What’s Your Favorite Last Minute Dinner?

What’s Your Favorite Last Minute Dinner?

You walk in the door at eight p.m. weighed down by grocery bags and a work project to finish. It’s late and you’re starving, but you don’t have the time or energy to cook up anything particularly nutritious or imaginative.

What do you make?

Whether for friends, family, or just yourself, we all have those go-to last minute dinner dishes.

Lisa, over at dinner party, has a star-studded line up of interviewees for her what’s for dinner series. From Barbara Fairchild, editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit to David Lebovitz, of cookbook and Chez Panisse pastry fame, to Molly Katzen, author of The Moosewood Cookbook, these cooking celebs spill the beans on their favorite dinner parties.

My favorite question is always: Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner. What do you make? Sometimes we forget that big shot chefs or food writers cook at home for their friends just like anyone else.

Here is what a few of Lisa’s interviewees had to say:

  • Barbara Fairchild (full interview)
    First course: buy some good burrata cheese, put it on small bed of arugula, drizzle with good olive oil, garnish with basil and a little dice of prosciutto.
    Main: grill something (marinate some chicken, shrimp, sausages, tri-tip, whatever looks good; sometimes a combination of these) and serve with a big salad (I make my own dressing with good olive oil) and couscous or rice.
    Dessert: fresh strawberries and blueberries and/or blackberries over a scoop of store-bought sorbet or good ice cream, homemade cookies or biscotti if I have them, if not, I use good-quality purchased.
  • David Lebovitz (full interview)
    Roast chicken. And I’d buy one from the woman with the rotisserie at the market. She does them better than anyone, including me. But if it’s not market day, I get a pintade (guinea fowl), drape it in bacon strips (big, fat, smoky ones) and roast it off for an hour. On a separate sheet, I’d roast root vegetables with thyme branches and shallots cut in half, until they’re all brown and crispy.
  • Jody Adams, chef-owner of Rialto in Boston, James Beard award-winner, and Top Chef Masters contestant (full interview)
    We always depend on nuts and olives to start; then pasta, maybe carbonara; a big salad; cheese, dried fruit and squares of really good chocolate. With the possible exception of guanciale, for the carbonara, everything else is stuff we have on hand.
  • Mollie Katzen (full interview)
    Pasta with dried mushrooms, white wine, and a dash of cream.
  • Nick Fauchald, editor of Tasting Table, former editor at Wine Spectator, Every Day With Rachael Ray, and Food & Wine (full interview)
    If it’s truly spontaneous and I don’t have time to shop beforehand, I’ll make a pasta or risotto using whatever fresh produce I have leftover from the previous weekend.
  • Kelly Carámbula, editor of Remedy Quarterly and Eat Make Read (full interview)
    Corn cakes with fresh salsa, a salad on the side, some Negro Modelo to imbibe and I might just whip up a batch of brownies to bake while we’re eating.

What is your go-to dish for a last minute dinner for guests or just yourself?

  1. Jo

    24 August

    For me it also has to be spaghetti carbonara – it takes less than 10 minutes and is delicious and filling. Seved with a side salad and finished off with whatever fresh fruit I have and homemade yogurt.

  2. The Italian DIsh

    24 August

    It’s what I just made last night when I had nothing defrosted – my sun-dried tomato pesto sauce with fresh basil served over pasta.

  3. Anna

    24 August

    Oh! Definitely a risotto, it’s simple and looks impressive. Just using any veggie or meat that is at hand. The options are endless. Or could be just a Parmesan cheese risotto.

  4. who ARE these people who just have burrata lying about? haha. we usually opt for couscous with beans and some chopped veggies, or an orzo salad. last night, i threw together my vegan yellow curry because we had a can of coconut milk!

  5. The Italian DIsh

    25 August

    Okay, here it is – and, by the way, it is a no-cook sauce! Even better. All you do is boil pasta.

    In a food processor, place a couple of hunks of good parmigiano reggiano cheese. Process until fine. Add 1 large garlic clove, a handful of fresh basil and a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil. Whirl. Done. Toss with fresh, hot pasta. If a little dry, just add some hot pasta water.

  6. Lisa (dinner party)

    4 November

    Hi Gabi, glad you like the Q&A!

    My last-minute menu would probably be pasta as well, or a roasted chicken, and probably a salad (we always seem to have a box of arugula lying around in the fridge), and chocolate pudding for dessert (always have cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, and milk).