We get a lot of lunch questions around here. They surge at specific times of year, notably September when kids go back to school. But we hear from those of you who are kid-free, too, seeking ideas of what to pack to bring to your offices or your own schools. We love the idea of you all out there, carrying your lunches around. But it does beg another question: What is it about lunch that makes it less fun to prepare than other meals?
In this edition of Ask the Butcher, Josh Applestone has a bunch of ideas for lunch – for you or for your children. And he even likes making it. He also answers some of your other questions, too. If you want to ask the butcher anything, let us know.
I have three kids. I had a bunch of energy their first week back at school and now I’m already drawing a blank on what to make for lunch. Help! What should I feed them that I can make in bulk and that they will actually eat? It really bothers me when their lunchboxes come back basically untouched.
First off, kids don’t always eat a lot at lunch; they are distracted. Don’t pack a huge lunch. They most likely will not have time to eat it.
Eye round roasts are great for making roast beef. Take some time on a Sunday to make an eye round roast — one per kid — to an internal temperature of 115 to 120 in the center. This will make it nice and rare, assuming the kids eat rare meat. It’s very easy. You can tie the roast, but you don’t have to. All it needs is salt and then you roast it. Here is my favorite recipe. Then you can slice it to order for sandwiches as you go when you’re making lunch. Don’t pre-slice! That will make it too dry. Keep the roasts in plastic Ziploc bags in the fridge to retain moisture. Since you’re opening them daily to slice, they won’t be too wet.
Another idea is to make pulled pork in an Instant Pot and shred it up. You can use a Boston butt for lots of kids, or country style pork ribs if you want a smaller amount. Sauce it up to use it for pulled pork sandwiches on potato rolls or quesadillas. Or you could do salad with the pulled pork in separate container. The kid can eat it together, which is delicious.
A whole roasted chicken is really easy. In my house, the legs and thighs get eaten at dinner. Wings can be segmented out to two pieces — that’s like four little wings for a protein snack in the morning or for lunch. Our kid never eats breakfast food, so he would love to eat four wings in the morning with some fruit.
You can chop up the chicken breasts to make a salad. Just don’t chop it up on Monday and think it will last till Thursday. It will be too dry. Here’s a really easy chicken salad: sweet potatoes, garlic, rosemary, chicken, salt, and pepper. You can use mayo or olive oil. Vinegar and oil is delicious. Put the salad in one container and the dressing in another. At school, your kid can mix them: close and shake the container, and it’s good to go. The more ownership and process kids can have, the more functional we’re training them to be.
Really any leftovers can be sent to school. Brisket, chicken, pork butt, stir-fry. It’s just about how you prep it. Do you want to send cold sliced steak or do you want to send a salad and take that same steak, chop it up into smaller pieces, maybe put some teriyaki sauce in there, and have it in a separate container than the vegetables.
Also, when it comes to lunch, try to pack reusables. You can’t always control what your food comes in if you order take-out, but if you’re packing lunch you can. We’re big fans of reusing any type of take-out containers from any type of food.
A friend and I were having a debate last Saturday night over dinner about optimal marinating times for different types and cuts of meat. We couldn’t find one resource to tell us. Can you provide your guidelines? Thanks.
Marinating is by choice. I don’t marinate a lot; I like to taste the flavor of the meat. Some people like a light marinade, some people like it heavy, sweet, or acidic. This is what I can tell you: Less is more and don’t use sugar. It burns and causes fires.
The thing with marinating is that if you use lime, lemon, tomato – acidic stuff – they will cook the meat. Acid changes the structure of the muscle and “cooks” it; that’s what happens with ceviche. A good time to leave something in a marinade is 3 to 4 hours. The process of marinating at room temperature is faster than marinating in the fridge. If you want to marinate in the morning and use it that night, you’re going to want to do it in the fridge. If you plan ahead, it’s ok to marinate overnight in the fridge. Just don’t let it go too long.
When I do wings, I like using large plastic bags to give them a lot of surface area and they’re easy to turn.