Quick Meals For Busy School Nights

Settling into school schedules can be a challenge for both students and parents. With after-school carpool, sports, dance and art activities, homework, and back-to-school nights, it’s not always easy to prepare delicious, nutritious dinners when time is limited.

(ABOVE: Julia Child, center, meets with Randy and Christy Rost at KERA in 2000. Courtesy photo)

Although our sons graduated from school long ago, my days are busier than ever and the recipe solutions I developed during those school years still come in handy. Quick stir-frys, skillet dinners, sautéed chicken, or chops with simple, flavorful pan sauces, casseroles that assemble quickly and bake in the oven, and “pasta anything” are still some of my favorite go-to meals.

Julia Child may have been famous for teaching Americans French cooking and creating the first television cooking show, but when guests dined in her home, she often served roasted chicken. I had the honor and pleasure of knowing Julia Child. She was very supportive as I grew my own career, and she always maintained that a beautifully roasted chicken was one of the best meals one could serve guests. Golden brown on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, this deliciously simple entrée fills the kitchen with delectable aromas unmatched by in-store prepared meals. When I prepare roasted chicken, I purchase the largest one I can find, sprinkle the cavity with kosher salt and dried sage, and fill it with half an onion and celery. After tying the legs together, I brush the skin lightly with olive oil, season it with salt and pepper, and roast it uncovered at 425 degrees for 25 minutes to brown the skin, then cover the chicken loosely with foil, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, and continue roasting until the chicken is done. My hands-on time is about 10 minutes, and allows me to finish up other tasks while the meat roasts.

Chicken Parmigiana is another tasty, timesaving meal. It can be completely assembled earlier in the day and popped into the oven 30 minutes before dinnertime, which is huge in my book. Crisp, golden brown, garnished with seasoned tomato sauce, and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese, this simple Italian dish is ready in a flash.

Christy Rost is a lifestyle authority, author of three cookbooks, public television chef on PBS stations nationwide, and longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit her website at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.

Chicken Parmigiana

• 4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• ¾ cup plain breadcrumbs
• 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 eggs
• 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
• 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Place chicken breasts on a cutting board between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound the meat to ½-inch thickness with the smooth side of a meat mallet so it cooks evenly (a heavy cast iron pan makes a great stand-in for a mallet). In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper, and stir to mix. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs with a fork. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil, swirling to coat the pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dip both sides of the meat into the egg, coat with breadcrumb mixture, and repeat with remaining chicken. Cook meat until the bottoms are golden brown, turn them over to brown the other side, and transfer to a large baking dish. Pour tomato sauce into a medium bowl, stir in oregano and remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano, and spoon the sauce across the center of each chicken breast. Top with mozzarella, cover dish with foil, and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Christy Rost

Public television chef Christy Rost is the author of three cookbooks and a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit christyrost.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.

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