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Weeknight Cooking

Dinner This Week: Simplified Shepherd's Pie

This week’s menus include Shepherd's Pie, Sautéed Pork Cutlets, and Braised Halibut for dinner in an hour or less.

Published Apr. 12, 2019.

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.

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Dinner 1: Shepherd’s Pie and Bibb and Frisée Salad

Game Plan: Toss the ground beef with the baking soda and start boiling the potatoes. Meanwhile, prep the remaining ingredients for the Shepherd’s Pie. While the pie bakes and cools (step 4), prep the salad ingredients. Toss the salad right before serving.

Our streamlined, skillet version of Shepherd’s Pie starts with lean ground beef rather than chunks of meat. To keep the beef tender, we treat it with baking soda, which raises its pH and keeps the proteins from bonding too tightly. To boost the flavor of the gravy, we sauté onions, mushrooms, and tomato paste in the skillet until quite dark, and then deglaze the pan with Madeira. Our Bibb and Frisée Salad with Grapes and Celery uses a combination of frilly, crunchy frisée and soft, buttery bibb lettuce. Thin slices of celery incorporate easily with the greens. Seedless red grapes add pops of juiciness and freshness, while blue cheese adds salty richness.

Printable Shopping ListsShepherd’s Pie and Bibb and Frisée Salad

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Dinner 2: Sautéed Pork Cutlets and Sautéed Spinach

Game Plan: Start by prepping and brining the pork. While the cutlets brine, make the sauce for the pork (step 2) and fry the garlic chips for the spinach. Once the second batch of cutlets has been transferred to the warm oven, sauté the spinach while finishing the sauce for the pork.

Instead of using supermarket pork cutlets for our Sautéed Pork Cutlets with Lemon-Caper Sauce, we opt for boneless country-style spare ribs that we pound ¼-inch thick. We brine the meat to retain moisture and then sauté it in a combination of olive oil and butter to promote browning. To wilt the spinach leaves for Sautéed Spinach with Garlic Chips, we place them, still a little damp from washing, into a pot with a small amount of fat over medium-high heat and cover the pot. The water clinging to the spinach is all that is required to wilt down the huge volume of raw leaves to a manageable quantity.

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Dinner 3: Braised Halibut with Carrots and Rice Pilaf

Game Plan: Start by prepping the ingredients for the halibut. As soon as the rice is gently simmering, braise the fish. When the fish is finished, the rice will be ready to serve.

Braised Halibut with Carrots and Coriander features moist, succulent fish; tender ribbons of carrot; and a sauce with balanced flavor and just the right amount of brightness. We like halibut for its sweet, delicate taste and firm texture. Because the bottom of the fillets are submerged in liquid and will cook more quickly than the upper halves that cook via steam, we start by sautéing the fillets for a few minutes on just one side to even out the cooking. For Rice Pilaf with fluffy, separate grains, we use a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 1½ cups of water. Sautéeing the rice in 3 tablespoons of butter for just one minute gives the pilaf rich, buttery flavor.

Printable Shopping ListsBraised Halibut with Carrots and Basic Rice Pilaf

To view more quick weeknight dinner ideas, check out the rest of the Dinner This Week series.


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