Every week, Executive Food Editor Keith Dresser pairs each main dish with a side to give you a complete, satisfying dinner without the guesswork. Look for the game plan section to learn tips on how to streamline your kitchen work so dinner comes together quicker.
Dinner 1: Butternut Squash Soup and Drop Biscuits
For Butternut Squash Soup with intense squash flavor, we start by microwaving large chunks of squash to hasten the cooking process. We then slowly caramelize the parcooked squash on the stovetop until a thick brown fond develops. Deglazing and scraping up the fond gives the soup the deep flavor of roasted squash. Our Drop Biscuits offer an easy-to-make alternative to traditional rolled biscuits, with the same tenderness and buttery flavor. The key is to let the melted butter clump in the cold buttermilk. These pockets of butter expand during baking, creating a light, airy crumb.
Kitchen TimersTiming is everything—don’t use just anything.
Dinner 2: Chicken Tikka Masala and Basmati Rice Pilaf
Game Plan: For the Tikka Masala, start by seasoning the chicken. While the chicken sits, prep the sauce ingredients and start to simmer the sauce. Once the sauce is underway, make the rice. It’s okay if the rice stands longer than 10 minutes while the chicken finishes—it will stay warm in the saucepan.
To keep the chicken in our Chicken Tikka Masala moist, we rub large chunks of breast meat with a mixture of salt, coriander, cumin, and cayenne and let them sit for 30 minutes. We then dip the pieces in a yogurt mixture and broil them to replicate the charred flavors of tandoori chicken. For Basmati Rice Pilaf with light, fluffy, aromatic grains, we first rinse the rice to remove excess starch. Then we toast whole spices in oil before toasting the rice itself. A final step of steaming ensures a dry, fluffy texture.
Rice CookersA good rice cooker should make the task of cooking rice convenient and foolproof. We tested five models to see if any of them measured up.
Dinner 3: Moroccan-Style Turkey Meatballs and Couscous
Thanks to couple of test kitchen tricks, our Moroccan-Style Turkey Meatballs rival those made with beef or pork. We start with 93 or 85 percent lean turkey and add an egg and fresh bread crumbs to create a cohesive mixture. We also add a small amount of unflavored gelatin, which traps moisture and gives the meatballs a juicy mouthfeel. To boost meaty flavor, we add glutamate-rich Parmesan cheese, anchovies, and tomato paste. Our Couscous with Shallots, Garlic, and Almonds uses the pilaf method to yield couscous that cooks up fluffy and separate. We bump up its flavor by using a combination of chicken broth and water, and we add toasted almonds for crunch.