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: Mapo Tofu and Smashed Cucumbers
Our Sichuan Braised Beef (Mapo Tofu) is potent in flavor, with balanced spiciness. We start with cubed soft tofu and poach it gently in chicken broth to help the pieces stay intact in the braise. For the sauce, we use plenty of ginger and garlic along with four Sichuan pantry powerhouses: Asian broad bean chili paste (doubanjiang), fermented black beans, Sichuan chili powder, and Sichuan peppercorns. We finish with just the right amount of cornstarch to create a velvety consistency. We pair the bold tofu with a cooling dish of Smashed Cucumbers (Pai Huang Gua). English cucumbers, which are nearly seedless and have thin, crisp skins, are placed in a zipper-lock bag and smashed into large, irregular pieces. Salting the cucumbers helps them expel excess water and breaking them into craggy pieces allows them to hold on to the dressing.
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Dinner 2: Chicken Saltimbocca and Roasted Broccoli
Game Plan: Start by placing your rimmed baking sheet in the oven and heating the oven. Next, prep the broccoli, but wait to cook it. Prep the chicken and cook the first batch of cutlets, but instead of transferring them to the oven to keep warm, transfer them to a large plate and tent loosely with foil. Start roasting the broccoli before cooking the second batch of chicken. Once the sauce for the chicken is reduced, the broccoli should be ready to serve.
The key to Chicken Saltimbocca is to balance the three elements—chicken, prosciutto, and sage. We place thin slices of prosciutto on floured chicken breasts and then cook them proscuitto-side down, which bonds the ham to the chicken and eliminates the need for toothpicks. Instead of using whole sage leaves, which can overpower the dish, we sprinkle a small amount of minced sage between the chicken and ham to add well-distributed herb flavor. We pair the chicken with Roasted Broccoli that boasts a concentrated nutty sweetness and dappled brown exterior. To maximize contact with the baking sheet, which promotes even cooking and browning, we cut the crown into large wedges and slice the stalks into long rectangular pieces.
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Dinner 3: Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish with Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas
With our Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish, we aim to put the crunch (and flavor) back into oven-frying. We use thick cod or haddock fillets so that the fish and coating finish cooking at the same time. Precooking the crumbs in a little butter also ensures we wouldn’t have to overcook the fish to get really crunchy crumbs. To boost the flavor, we add shallots and parsley to the breading and horseradish, cayenne, and paprika to the egg wash for the fish. To guarantee that our Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts, Fennel, and Lemon Zest cook evenly, we use a hybrid method of steaming the sugar snap peas briefly before sautéing them; the trapped steam transfers heat more efficiently than air does so that the peas cook through more quickly. Cutting the peas in half further reduces the cooking time, so the pods retain more of their snap, and the pockets capture the seasonings rather than letting them slide to the bottom of the platter.
Printable Shopping Lists: Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish and Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts, Fennel, and Lemon Zest