Easy weeknight dinners aren’t just about finding recipes that can be made in under 30 minutes from start to finish. They’re also not solely about cooking up huge batches of stew on the weekend so you can feed yourself the same exact meal every night of the coming week. While those two strategies work, it’s helpful to also turn to a third: Use made-in-advance building blocks to whip up easy and varied dinners on-demand.
I’ve written about this before when describing cooking strategies during the Coronavirus quarantine, so take this recipe as yet one more example of how to put those strategies to work. And mind you—they’re useful for everyday home cooking beyond the current global pandemic situation.
In this recipe, I cook sweet summer corn in butter with thyme, leek, and white pepper to make the vegetable base of the meal. This vegetable ragout can be cooked while your chicken roasts, but you could also make the corn in advance (possibly even doubling the batch to have leftovers for another meal).
In a lot of classic French cooking, white pepper is used when you don’t want the little flecks of black pepper visible in a dish. I’ve never bought into letting appearances determine choosing one ingredient over another, especially not at home. So while it may seem like the white pepper is a good visual choice for the corn, I actually prefer it here for its complex funky flavor and aroma, which makes the sweet corn a lot more interesting and plays well with the romesco sauce.
The romesco sauce, meanwhile, pulls double duty as both a sauce, but also a hearty ingredient that adds heft and substance to the meal, thanks to all the almonds, bread, and oil that are pureed into it. It’s a great accompaniment to the corn, adding earthiness from the dried peppers and nuts alongside a sweet tomato note that synchs up with the corn.
The romesco, too, can be made day-of, but it keeps well in the fridge for several days, so it’s yet one more component you can make in advance and then keep at the ready. It’s also a recipe you can double to ensure you have more to slather on sandwiches or serve with vegetables or some other meat during the week. Just don’t make my recent mistake of trying to double the batch all at once in a standard eight-inch mortar and pestle—it will be almost impossible to manage unless you happen to have an extra-massive mortar and pestle lying around for the occasion.
If you get those components prepared ahead of time, all you have to do for dinner is pop a chicken in the oven. And if you want to eliminate the spatchcocking step and just roast the chicken whole, that’s fine too—there’s nothing wrong with making your life a little easier when you can.