Recipes for when it's your turn to cook on a friends trip
Portable, prep-able, cook-while-a-bottle-of-wine-deep-able standbys.
One thing about nice weather is that it immediately gives me fomo. Even now, at 7am on a Thursday, I’m sitting in a coffee shop and thinking about what everyone else is probably doing with this nice weather. I should hike! I should host a backyard dinner! I should be at a concert! I should learn how to play pickleball!
One thing that helps me keep it the hell together in the spring and summer months is to always have a trip on the calendar, ideally with someone I don’t live with, although I love my partner deeply. It can be something simple, like a quick 36 hour away in a small town nearby, or something that requires a bit of PTO and credit card points.
I think an obligation mindset—I have to go to one million weddings this year, I have to be home on weekends to do yard work, I have to save money for retirement, etc—combined with being completely broke in my early 20s kept me from booking these trips in the past. But last year, when I turned 30, I made it a priority to travel with friends. I went to Mallorca with a girlfriend who I only get to see a few times a year, and San Juan Island with the mother of my godson (and my bff, lol). Those were big trips and 110% worth every penny and every hour spent planning. If you have the time and money—and frankly, even if you don’t—take a trip with a friend you don’t get to see as much as you’d like. We’re only here once.
One of my favorite ways to make this happen is to just pick a huge rental house someplace within driving distance of my friends and invite everyone who is able to join. My Nashville friends and I do this at least once a year. Naturally, I’m usually the one who is cooking for the weekend, so I have many many many group-dinner-or-brunch-at-a-rental failures under my belt. One thing that (almost) always works, though, is making a huge grill (chicken legs and thighs, squash, onions, asparagus, literally anything else you can put on grill grates), a big, filling salad, and a dessert that everyone can work on for the weekend.
Please, though, for the love of all things holy, if you’re grilling at a rental property: double check that there’s a functioning grill first and clean out the grease trap before you get started cooking. Also: identify the fire extinguisher location. I’m 2/2 on setting rental grills on fire so far this spring. Whoops.
When it’s your turn to cook on a getaway weekend, here are some rules to make it super easy on you so you can focus on non-cooking activities:
Pre-make a salad and bring it with you: Potato, pasta, grain, or prep veggies and a jar of dressing to assemble right before dinner. Make extra for lunch: two birds, one large Tupperware/stone.
Pre-make a dessert: Have you ever been on a trip and wanted a bite of cake at 11pm only to realize that no one brought anything sweet? It’s soul crushing. Make a cake, even if it’s not someone’s birthday, before you arrive.
Pre-chop your grill: There’s not many certainties in life, but one that I feel totally confident in is that 100% of rental properties have knives that are so dull that you might as well just hand-rip your food. Don’t put yourself through that. If you’re grilling or roasting, chop everything in advance and throw it in a Tupperware that can double as your marinade bowl.
This is a WNY classic, and if you don’t have an entire cabinet full of jugs of Chiavetta’s that you’ve smuggled over state lines over the years like me, here’s how you can make it at home. Just be sure not to leave it in the sink lest someone think it’s dirty water and washes dishes over your freshly-prepped marinade and ruins dinner. Certainly not speaking from experience here.
In a large jar, combine:
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
LOTS of minced garlic - several large spoonfuls
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp each black and white pepper
You can marinate your meats and veggies in this for up to 2 hours, or just brush it on every few minutes while you’re grilling.
Wild rice salad
I had a version of this at Pinewood Social for lunch and have been thinking about it ever since. It’s simple to prep, gluten-free and vegan for your friends who need it, and super filling.
Preheat your oven to 425. Chop up a small head of broccoli and a container of cherry tomatoes. Put on a baking sheet with a can of drained chickpeas. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss. Bake for ~20 minutes or until slightly charred.
Prep 2 cups of wild rice according to package instructions. Make it extra tasty by subbing in broth for water.
Prep your dressing: Equal parts olive oil, apple cider vinegar, whole grain mustard, plus a spoonful of minced garlic, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
If you want, prep some quick pickled onions: thinly slice half of a red onion and mix with about a teaspoon each of salt and sugar, then cover with white vinegar and refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
Mix it all together and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. It’ll stay good for a few days!
Classic birthday cake
I’ve made this with regular and gluten-free flour, and it’s delicious both ways. It’s one of those cakes that people will inevitably grab a forkfull of each time they pass by. 10/10 getaway weekend dessert. From Erin Jeanne McDowell at NYTCooking.
Preheat your oven to 350 and spray a 9x13 pan.
In a mixer, beat 3/4 cup softened butter and 1 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Add in 2 full eggs and 1 egg yolk, one at a time. Add 1 tbsp vanilla and mix.
In another bowl, whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.
Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and carefully combine. Measure out 3/4 cup of milk and add half of it to your batter. Add the rest of the flour, mix, then the rest of the milk, and mix.
Tip into your greased ban and bake for 30 minutes.
Make your frosting: Melt and cool 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (I’ve used both unsweetened and semisweet here)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat another 3/4 cup butter until smooth. Carefully add 2.5 cups of confectioner’s sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Mix until smooth - this’ll take awhile.
Add your melted chocolate, 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1.5 tsp vanilla, and some sea salt. Mix until smooth.
When the cake is cool, frost it!
Still here? Want to be here every Saturday morning? You know what to do: