When you actually have time to cook, what do you cook?
April 23, 2015 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to have a week off while in-between jobs and one thing I'd like to do with that time is make some amazing dinners for myself and my husband. I like cooking, but as my husband and I are both full time we usually stick to recipes that take 30 mins or less. But if you had, let's say, 4 hours to dedicate to dinner what would you make? Details within...

- I consider myself a pretty confident cook, I can handle roasts and most types of cooking methods. That said, I'm not the most experienced at "fancy techniques" so I'm not sure I could tackle something technically challenging like wrapping things around other things. And since I would like to make something different every night, I'm not really interested in learning anything really challenging. It's mainly time I have.

- Yes, I could throw something in the slow cooker, but I'd like something that takes up 4 hours of my time, not necessarily something that just takes 4 hours to cook.

- No desserts (I am *terrible* at making desserts), but starters and mains welcome. We eat everything, no allergies or restrictions and we like pretty much any cuisine type, but we do try to pretend to be healthy.

- I am located in London, something to keep in mind in terms of ingredient availability. Of course, since I have time I could try and hunt down rarer ingredients.

- If it freezes well, BONUS! Because I think I'll be quite busy when my new job starts so it'll be nice to have something to look forward to.

This Thousand Layer Lasagne is an example of something I think would be perfect for this.
posted by like_neon to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Fancy ramen (Start with tonkotsu broth; takes a whole day). Vegan version.
posted by amaire at 9:40 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Coq au Vin is wonderful. It can take a really long time, but if you make it with bone-in thighs, it cooks faster and is pretty darned tasty.

Julia Child's Coq au Vin No time givem, but I've had it take 6 hrs (this version looks streamlined from the Mastering the Art of French Cooking version)

Alton Brown's Coq au Vin (time spread across two days).

Sadly, the Cook's Illustrated version is paywalled. It's designed to be quick -- like 2 hours, and I have never made it, but I have a friend who said it worked pretty well. Personally, I would go with Julia or Aton. Here's a site that reprints it, maybe?

If you prefer beef to chicken, Beef Bourguignon is basically just that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:45 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Perhaps not as involved as the lasagna, but something along those same lines is Anne Burrell's Meatballs and Marinara recipe. Hands down, the best meatballs I have ever had. If you served em with some fresh-made pasta too, that would be one irresistible meal.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 9:46 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I make this amazing delicious roast chicken and use the leftovers to make this delicious soup (or just make the stock for future use. Or both.)

Freezes just fine and you'll be really, really glad to have it hiding in your freezer if you happen to get sick.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 9:51 AM on April 23, 2015

In similar circumstances, I tried making Julia Child's beef bourguignon. It was time-consuming but fascinating and totally worth it.
posted by willbaude at 9:52 AM on April 23, 2015

Echoing amaire - make chicken stock - a huge batch and freeze it. If you want to do something hands-on with it, try risotto. Having chicken stock in the freezer really amps up your 30-minute weeknight meals (well, the ones that use stock).

I'd make a roast of some sort, beef roast, turkey that would yield freezable leftovers.

I also think I'd make no-knead bread, which would take a day or two - I know you don't like baking, neither do I, but this is dead-simple and delicious! It just takes some fermenting time.
posted by sarajane at 9:54 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sushi is a really fun family cooking activity that takes a lot of time. If you have any local Japanese markets you can get all the stuff.

When I have 4 hours to cook I typically use my immersion cooker for the protein and spend the 2-3 hours making everything else... the protein is ready when I am. My favorite is sautéing some onions and shallots for an hour or so, roast potatoes that take an hour or so, and some kind of vegetable, often asparagus. Sear the meat, pan sauce, etc.

If you like prep work, google Alton Brown pad thai, or any pad thai recipe I guess, or really a lot of Alton Brown recipes. Cook's Illustrated is notorious for time-consuming recipes.
posted by Huck500 at 10:00 AM on April 23, 2015

Momofuku's Bo Ssam is something I'll try when I next feel inspired to make something time-consuming.
posted by needled at 10:04 AM on April 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

How about bacon jam? I had it with a perfectly cooked pork chop, potatoes and English peas. Might not be four hours total, but it is fantastically delicious.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:06 AM on April 23, 2015

ALSO! Peruvian chicken. Use canned pickled jalepenos instead of fresh in the sauce for an awesome vinegar-y undertone.
posted by amaire at 10:06 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Smitten Kitchen's layered ratatouille has come up on the green before, and has a lot of finicky slicing - more than I'd want to do on a weeknight, but not 4 hours worth. But that same post also links to the Thomas Keller version of the same, which is likely even more involved.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:21 AM on April 23, 2015

Anne Burrell's Pasta Bolognaise recipe.

