Even in the slow season, many of us have frantic days where eating is almost an afterthought. If we have more than ourselves to feed, it can become a source of stress in itself. So how do we provide healthy meals for ourselves and our families in limited time, without sacrificing health benefits, eye appeal, and flavor? In this ongoing series, Islanders share their quick, go-to recipes. If you have one you’d like to share, please send it to us at email@example.com.
Dick Binder, longtime Islander (28 years) and owner of Metes and Bounds Real Estate, is all about fast. He speaks fast and he cooks fast. Husband of busy teaching assistant Barbara Dworkin Binder, and father of 13-year-old Benny, he likes to get a meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. But he won’t allow time constraints to affect the quality of his food. “Cooking to me is sort of a creative deal,” he says. “I can’t paint. I can’t draw. I like to cook.”
Dick learned his culinary skills watching his mother. “She was like a magician in the kitchen,” he recalls. “She gave me tips. There are little tricks in cooking that make a difference — that really make the recipe.”
One of the tricks he learned in his mother’s kitchen is the use of the pot cover. “That cover is magic,” he says. “Most of the stuff, if you want to do it fast, you do it on top of the stove. You throw that cover on, and it really infuses the flavor into whatever you’re cooking in a very short time. If you want to reduce, if you have too much liquid, you leave the cover off for five or 10 minutes and the sauce becomes more intense, more flavorful.”
Another of his tricks for a quick meal is to use the grill — no matter what the season. “I use the grill right through the winter,” he says. “I’ll buy Bell & Evans chicken breasts at Shiretown [Meats in Edgartown]. I’ll buy it on the bone. That’s another thing my mother taught me — things always taste better on the bone. I use the grill, and in 20 minutes I can cook a meal.” Dick also saves time by grilling the vegetables in packets next to the meat.
Pasta dishes are another solution to a busy-night dinner. He makes a quick pasta sauce by sautéing a dozen unpeeled plum tomatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, then covers it and lets it cook. “In 15 or 20 minutes you have a sauce,” he says. “You can add red or white wine. Put some cheese on it, some parsley, some pepper. And whatever kind of pasta you like. It’s delicious. No cans. It’s all fresh.”
He developed his go-to Fast Supper recipe for Sherry Mushroom Skillet Chicken through experimentation. “When you cook on top of the stove, no matter what you make, you taste as you go. It’s a no-miss situation.” He credits the tastiness of the dish to the quality of its contents. “How can you go wrong with those ingredients?” His voice rises with enthusiasm. “My mother used to say, ‘Eighty percent of cooking is how and what you buy.’ I’m one of those people who feel the tomatoes. I can pick out a good strip sirloin by the marbleization.”
But Dick Binder is not all about fast cooking. Frequently on Sundays, he makes brisket. He seasons it with a rub and slow-cooks it in the oven at around 200°. “You go out,” he says, “spend the day, do what you do, come back five, six hours later. It’s out of this world.
“But,” he adds, “that doesn’t work during the week when you have to do things quick.”
Sherry Mushroom Skillet Chicken
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs
1 package of egg noodles (or rice, couscous, etc.)
3 to 4 Tbsps. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
1 large package of mushrooms of your choice
¾ cup cream sherry
parsley for garnish
Add kosher salt to large bowl of cold water. Add chicken thighs. Start cooking egg noodles. While chicken brines, heat olive oil at med-low heat in a large skillet, add chopped onion, sauté until opaque, then add 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic, cook another 2-3 minutes. Take chicken out of brine, pat dry with paper towels, season both sides with salt and pepper, move onion and garlic to one side of skillet and gently brown chicken, over medium heat, on both sides. Move onion and garlic back. Add chopped rosemary and mushrooms, placing ingredients evenly throughout the pan; add cream sherry. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over to enhance flavor while cooking. Lower heat slightly, and cover for 20 minutes, checking if there is too much liquid. Cook 5-10 minutes without the cover.
Serve over egg noodles, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve with a nice crusty warmed bread and salad. Enjoy!