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In the last few years, the bulk of my friends have become parents. It has been a joy to watch these dear people grow families and to see their once-tiny, squawking babes turn into little humans with preferences and desires.
One thing I’ve learned is that once kids enter the picture in your social circle, it becomes a whole lot harder to throw a traditional dinner party. And so, I stopped having them. Instead I started inviting people over for more casual gatherings and welcomed their children.
In the process, I’ve become a connoisseur of meals that allow you to cook once and satisfy everyone. Burrito bars are one good option, because they allow for mixing, matching and liberal applications of hot sauce for the parents.
Another good choice is Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for Crispy Chicken Tenders with Piccata Sauce. In this recipe, you soak chicken tenders in buttermilk, then dredge them in a combination of panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and spinach. Next, you pan-fry them until lightly brown and crisp. They are moist, flavorful and, if you cut the pieces appropriately, easy for even the smallest eaters to enjoy.
For the kids (pictured right), I pile a few tenders on a plate and give them a small bowl of the piccata sauce for dipping (I’ll often add a few cucumber slices as a token vegetable). For the adults, I heap plates with some peppery arugula, arrange the chicken on top and drizzle it with the piccata sauce. One recipe, two presentations and happy Weekender diners all around.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— These Crispy Chicken Tenders can be made earlier in the day if you’ll be pressed for time later. To reheat them, place a rack on a rimmed cookie sheet and warm them in a 350 degree F oven until the breading starts to sizzle.
— If your smaller diners can’t accept the piccata sauce, there is no shame in offering ketchup for dipping instead.
— For those of you who like to do batch cooking, you can double or triple this recipe, freeze the cooked tenders on a sheet tray and then defrost them in small batches. I always make a batch in advance of a visit from my 2-year-old nephew to ensure that I have something he’ll like to eat (and that we won’t have to resort to takeout).
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.