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: Beef Tacos and Mexican Rice
Game Plan: Start by preparing the rice through step 3. Once the rice has been transferred to the oven, make the taco filling and prep the taco toppings. The finished rice can stand, covered, if it's done before the tacos.
Our Beef Tacos feature a boldly spiced ground beef filling and fresh toppings. For the filling, we start by sautéing onions and garlic, then we add plenty of warm spices including chili powder, cumin, and coriander. Using lean ground beef prevents greasiness, and adding tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar creates roundness and depth. Mexican Rice is a flavorful pilaf-style dish with tender rice infused with tomatoes, chiles, and onion. To keep the rice grains distinct, we rinse them of excess starch before cooking. Equal portions of chicken broth and fresh tomatoes are ideal for a savory liquid base. To further enhance the flavor, color, and texture, we also add a little tomato paste.
The Best Paring KnivesFor precision cuts, call on the (cheap) little guy.
Dinner 2: Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts and Boiled Carrots
Game Plan: Prep the chicken and place it in the oven. While the chicken roasts, prep the carrots. Boil the carrots when you start browning the chicken.
For Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts with crispy, brown skin and juicy meat, we use a technique called reverse searing. We start by applying salt under the skin to season the chicken and help it retain moisture. We then gently roast the breasts at 325 degrees, which minimizes moisture loss and results in even cooking. The oven time also dries the skin, so that a quick sear in a hot skillet is all that is required for a crackly, burnished finish. For our Boiled Carrots with Lemon and Chives, we start by cutting the carrots into even pieces so they cook at the same rate. We then boil them in 2 cups of well-salted water, which not only seasons them but also helps to retain some of their natural sugars. After draining, we add a little butter for richness and some lemon juice for brightness.
The Best Rimmed Baking SheetsA rimmed baking sheet is essential for sheet cakes and handy for cookies. But if yours is flimsy or you use it only for baking, you’re not getting your money’s worth.
Dinner 3: Oven-Roasted Salmon and Sautéed Snow Peas
Game Plan: Prep the salmon and the peas (through step 1) while the oven heats. Roast the salmon. Once the cooked salmon has been transferred to a serving platter, loosely tent with foil to keep warm while you cook the peas.
Our Oven-Roasted Salmon has a nicely browned exterior and a silky, moist interior. We start with a 500-degree oven, but then turn down the heat to 275 degrees just before placing the fish in the oven. The initial blast of high heat firms the exterior and renders excess fat. The fish then gently cooks as the temperature slowly drops, keeping the flesh moist. Adding a little sugar to Sautéed Snow Peas with Lemon and Parsley helps to bump up the peas' natural flavor. To keep the pods crisp, we limit the cooking time: Two minutes is enough heat for most peas. Final punches of flavor come from lemon juice, lemon zest, and fresh parsley.