Two Easy, Do-Ahead Dinners for Halloween


More than 70 kids came knocking at my door last Halloween. Now, I don’t have any children, but it sure is fun to watch other people’s kids dress up. We try to be the cool house, and hand out as much chocolate as possible. (It’s like being a grandparent, you get to spoil the kids if they’re not yours.) Also, being the cool house, we like to have a few friends over to help hand out candy. I bring up a big box of hats and costumes, and people can choose to wear what they like (or not).

Holiday cooking: Ideas and recipes for Halloween.

It means I’m responsible for a dinner for 8 or so — and right after work gets out, too. So I turn to one-pot dishes and slow-cooked food. The cool thing is — the recipies I do for a party would work out great for a family who needs to get out on the pavement, collecting candy. So here you go:

Last year, I made Rick Bayless’ Slow-Cooked Chicken with Tomatillos, Potatoes, Jalapenos and Fresh Herbs, which I put in the crock pot before I go to work.

This year, I’m cooking out of my new favorite cookbook, “Nigella Express: 130 Recipe for Good Food, Fast.” She’s got a recipe for Coq au Riesling that looks great for a cool fall night. I’m planning on making it tonight (because I’m busy tomorrow night) and then just reheating it on Wednesday. It’ll get better the longer the flavors meld, I’ll bet.

Here are both the recipes. Will you make one? Which one?

More recipes: great one-post meals.

Slow-Cooked Chicken with Tomatillos, Potatoes, Jalapenos and Fresh Herbs

Slow-Cooked Chicken with Tomatillos, Potatoes, Jalapenos and Fresh Herbs

A Rick Bayless recipe. He says you can also do this in the oven: Layer the dish in a Dutch overn and cook 45 minutes at 400. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to reduce the juices. Also, consider subbing pork or chuck for the chicken, and feel free to use any root vegtables. And my sister loves to wrap this in a fresh tortilla and eat like a taco. (Of course, she lives in Texas, where fresh tortillas are a dime a dozen, literally.)


  • 1 medium white onion, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • Salt
  • 4 medium (about 1 pound total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
  • 8 skinless chicken thighs (bone in or out, 1 1/2 or 2 pounds, respectively)
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves or 1/3 cup loosely packed epazote leaves
  • 1 1/4 pounds (8 to 12 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/4 cup sliced canned pickled jalapenos
  • 2 tablespoons jalapeno pickling juice


  1. Spread the onion over the bottom of a slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt. Continue with layers of the potato slices, chicken thighs, cilantro and then tomatillos, sprinkling salt evenly over each layer before moving on to the next.
  2. Scatter the jalapneo slices over everything, then drizzle the juice. Cover and slow-cook on high for 6 hours (the dish can hold on the slow cooker’s Keep Warm function for 4 hours more.)
  3. Carefully transfer a portion onto each dinner plate. If there is a large amount of juice in the cooker, tip or ladle it into a saucepan, set it over high heat and boil quickly to reduce to a rich consistency. If you have any extra cilantro in the refri, chop some to sprinkle over each portion.
  4. Yield: 4 servings.


Coq au Riesling

Coq au Riesling

From Nigella Express: 130 Recipe for Good Food, Fast." Yield: 6 servings.


  • 2 tablespoons garlic-infused oil
  • 1 cup cubed bacon
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 12 skinless chicken thighs, or 2 3/4 pounds thigh fillets
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle riesling
  • 10 ounces oyster mushrooms, torn into strips (4 cups)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Heavy cream (optional... I'm not going to use it)
  • 1 to 2 tablesoons freshly chopped dill


  1. Heat the oil in a casserole or large wide pan and fry the bacon until crisp.
  2. Add the sliced leek and soften it with the bacon for a minute or so.
  3. Tip in the chicken thighs, wine, mushrooms and bay leaves.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring in the cream in the last couple minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with dill and serve with buttered noodles on the side.


About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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