Back to school season is always busy for families, leaving little time for meal planning and prep. And, our days of Covid-19 confinement — when we spent hours watching the sourdough starter spew and puff or prepping dozens of ingredients for a single meal — are hopefully in the rearview window (or at least, pushed to the weekend). But back to routine doesn’t have to mean back to boring. To keep the cooking mojo going, we asked a few of our favorite local catering chefs for inspiration. Here, they share some of the recipes they cook at home for their own families. Quick weeknight meals and lunchbox-ready leftovers, here we come!
All Seasons Catering, Mill Valley
Originally from Canada, chef Eric MacNight started working with All Seasons Catering in 2014. Life changed for Eric and his wife, Suraya, with the arrival of their twin girls, Meg and Kate, three years ago. When he’s not conceiving seasonally-driven event menus featuring local ingredients, MacKnight can be found crafting handmade toys in his workshop, or spending time in his own kitchen with his family, where he teaches the girls proper knife skills and other tricks of the trade. Meals at home focus on healthy and quick preparations, like this family favorite recipe for Caribbean citrus chicken, served over rice. “This colorful dish is a great way to spice up chicken and rice, and the best part is, the leftovers can easily become pineapple fried rice for dinner the next day,” says MacNight. “The preparation is easy — it’s on the table in about 45 minutes.”
Caribbean Citrus Chicken
Chef’s tip: Before putting the chicken in the oven, start cooking the rice so that it’s ready by the time the chicken is finished roasting.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- tablespoons molasses 1 tablespoon lime juice
- cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped 8 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- tablespoon fresh thyme 2 teaspoons allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
- habanero chiles, seeded and thinly sliced (optional) 3–4 pounds chicken breast, thighs or legs
- Half a small pineapple, cored and sliced thin
- 1 blood orange, cara cara orange or grapefruit, sliced thin, unpeeled1/2 lime, sliced thin with the peel on (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Add the olive oil, molasses, ginger, garlic, green onions, cilantro, thyme, all spice, cinnamon, salt, pepper and habanero chiles (if using) into a blender. Blend until smooth. The sauce will be thick, like a dry rub.
Place chicken in a shallow baking dish. Brush each chicken piece with the sauce.
Place the pineapple, orange and lime slices on top of the chicken.
Roast for 25–30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, brushing it with pan juices halfway through roasting. Serve the chicken with the roasted citrus slices. Garnish with additional chopped green onions (optional).
The Tattooed Chef, Larkspur
Lorenzo Rodriguez Rios
After a day at “the office” prepping rabbit sugo and pumpkin risotto for private events, catering chef Lorenzo Rodriguez Rios often cooks at home for his husband, Troy Rios. (Readers may recognize Troy’s name, as he has written for Marin Magazine about where to find the best local food, and is also a popular food influencer on Instagram, @destroyeats.) Rios loves this recipe for end-of-summer cooking, when heirloom tomatoes are at their peak. “It’s so good, and so simple,” he says.
Chef’s tip: Go a bit heavy on the salt to bring out the flavors of the tomatoes.
Use a vegetable peeler to cut the cucumber into ribbons. If your blender is too small to blend the whole recipe at once, you can blend the ingredients in batches and combine after.
- 2 large slices of rustic bread
- Drizzle of olive oil
- 1/2 cucumber, cut into ribbons 24 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar (or Spanish balsamic vinegar)
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the vegetable garnishes and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes, drizzle with olive oil and toss. Bake for about 5 minutes until slightly browned. Set aside to cool.
Put the remaining ingredients into a blender and blend on high for at least two to three minutes, or until the mixture is completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Chill for at least one hour (preferably overnight). Stir well before serving in bowls topped with the garnishes and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Perkins Catering Co., Petaluma
When it comes to cooking at home, Austin Perkins, the chef and owner of Perkins Catering Co., sometimes lets the kids run the show in the kitchen. “My kids are carbohydrate addicts,” jokes Perkins, who is also the consulting chef at William Tell House in Tomales and former executive chef at Nick’s Cove. He likes to make this gnocchi dish ahead of time to serve on nights when there just isn’t enough time for full-on prep, and it gets packed in the kids’ lunch- boxes, too. The family’s big garden is a source of many ingredients for home-cooked meals. “We will go out and harvest together a lot,” Perkins says.
Gnocchi and 10-Minute Ragout
Chef’s tip: Peeling the potatoes after they’re boiled rather than before makes them easier to peel.
