The Night Shift

“How do you do it?” asked her colleague, who’d arrived from Alaska that afternoon.  I asked what she meant. “How do you eat so late?”

We were seated in a Manhattan nightclub, having just ordered dinner before a cabaret performance.  It was 9 PM on a Monday. This wasn’t an early dinnertime for us, but, sad to say, it wasn’t unusually late.

It’s a combination of things. Her commute, door-to-door, is just under two hours.  I’m often working until it’s just time to meet her train. Sometimes we run errands or stop at the market on the way home. And, of course, we both prefer home cooking to takeout.

The problem isn’t a late dinnertime; lots of people eat dinner quite late.  (I’m pretty confident that the performers we saw didn’t tuck in to their dinner until after the show.) The problem is a late dinnertime that follows a long day with an early start that will have another early-starting long day after that.

She picked up dinner for herself on the way home from the train.  I’d taken some leftover chicken and dumplings to eat between office time and rehearsal.  We were covered for Tuesday.  But we could do a little planning ahead.  While she finished the last of a closet-moving project in preparation for the painter who’ll be working in the bedroom this morning, I prepared two dishes for the Night Shift.

Overnight Oatmeal

Bring 3-1/2 cups of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat, dry-toast 1 cup of steel-cut oats, shaking the pan to toss the oats so they don’t burn.  When they’re slightly brown and beautifully nutty-smelling, turn off the heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, shake once more to distribute, carefully pour the boiling water over the oats, cover the pan, and let sit for 6-8 hours.

I used to do overnight oats in a slow cooker, but like the texture of this version much better; the oats are more toothsome than mushy. Better still, cleanup is incredibly easy. The oats simply slide out of the pan, which just needs a rinse and a wipe.

Lentil-Sausage-Kale Stew (adapted from Food52)

  • 8 oz. lentils, picked, rinsed, and drained
  • 4 links pre-cooked sausage, sliced
  • cups stock
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • onion, diced
  • cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups sliced carrots
  • teaspoon dried thyme
  • teaspoon dried sage
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch kale or swiss chard 

Combine all but the kale in a slow cooker, set to low; cook for 6-8 hours. Remove woody stems from the greens, chop, and add to the stew 10 minutes before serving.

Red lentils break down more than brown ones. If preparing this dish as a make-ahead, don’t add the kale until heating before serving.

At 4 AM, the aroma of the sausage-lentil stew very nearly caused me to get up for an extremely early (or extremely late) supper, but I decided to wait.

I wanted to point out to her colleague that 9 PM is really only 4 PM by her body clock, and that seems more like a late lunch than a late dinner–but she’d probably had a very early start to her day in order to fly to NYC.  And, if I have learned anything about the employee devotion of the non-profit organization for which they both work, she probably worked late yesterday, too.

One response to “The Night Shift

  1. Pingback: 180 | Dinner at the Country House

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