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: Pan-Seared Inexpensive Steak with Smashed Potatoes
Game Plan: Start boiling the potatoes, then prep the remaining ingredients for the potatoes and the pan sauce for the steak. Heat the skillet for the steaks right before draining the potatoes. Cook the steaks, then smash the potatoes and make the pan sauce while the steaks rest.
To make the best Pan-Seared Inexpensive Steak, we started by evaluating 12 different cuts. Two earned favored status: boneless shell sirloin steak (a.k.a. top butt) and flap meat steak (a.k.a. sirloin tips). Both deliver solid beefy flavor and a tender texture. Searing quickly in a hot skillet creates a nice crust on both sides without overcooking. It also leaves behind a flavorful fond, which forms the base of flavorful pan sauce. Smashed Potatoes feature chunks of Red Bliss potato bound by a rich puree. A combination of cream cheese, melted butter, and some reserved potato cooking water creates a tangy yet creamy puree that binds the potatoes in terms of both flavor and texture.
The Best Kitchen TongsWhich pair offers the best precision and comfort?
Dinner 2: Sautéed Tilapia with Farro Salad
Game Plan: Start by boiling the farro. As the farro cooks, prep and cook the remaining ingredients for the salad. Once the salad is complete, let it stand at room temperature while you sauté the fish.
For Sautéed Tilapia, we cook the fillets in a nonstick skillet over high heat to maximize flavorful browning without overcooking and drying out the fish. Dividing each fillet into a thick and a thin portion and sautéing them separately allows for more precise cooking and even browning. For Farro Salad with Asparagus, Sugar Snap Peas, and Tomatoes, we prefer whole farro, in which the grain’s germ and bran have been retained. It has a nutty flavor and a delicately chewy texture. We found that the simplest cooking method was best: Just boil in salted water for about 20 minutes until tender. After the grains are drained, we cool them briefly and combine them with vegetables, a bright vinaigrette, and a sprinkling of cheese.
The Best Slotted SpoonsWe rounded up eight dishwasher-safe nylon, silicone, and stainless-steel spoons, and used them to fish out green peas, poached eggs, meatballs, and jumbo shrimp from liquids in different kinds of cookware.
Dinner 3: Beijing-Style Meat Sauce and Noodles with Pan-Steamed Broccolini
Game Plan: Make the sauce through step 3, then start cooking the broccolini. While the broccolini steams, boil, drain, and sauce the noodles. Once the noodles are done, finish the broccolini.
Beijing-Style Meat Sauce and Noodles is an easy-to-make one-dish meal. We substitute red miso paste and soy sauce for the traditional ground bean sauce and use a combination of hoisin, molasses, and soy sauce as a substitute for sweet bean sauce. Shiitake mushrooms and a small amount of ground pork add meaty depth. We spoon the sauce over chewy lo mein noodles and finish with crisp bean sprouts, cucumber matchsticks, and scallion greens. Broccolini can be tricky to cook because its tender florets are quicker to soften than its stems. For Pan-Steamed Broccolini with Ginger, we split the thicker stems so that they are the same size as the thinner ones in the bunch, allowing for even cooking.