But the problem with many twofers published in magazines is the second meal is often a lame attempt at salvaging leftovers. None of this roast chicken one night and then use the leftovers for chicken tacos the next night. I want creativity and the surprise factor of pointing to Dinner #2 and wondering, "How did you pull this out of Dinner #1?" For whatever reason out there, twofers make me feel like I am getting away with murder when I make something completely different with components from Dinner #1 yet all the hard work was done the night before.
A twofer though has to be two meals which will be eaten by all four members of this family. That is a miracle in and of itself, the very fact that we all have the exact same things on our plates and into our bellies. So you can see how seriously I take my twofers, they have a lot to live up to.
The first twofer I came across was in Cooking Light a few years ago in a recipe for Basic Marinara. I'd definitely be using it for spaghetti one night, but the additional recipe suggestions for using the marinara were really what sold me: Swordfish with Lemony Red Sauce? Wow. That is inspired. Sausage and Pepper Pizza? Maybe. But the one recipe suggestion that caught my eye and was an instant sell for me was the Chicken, Pasta and Chickpea Stew (though I omit the chicken for a vegetarian dinner). I knew my kids would inhale the pasta with marinara and it was a pretty good bet that they'd also eat the stew, too. Sure enough, it was a winner and a regular winter rotation meal for us. And another thing that is great about this sauce is that it takes exactly one episode of "Wild Kratts" for me to do all the prep work. By the time it was simmering in the dutch oven, the show was over and I was feeling smug about completing two dinners in thirty minutes. Take that Rachael Ray!
The second twofer is from Everyday Food and is a chicken dish that involves all the elements of a favorite dinner in this house: chicken, peas, rice and tomatoes. My son would call this a "Winner winner chicken dinner." I love that it makes a mountain of rice for both dinners, and then has you save half for the next night to use in Chicken Fried Rice. While I love these two meals (and so do my kids) there are a few changes I would suggest for a family of three and a half (our two year old eats a sparrow's worth of food). You don't need twelve (12!!) chicken thighs, you only need about seven. And I suggest cooking three cups of dry rice, because if your family is like mine, we eat rice like we drink water around here. My recommended changes are below.
I love a good twofer. I feel like my weekly plan always comes together a little quicker when I utilize them and I get the satisfaction of two dinners for the work of one.
Braised Chicken with White Wine, Tomatoes and Peas (adapted from Everyday Food, December 2008)
- 3 cups long-grain white rice
- 7 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (2 3/4 pounds total)
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
- 1 box (10 ounces) frozen peas
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- In a medium saucepan, cook rice according to package instructions. Spread 3 cups cooked rice on a rimmed baking sheet to cool; refrigerate for Chicken Fried Rice, up to 1 day. Cover remaining rice in pan to keep warm; set aside.
- While rice is cooking, season chicken with salt and pepper. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken until browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side; transfer to a plate (reserve pot).
- Return chicken and any juices to pot; add wine and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until chicken is opaque throughout, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove 4 chicken thighs; refrigerate for chicken fried rice, up to 1 day.
- Add peas and tomatoes to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and vegetables over rice.