Family meal at a restaurant is a saving grace. For many cooks, family meal is the meal— meaning it is their only real complete meal for the day. While it is usually taken standing at one’s station or in hastened bites while setting up one’s station, it is still a welcomed break from the hustle, necessary sustenance, and an opportunity to flex one’s creative culinary prowess.
Depending on the restaurant, “family meal” is generally cooked by one cook or divided up among a few cooks. These cooks cook a meal for both the front of house and back of house staff, in addition to their normal prep for service. It can be a bit of a burden, depending on your prep list, but it can also represent an opportunity to experiment, test, and create for an open and safe audience. It is also an opportunity to use up mise en place that could not be used for service (less than desirable herbs, sauces, and other odds and ends). For me, this is always the most enjoyable aspect of family meal—- the surmountable task of creating a delicious and interesting meal out of whatever is on hand, a true “kitchen sink” meal.
I often find myself playing the same game in my own life. It begins with a survey of the refrigerator. Items are ranked and prioritized, with those that are most perishable prioritized.
Lessons From Family Meal:
- Use most perishable items first.
- If they don’t go together, they don’t go together. I’ve made the mistake of making use of ingredients, purely because they needed to be used. If something really doesn’t go with your dish, make it a side dish. It will make your meal appear more complex and interesting, while maintaining your original vision.
- Define a flavor palate/ vision for your meal— and stick to it. Carrots, potatoes, and chicken? Spices such as cumin, turmeric, and garam masala will give your meal the distinctive warmth of Indian cuisine. The addition of tomato and fresh herbs could take your in an entirely different direction. Decide on a vision and stick to it.
- What staples can be used to make it a meal. Dried pasta, rice, beans, bread, pre-made pie dough? All of these can be used to round out your perishables into a wholesome meal. Your Indian-inspired meal would love some rice— make it some rice.
- Anything and everything can be made into a quiche or savory pie. Okay, maybe not everything, but consider the possibilities. If you have butter, flour, and salt on hand, then you are on your way to creating a savory quiche. The ultimate kitchen sink meal.
- 2 cloves garlic sliced
- I small/medium size brown onion chopped
- I small bunch swiss/rainbow chard coarsely chopped
- Handful of assorted mushrooms sliced( I used a mixture of king and shitake)
- 3 eggs
- ⅓ cup of cream
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- tsp dried oregano
- salt to taste
- 1 rolled savory flaky crust
- Blind bake your pie crust according to directions and let cool on a rack.
- Preheat oven to 350
- Thinly slice garlic and onions and saute in a skillet with 2 T olive oil
- Add sliced mushrooms and cook until glossy and tender
- Add greens and cook until wilted
- Remove from heat and let vegetables cool to room temperature.
- Spoon vegetables into pre-baked pie crust.
- Whisk eggs, cream, and spices together in a small bowl, and pour over cooked vegetables in pre-baked quiche shell.
- Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes. Center should be puffed and cooked through, but be careful not to over-bake.
*For this recipe I used Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Basic Flaky Pie Crust recipe— my favorite!