Just Because: Greek-Marinated Chicken, Butternut Squash, Grape, Red Wine-Oregano Vinaigrette — The Lemonade Cookbook
When you feel resistance setting in, sometimes the only way to avoid doing nothing is to do ANYTHING.
I’d hit a bit of a wall. I’m in the home stretch, in the last 1/3rd of my list of 30 books. And I looked at the list ahead of me and thought, “I DON’T WANNA.” I didn’t want to make any of the delicious (but rather labor intensive) recipes on my list. This, paired with a kitchen in dire need of cleaning and a major baking project ahead of me this weekend, had all of my resistance flaring up and cooing in my ear, “Just take the week off. Nobody cares.”
Fuck you, Resistance — I care.
I’m taking next week off the list due to the aforementioned big-ass baking project for an event — cookies, mini pies, cake, oh my! — but will be sure to post pics of those goodies, along with showing off some other gorgeousness I’ve baked off-project in the last 6 months or so.
But this week, I wanted to make something just for me. Just because I wanted it.
Not an Assignment: Greek-Marinated Chicken, Butternut Squash, Grape, Red Wine-Oregano Vinaigrette from The Lemonade Cookbook: Southern California Comfort Food from L.A.’s Favorite Modern Cafeteria by Alan Jackson and JoAnn Cianciulli
I don’t want y’all to get the impression that I NEVER cook from my cookbooks ordinarily. I do, just not that many of them and not that frequently. But one I go back to with some frequency is this book. It has one of my all-time favorite potluck dishes in it that I’ve made for many different occasions, from Sunday lunches to Thanksgiving dinners: the Sweet Potato, Parsley, Pistachio Vinaigrette. (The recipe names in this book are more lists of main components than actual titles.) It’s vegan, it’s gluten-free, and a total crowd pleaser. But that’s not what I’m making today.
What I made is a dish that I’ve had at the actual Lemonade restaurant — a place I love so so so much and would probably eat at every day if I allowed myself — several times. (The restaurant features a slew of seasonal scoopable salads — some with proteins, some with grains, some with neither — and colorful Dutch ovens containing simmering braises. And lemonades, obvi. I love it with my whole damn heart.) But I never made this dish myself, because it required a whole lengthy chicken-marinating step. Brave me — I finally went for it.
Things to Note About the Recipe:
- Give yourself lead time. The chicken wants a 24 hour marinade. Give it.
- Put all the marinade ingredients in a food processor. Don’t bother grating and chopping any of it. Just pulse it in the food processor and slather it on the meat. Blammo.
- The dressing? Again, I don’t know why it says to chop anything — it gets blended up. Do not waste your time chopping. Just blend it.
- If you don’t have an immersion/stick blender already, quit fucking around and get one. It comes in handy again with the dressings in this book, since you can blend them right into a large measuring cup.
- Is anyone else having a really hard time finding flat-leaf parsley these days? What the hell? Any time I go looking for it, it’s cilantro, curly parsley, and that’s it. Did too many people mistake it for cilantro and complain about it that the store managers went, “Look, people are too dumb for flat-leaf parsley, so we’re not selling it anymore. You’re all on a flat-leaf parsley time out.” I begrudgingly settled for the curly stuff, but I ain’t happy about it.
- I pillaged the near-entirety of an adorable little oregano plant in making this dish. Thank you for your service, little buddy.
- Dear Trader Joe’s: Why do you cut your pre-cut squash into such massive hunks? I then have to re-cut the squash. Terribly obnoxious. Please reconsider. P.S. Thank you for saving me time and effort though, for real, squash is a pain but so delicious.
- WHAT SQUASH ROASTS IN 15 MINUTES? This cookbook is trippin’ hard on this front. I left it in for roughly 30 minutes; it wasn’t “roasty,” but since the squash is going to get tossed with a dressing anyhow, don’t worry much about trying to achieve a crisp exterior. Also, “roast until the squash has a golden color” — it started with a golden color, fool! And there’s no way it’s doing anything close to browning in 15 minutes. Do not stress. Just plan to give it more like 30 minutes, mixing it around 20 minutes in.
- Waiting for the squash to cool is the 2nd biggest pain about this recipe (after the 24 hours of marinating). If you have time to cook the squash in advance, do it.
- This is another one of those dishes that can be served cold or at room temp, making excellent potluck fare.
- All of this is worth it.
How did it taste?
Infuriatingly delicious. I’d be livid if I didn’t have a whole big bowl of it waiting for me in the fridge. I’m so excited to be eating it for lunch all week and simultaneously terrified I’m going to dive back into the bowl the second I’m done writing this. (Spoiler: I did.) The dressing might strike you as a bit too bright-tasting on its own, but I assure you, it’s actual magical perfection paired with the sweet, earthy squash. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you could skip the chicken and still be deeply happy with this recipe… That said, UGHHHHH that dumb marinated chicken is SO DAMN GOOOOOOOD.
Will I make it again?
The question should really be “How soon will you make it again?” Because, ye gods. I could eat this every day — damn this book, damn these recipes!
Do I recommend this book?
I DON’T KNOW, WHAT DO YOU THINK? Yes. Get this book. I’ve now been re-inspired to make every damn recipe in it. It’s probably in my Top 5 Desert Island Cookbooks. I don’t know what the other 4 would be, but one would be this book.
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
Hmmm, as full-blown obsessed as I am with all the scoopable salads, I really want to hit up the braises. The Red Miso Beef Short Rib is one of my favorite menu items at the restaurant, so maybe that. But really, all of them.
Next week, gird your loins for a whole lotta pictures of baked goodies. And I’ll be back on track with my list after that, knocking out the final 9!