For a relaxed night off, two chefs take it easy in the kitchen and create a menu around a do-ahead chicken ragoût
We both cook for a living, but on nights off, we still gravitate to the kitchen—our home kitchen. So for us, having friends in is one of the best ways we know of to relax and still have a social life. But like most restaurant chef-owners, we lead hectic lives. So when we do invite people over, the menu needs to be special but not fussy—and it must be stress-free.
One of the great secrets to Southern hospitality—or any hospitality, for that matter—is a crowd-pleasing menu that lends itself to advance preparation, so that once your guests arrive, you can spend time with them, rather than in the kitchen. With a tiny bit of planning, this meal fits the bill perfectly. It comes together in a few advance stages, minimizing stress, and maximizing a good time. The timetable will guide you.
The dishes here are contemporary updates of Southern comfort food. We begin with a zippy little starter— goat cheese and red pepper jelly on crackers. A take on a traditional canapé served at old-fashioned North Carolina parties, these are great little bites for guests as they walk in the door.
The main course, a fragrant chicken and shrimp stew, has its origins in seaboard cities of the South, where British trading companies imported Indian spices. We love everything about this dish: its aromas, the contrasting textures, and the fact that it reheats beautifully and tastes even better after a little resting time. We let the curry blend in the stew be our guide where accompaniments are concerned. Aromatic, fluffy basmati rice with toasted almonds will soak up the savory juices from the stew. A cooling salad of cucumbers and spinach with yogurt and mint is a lovely foil; it’s a nod to the Indian spices in the stew. Finishing things off is a simple and fabulous chocolate cake spiked with bourbon. This beauty is incredibly light in texture, intense in flavor, and can be baked up to a day ahead.