The truth is, I forgot I was having 10 people over the next night. How, you might ask, is that possible? Well, it’s what you would imagine: I was overwhelmed by EVERYTHING ELSE IN MY LIFE. As I lay awake in bed that night wondering how I was going to pull off getting the kids and myself ready in the morning, make breakfast, pack lunches, move the car to the opposite side of the street for street cleaning, and go to the market in time to make it to work. (NOTE: Husband was out of town on a business trip until day of dinner party and is fantastic at pulling things together when the time comes, but is usually not involved in menu planning. Still I was cursing his name).
What can one prep in the morning so that all you have to do is assemble and put on the stove or throw in the oven? And that feels special? My answer is a one-pot Brazilian fish stew recipe that I’ve been making for a few years now from the late great Gourmet. The beauty is, you can chop all of the vegetables–onion, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, herbs–in the morning, put them in containers, and assemble with fish/shrimp when you get home. Cooking time is under 30 minutes so you can assemble even as guests are arriving, and by the time they’ve had a glass of wine or two and some cheese, dinner is served.
I served this over Israeli couscous (regular couscous, any kind of rice, or soft polenta all work), which I cooked in chicken broth, but could have cooked in water. It only takes a few minutes and beefs up the stew so that you don’t have to serve anything else! I also served it with crostini on top, made from slices of a baguette rubbed with raw garlic and olive oil. No salad and no proper dessert. Just cheese and chunks of chocolate, nuts, and cookies served on a wooden board for dessert.
Photo: Mikkel Vang, for Gourmet