Birthday Dinners are a Blast



Birthdays are a big deal in our family. And since most of our family doesn’t live here, we often bestow our birthday love on our friends out here.

What this usually entails is this: a special dinner. Sometimes it’s a favorite meal. My husband, for example, always gets Alaskan king crab.  When I was growing up, it was lobster. For others, it can range from their standard favorite to something new they would like to try. This is when things can get interesting.

Making a new dish can come with complications. Or, a.k.a., mistakes.

Take the time when I made a salty ice cream recipe. I, being a salt lover, got a little heavy handed with the seasoning.  While it didn’t completely ruin the meal, we all needed a large glass of water when we finished.

Then there was the time my mom fixed a big celebration dinner with some kind of homemade chili. Not sure how much cayenne she added, but the entire table was sweating.

Now, we both take our “birthday experiment” dinners more carefully.  I made a cake for a friend last week and followed his mother’s recipe to a tee. It turned out perfectly. The only addition I made (which he was skeptical about) was the addition of fresh whipped cream on the side.  I went light on the added vanilla to ensure the flavor was not overwhelming. Complete success.

Next up it was my mother’s turn again. She was making a birthday dinner for our friend, Ellie.  She planned a new meal, but luckily it had good instructions with it. It turned out perfectly. The funny part? Ellie didn’t think it sounded good, but never said anything. So when it turned out perfectly, she was very pleasantly surprised.

Mom got the following recipe from Bon Appetit. She made it as presented and it was delicious. My favorite part was the pistachio relish. This would be good simply with grilled chicken breasts to save time if you don’t want to make the entire meal.

Chicken with Pistachio Salsa


    For the chicken:
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced, mashed to a paste with the back of a knife
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped, plus sprigs for stuffing
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 2 1/2–3-pound whole chickens
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Peppers and corn
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup capers, minced, plus 1–2 teaspoons caper brine
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 cups thinly sliced yellow, orange and red bell peppers (about 5 large peppers)
  • 4 red Fresno chiles, seeded, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 4 ears)
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Pistachio salsa
  • 1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil


    For the chicken:
  • Whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, 3 tablespoons thyme, rosemary and sage in a small bowl; set marinade aside.
  • Season chickens with salt and pepper, inside and out.
  • Place each inside a resealable plastic bag; divide marinade between bags.
  • Spread marinade evenly to distribute.
  • Seal bags and chill for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 450 F.
  • Transfer chickens from bags to a small roasting pan; gently blot excess oil from marinade with paper towels, leaving herbs intact on chicken skin.
  • Stuff each chicken with a lemon half and several thyme sprigs.
  • Tie legs together with kitchen twine, if desired.
  • Roast until well browned, 30–35 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to 350 F and continue roasting, occasionally basting chickens with pan juices, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 F, 20–30 minutes longer.
  • Transfer chickens to a carving board; let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
  • For the peppers and corn:
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onion, capers and red pepper flakes.
  • Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and chiles; season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 10–12 minutes. Stir in caper brine, corn, parsley and vinegar just before serving.
  • For the pistachio salsa:
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Stir in oil.
  • TO DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Let come to room temperature before serving. Serve with chicken, peppers and corn.





About Author

Writer. Cook. Hockey player. Skier. Snowboarder. Mountain biker. Mother of two great danes. Wife. Marketing expert. And, most fulfilling, Co-editor of Dishing!

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