Hands down the BEST bolognaise recipe ever, it's the only one I make nowadays. The first hour is quite labour intensive but once you've done that, then you just let it simmer for 4-5 hours on it's own, adding water when necessary.

I don't use a mixture of meats like she does, I've found just beef mince is good on its own. You can make a HUGE batch and it freezes perfectly.
posted by JenThePro at 10:25 AM on April 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

This beef carbonnade from Cook's Illustrated is my all-time favorite favorite fancy, complicated recipe. Definitely splurge on the good Chimay for the beer in the recipe, plus an extra bottle to drink with dinner.
posted by slogger at 10:29 AM on April 23, 2015

Cooks Illustrated Beef Bourguignon, Marcella Hazan's bolognese made into her homemade lasagna (homemade noodles, that is) and the above Bo Ssam-three of the most delicious things I've ever made.
posted by purenitrous at 10:41 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would go all-out for pho. That's about 5½ hours of simmering.
posted by O9scar at 10:47 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Paella would be a good thing for this, I'd think. Or perhaps jambalaya or gumbo, if you want to swing to the other side of the Atlantic (might be tough to get andouille in London, not sure). All three are dishes you can put your own spin on while still staying true to the recipe, and they freeze well.

I'd also suggest maybe an old school Bolognese --- Marcella Hazan is generally the traditionalist's traditionalist, but any recipe that involves milk and white wine will fit the bill. The active time isn't necessarily that long, but it's one of those dishes that rewards patience --- the kind of thing you ought to have perking away on the back of the stove all afternoon. Or you could try the Italian-American variation on a meat and tomato sauce --- a Sunday gravy. You can skip the braciole if stuffing is your nemesis, you won't lack for depth of flavour, trust me. Pretty much any recipe for Sunday gravy feeds at least 10 and freezes well.

You could also think about doing a slow-cooked pork shoulder --- even if you get one of the smaller ones there will be plenty of leftovers. Nearly ever world cuisine has their version, but I'm partial to Puerto Rican pernil or Mexican carnitas.
posted by maggiepolitt at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

When I have a lot of time and feel like filling it with cooking, I will usually make something that needs both cooking and assembly time. Things like:

empanadas or other savory turnovers using a homemade pastry crust

I have not made, but would try making:
handmade pasta
cabbage rolls
handmade tortillas

I wouldn't say these are technically challenging, but they do require wrapping things around other things.
posted by vunder at 10:57 AM on April 23, 2015

Cassoulet. Multi-day process, total time-suck, and amaaaaazing outcome.

Uh, yeah, also Ramen to the max.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:04 AM on April 23, 2015

Sure you have access to Indian food everywhere, but have you ever made your own saag paneer? There is nothing like making your own tasty, tasty fried cheese. The hardest part is waiting for the milk to come to a boil.

This is the recipe I used last week. I use a piece of fine muslin instead of cheesecloth, and added a small glug of white vinegar to the curds because the juice of one lemon didn't quite get the curds going and only cut through gently and folded up from the bottom once or twice. Don't skip the hanging from the sink faucet part. You can, however, skip the saag part and just eat the cheese as an appetizer.