- 1 pound potatoes, cleaned 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 medium egg
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage 1 large onion, diced
- 1 leek, diced
- 3 ribs celery, diced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 16-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/3 tablespoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, basil and parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese for serving
In a large pot, boil the potatoes until tender; remove from the pot and let cool. Peel off the skins, then pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them with a cheese grater or food processor.
Mix the flour and salt and place it on a flat surface. Make a well in the middle and add the potatoes and egg; mix with your fingers to form a soft dough. It should not stick to your fingers.
Sprinkle flour onto a cutting board and roll gnocchi dough back and forth on the board to form a long log, 1-inch in diameter. Cut the log into 1-inch pieces, and then stamp pieces with the tines of a fork. Sprinkle the gnocchi with flour and toss, so they don’t stick together. Let the gnocchi rest for 20 minutes before cooking.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add the gnocchi and cook 45 seconds, until it floats on top of the water. Remove and drain the gnocchi, rinsing it with cold water. Toss it with olive oil and set it aside.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add sweet Italian sausage, onion, leek and celery, and cook until the meat is browned and vegetables are lightly sweated.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and then add the San Marzano tomatoes, herbs and spices. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the room temperature gnocchi with the sauce and serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events, Emeryville
When he’s not managing menus for high-profile weddings or corporate events, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events Executive Chef Daniel Capra frequently enjoys spending time in Marin to recharge and relax, especially by hiking at Pierce Point in Point Reyes. He also likes to cook and eat with his son, Aidan. The prep is easy, and the ingredients change depending on what’s at the farmers markets. One weeknight favorite: honey-nori drumettes with garlicky baby bok choy and lemony roasted tinkerbell peppers, served with some ginger-scented basmati rice. “We both enjoy peppers, whether sweet or hot,” Capra says, noting that the versatile peppers dish is also ideal for a quick snack or for layering onto a sandwich — meaning it’s always a good idea to make extra. “They’ll be gone before you know it,” he says.
SERVES 2 (5 PIECES PER SERVING)
Chef’s tip: To save time on busy weeknights, marinate the chicken the night before. Look for umeboshi furikake at Kuma Market in San Rafael or other Asian markets. Capra recommends using California orange blossom honey from Heidrun Meadery in Point Reyes.
- 10 chicken wing drumettes
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari 1 tablespoon freshly gound black pepper
- 2 organic eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1–2 tablespoons umeboshi furikake 1 tablespoon kosher salt
Marinate the chicken in the soy sauces/tamari and black pepper for at least an hour or overnight.
When ready to prepare, let the chicken come to room temperature.
Beat the eggs and add the chicken; coat well. Dredge the chicken in flour and allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes before frying.
Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat (to about 350 degrees) in a shallow pan.
Slowly add the chicken pieces to the pan. The temperature will drop and slowly come back up. (This is not a rushed process; it’s a “slow-fry.”)
As the chicken begins to brown up the sides, carefully rotate each piece. If there is too much color, lower the heat (each stove is different). Continue to rotate until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees with an instant-read thermometer.
Remove the chicken to a serving plate or platter. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with the salt and furikake.
Lemony-Roasted Tinkerbell Peppers
MAKES 16 HALVES
- Chef’s tip: The peppers can be prepared in advance and last for days in the fridge.
- 8 tinkerbell peppers, halved 1/4 small yellow onion, sliced 1 lemon, sliced
- 2 ounces olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Toss the peppers and onions in oil and place in an oven-safe dish, topping with the sliced lemon.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until the peppers soften to your preference.
Garlicky Baby Bok Choy
Chef’s tip: Chef’s tip: Bok choy can be chopped in advance, but steam just before serving to keep it crunchy.
- 4 baby bok choy, rinsed well and cut in half or quartered 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Steam the bok choy until just cooked.
Strain the bok choy, and allow it to dry for a few minutes.
Heat sauté pan over medium heat; add sliced garlic and place the bok choy on top of garlic.
When the garlic becomes aromatic and begins to look golden, toss it with the bok choy and cook about one more minute; don’t allow it to burn.
Remove the bok choy and garlic to a plate and season with salt and pepper.
More from Better:
- 5 Unique Marin Pizzas To Try That Use Unconventional Ingredients
- Big Blue Brews: Where to Get Tahoe’s Best Beers
- Where to Eat: West Marin
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.s the Assistant Editor at Marin Magazine and a graduate of Elon University where she studied Professional Writing and Fine Art. Born and raised in San Francisco/Marin, she loves traveling just as much as coming home to the Bay Area. She has curated a sophisticated palate for food, travel and culture and uses her travels as an outlet to develop her photography portfolio and hone her writing craft.