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: Pork Schnitzel and German Potato Salad
Game Plan: Start by putting the potatoes on to boil. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing for the potatoes and microwave the bread for the pork. Once the salad has been mixed, finish prepping and cooking the pork.
Our Breaded Pork Cutlets (Pork Schnitzel) feature thin pork tenderloin cutlets that are coated in ultrafine bread crumbs and then fried until puffy and golden brown. Microwaving bread cubes before grinding them produces extra-dry bread crumbs that help with crispness, but the real breakthrough is in the frying method. To get the characteristic puffiness and rumpled appearance, we cook the cutlets in a Dutch oven in an inch of oil, shaking the pot to get some of the oil over the top of the meat. The heat quickly solidifies the egg in the coating, so that the steam from the meat can't escape and instead puffs the coating. For our German Potato Salad, we start with a low-starch potato, which remains intact when cooked. Next, we fry up plenty of bacon and use part of the rendered fat in the vinaigrette, along with white vinegar, whole-grain mustard, sugar, and some of the potato cooking water.
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Dinner 2: Fast All-American Beef Chili and Southern-Style Cornbread
Game Plan: Preheat your oven for the cornbread. Then, start simmering the tomato and beans (steps 1 and 2) for the chili. Prepare the cornbread. Once it is in the oven, resume cooking the chili. By the time the chili has simmered for 15 minutes, the cornbread should be cooled and ready to eat.
For our Fast All-American Beef Chili, we double up on pots to reduce the simmering time by half. In one pot, we simmer beans, chipotle chiles, and canned diced tomatoes. In a second, we brown ground beef to develop a rich fond, and then add aromatics and spices. After each pot has developed its own flavor, we combine the two and simmer them together for a mere 15 minutes before serving. Our Southern-Style Cornbread uses yellow cornmeal and includes a small amount of sugar to enhance the natural sweetness of the corn. We start the mixing process by making a cornmeal mush (moistening the cornmeal with some water) to create robust corn flavor and produce a fine, moist crumb.
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Dinner 3: Pan-Seared Scallops and Risotto with Parmesan and Herbs
Game Plan: The scallops cook quickly and will require your full attention as you sear them. Start by making the risotto up to the point where the Parmesan is added in step 4. Meanwhile, lay the scallops on towels to dry (step 1). Once the Parmesan is added to the risotto, cook both batches of scallops. When the scallops are ready to serve, the risotto can quickly be finished.
Achieving a perfectly browned crust without overcooking is a challenge with Pan-Seared Scallops. Waiting to add the scallops to the skillet until the oil is beginning to smoke and cooking in two batches instead of one are all steps in the right direction. But a common restaurant technique—butter basting—is the real secret. We sear the scallops in oil on one side and then add butter to the skillet after flipping them. (Butter contains milk proteins and sugars that brown rapidly when heated.) We then use a large spoon to ladle the foaming butter over the scallops, which helps to brown them quickly and adds a nutty flavor. For our Almost Hands-Free Risotto with Parmesan and Herbs, we swap the normal saucepan for a thick, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven that traps and distributes heat uniformly and ensures the rice cooks evenly. We add most of the broth after the rice absorbs the wine and simmer it with only a few stirs during the process.