet, and slightly bitter elements of this dish, cooked down with chicken that is just starting to fall apart, that makes me want to smoke cigars and write a novel, but I don’t actually like cigars, and if I wrote a novel, it would just be a fictional cookbook, so it’s probably better to stick with cooking chicken for now.
Pickled cabbage may seem like a strange ingredient to add, but it lends this dish a subtle lactic tang—we got the idea from Isa Chandra Moskovitz, a blogger whose recipe for mac and ’shews (cashews) is widely loved.
I’m a little obsessed with bean gratins. These cozy make-ahead suppers (or side dishes) are satisfying and economical, and they can take as little as twenty minutes to get into the oven. This Mediterranean-inspired version relies on a handful of ordinary ingredients—cooked beans (from scratch or a can), sautéed onions, sausage, canned tomatoes, and parsley—but somehow it all bakes up into one of those dishes that I can’t get enough of. It seems to get better with every bite, especially if that bite includes some of the crunchy bread crumb and cheese topping.
This recipe came to me by divine intervention. In a rush to make pork saltimbocca for dinner, I came to learn that my sage plant had been the victim of a terrible storm. Desperate to salvage supper, I had to use what little I had left in my kitchen (we’d just packed to move home) and all I could find was brandy, paprika and a little cream. I’m so grateful.
All the dishes in this chapter are made with chicken thighs, because I unashamedly love them. They’re succulent—so much better than breasts, which can dry out, in fact it’s hard to overcook chicken thighs—they all cook at the same time (and quickly), and there’s no carving. If you like a mixture of thighs and drumsticks, the recipes will will work with those, too, just replace half the thighs in any dish with drumsticks.
The flavors of a tagine without the fuss. This dish is quite sweet, because of the prunes, so it does need the preserved lemon to cut through that. If you don’t like prunes (I know they divide people), use dried apricots or pitted dates instead.
Rosemary Fried Chicken recipe by Fernay McPherson of Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement, with introduction from We Are La Cocina.
This might be the ultimate lazy recipe. Short ribs, generally reserved for braising, are seared (because their perfect thickness and ridiculous marbling of fat just might make them the best cheap steak you can buy), and kimchi, which is fermented for basically forever, is made in 5 minutes (okay, so it’s more slaw than kimchi—that lactic acid tang just can’t be replicated, no matter how much salt and vinegar you use). The results are not the same, but that’s more than okay, because the results are still great.
Spatchcocking chicken, also called butterflying, calls for cutting the bird along its backbone, then opening it up so that it can lie flat in the pan. Spatchcocked chickens cook quickly and evenly, turning gorgeously brown in the process. You can ask your butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you, but it’s not a hard thing to do yourself (see instructions below). Good, sharp poultry shears are all you need.