Another tasty dish is mushroom ravioli. Think I used dried porcini mushrooms mixed with baby portabellas. I also formed my ravioli into little pouches, called sacchettis.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:04 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Our go-to two-day recipe is Alton Brown's beef stew, breaking it up over 2 days. (I'd call it braised shortribs instead of stew, but my husband imprinted on the recipe title so when I refer to other things as "stew" there are Many Comical Misunderstandings.)
posted by telophase at 11:06 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, Marcella's bolognese and fresh pasta, as mentioned above. Julia's Coq Au Vin, made with the very best bacon you can find (I use Benton's to add some interesting, untraditional smokiness).
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 11:14 AM on April 23, 2015

Julia Child's coq au vin or boef bourguignon are both perfect for this--about 4 hours, give or take, of continuous cooking. You can even stretch it out by making your own broth/stock and bread (because you must dip).
posted by mchorn at 11:30 AM on April 23, 2015

Amazing suggestions!! I'm just marking best answers based on very personal whims but consider everything a gold star idea!
posted by like_neon at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2015

Pierogis are a great project and freeze beautifully (freeze after boiling, then fry with onions after they defrost a bit). I haven't linked a recipe because I haven't found an online one that looks just right to me, but it's pretty hard to go wrong with dough wrapped around mashed potatoes or mushrooms (or sauerkraut if you insist).

Also, mini mushroom pierogis in clear borscht are a wonderful thing.

Tamales, dumplings, steamed buns, and such all fit the time-consuming project mold without being particularly difficult foods to make.
posted by snaw at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Gnocchi! It doesn't take long to actually put the dough together, but it'll take you lots of practice to roll them down the tines of a fork just so. Also they're delicious and a great way to use up leftover mashed potato/veggies.
posted by burntflowers at 11:57 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

German Beef Roulade (with gravy, of course) with German potato balls, mashed potatoes, and red cabbage (with probably some hot fresh rolls or bread as well).

The recipe I linked for roulade is fairly close to what my mother cooked when I was growing up, except she did not use mustard. If you skip the mustard, you are pretty close to my favorite all time ever dish on the planet.

I can't find a recipe like mom made for red cabbage. There are lots of variations. So find one that sounds good to you. I have long made potato balls from a package. Maybe someday I will learn to make them homemade, like mom made them when I was a kid. That is definitely something that takes time. You grate the potatoes and you save the starch from it and ...it's a lot of work and I don't even like to cook and I want to learn how to do that someday, it's that good.
posted by Michele in California at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Came to suggest the Bo Ssam plus the fixins as well as the bacon jam, but I'd like to suggest the bacon jam recipe from MeFite Marylynn.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2015

If you can get a hold of Molly Stevens' All About Braising it's worth a browse. I've done her 7 hour leg of lamb a few times and it's excellent, maybe even more so (as she recommends) the next day with fresh pasta.
posted by sapere aude at 1:45 PM on April 23, 2015

If you can get a hold of corn husks, I highly recommend tamales.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:44 PM on April 23, 2015

Seolleongtang is based on a bone broth that's boiled — not simmered, really cooked at a high rolling boil — for so long it takes on a milky white color (I think from the calcium in the bones?) It is a genuine all-day project, but most of that time is just letting it cook and checking in to see if the water needs to be topped up.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:42 PM on April 23, 2015

MeMail Jacquilynne for her mushroom lasagne recipe. Genuinely fantastic, time-consuming, uses every dish in your kitchen.

Apple pie. Use Pillsbury pre-made pie dough. Peeling apples is soothing. I have an apple peeling gadget which works well. Lots of apples, some brown sugar, juice of 1/2 a lemon, some cinnamon. The house will smell amazing, it will taste better than any bakery pie, and it's reasonably healthy.
posted by theora55 at 6:29 PM on April 23, 2015

Other people have suggested lasagne, meatballs, and bolognese, but what about putting them all together and making Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's pasticcio? It takes at least four hours to make, but will feed a dozen people (or just you and your husband, plus a freezer full of tupperwares). And it's fantastic.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:29 AM on April 24, 2015

I have just made this beef stew for dinner.
In this incarnation it's delicious but could be slow cooked, so doesn't necessarily count. However the first time I cooked this, I used short ribs which I had obsessively* slow smoked over oak for six hours in the woods and then stewed (leftovers) for six hours using a variation of this recipe. It was the best thing I have ever eaten and possibly the best thing I will ever eat.
Today's version was a quick Saturday four hour stew with a mix of Cheek, Shin and Oxtail, but it was still delicious for such a simple recipe.

*by which I mean sourced specific hardwood charcoals and soaked the oak chips in cider {probably unnecessary} and obsessively watched the temperature on a couple of thermometers etc etc..
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:43 PM on April 25, 2015

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