I’ve just returned from visiting friends in the French countryside where we cooked together, improvising dinner from whatever looked promising at the market that day. This is my absolute favorite way to cook: in convivial company, riffing with what the season has offered, exchanging inspiration and knowledge as we go.

Back in my own kitchen, one way to hold on to that glow of camaraderie is to enlist help from family and friends. It’s admittedly something that I, an enthusiastic alpha cook, sometimes forget to do. But sharing the work makes the process of cooking both quicker and more fun. It’s mostly a matter of dividing up the tasks.

For example, for Ali Slagle’s one-pot tortellini with prosciutto and peas, one person could fry the prosciutto into crispy, salty bits while someone else chops the shallot and measures the cream and chicken stock that will take the place of cooking water and add so much richness and flavor to the tortellini. Then everyone can sit back while the dish finishes cooking, which takes a mere 20 minutes — just enough time to enjoy a delightful beverage.


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If you need to sip and chat in more depth, Von Diaz’s arroz con pollo takes two hours from start to finish. Most of that involves letting the boneless chicken thighs simmer until they soften enough to shred with a fork while the rice crisps at the bottom of the pot, absorbing the complex flavors of sofrito, tomatoes, olives and capers. That’s time enough to really dish.

Of course, some recipes are so quick and easy that there’s hardly any work to split, so you can just have someone mix you a drink or read you a poem while you whip it up. (Happy National Poetry Month!) Ali Slagle’s miso broiled tofu, inspired by chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s miso-broiled black cod, is one of these recipes. The miso and sugar form a charred crust while the tofu stays soft and custardy in the center. This goes well with something fresh and green, like Ali’s pan-seared asparagus with crispy garlic or her cucumber-avocado salad.

Speaking of cod and cucumbers, if you’re looking for a fast fish dinner, there’s my sheet-pan cod with scallions and cucumber yogurt. It’s cool and creamy from the yogurt sauce, pungent from the garlic and festive enough to serve to company, whom you can enlist for chopping and stirring, table-setting, cork-pulling or poem-reading.

Finish the night with a platter of Lisa Donovan’s nutty lemon bars, which she makes with a pecan crust that adds a deep toasty note to the tangy citrus curd. Lemon bars are one of my favorite desserts to bake for a crowd: Everyone loves them, and they’re at their best when made in advance. And when nobody’s around the next morning, the leftovers make a perfectly indulgent breakfast that you won’t have to share.



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