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: Chorizo and Potato Tacos and Avocado Salad
Game Plan: Prep all the ingredients for the taco filling. While the potatoes simmer (step 1), prep the salad ingredients and make the dressing. Continue to cook the taco filling (steps 2 through 4), using the unattended cooking time to make the taco sauce. Plate the salad right before serving.
For our Chorizo and Potato Tacos, we start by making our own juicy, highly seasoned chorizo: We mix ground pork with ancho chile powder and spices that have been bloomed in oil to bring out their flavors. We cook the pork mixture in a skillet and add parboiled diced potatoes that absorb the flavorful pork fat and juices as they finish cooking. Mashing some of the potatoes makes the filling more cohesive. For a balanced Avocado Salad with Mango and Jicama, we pair buttery avocados with a highly acidic dressing to cut their richness. We emulsify the vinaigrette with a bit of mayonnaise to ensure cling. Arranging the mango and jicama on top of the dressed avocado maximizes visual appeal by preventing the avocado from turning the salad murky.
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Dinner 2: Crispy Pan-Fried Chicken Cutlets and Cucumber Salad
Game Plan: Start by salting the cucumbers. While the cucumbers sit, make the dressing and prep and bread the chicken cutlets. Once the chicken is cooked, toss the cucumbers with the dressing.
For our Crispy Pan-Fried Chicken Cutlets, we ditch the usual homemade bread crumbs in favor of drier, crunchier panko. For a more delicate crust, we omit the flour in the breading process. To know when the frying oil is at just the right temperature, we add a pinch of panko to the skillet with the oil. When the crumbs turn golden brown, it's time to start frying. To ensure good crunch in our Sesame Lemon Cucumber Salad, we toss sliced cucumbers with salt and put a weight on top of them to maximize the amount of water they shed. A bright dressing of rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil is the perfect foil to the crisp cucumbers.
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Dinner 3: Poached Salmon and Toasted Orzo
Game Plan: Prep the ingredients for the salmon and prepare the pan (step 1). Sauté the aromatics for the orzo and toast the orzo. Once the liquids have been added to the orzo, start the salmon. As the salmon poaches (step 2), finish the orzo. Put a lid on the orzo to keep it warm while finishing the salmon (steps 3 and 4).
Our Poached Salmon with Herb and Caper Vinaigrette features tender fish accented by the delicate flavor of the poaching liquid. Using less poaching liquid allows us to cut back on the vegetables and aromatics in the broth, saving preparation time. Cooking the fillets directly on lemon slices prevents the bottom sides from overcooking. For Toasted Orzo with Peas and Parmesan, we brown the pasta to add complexity before cooking it risotto-style. Stirring in finely grated Parmesan at the end makes the pilaf creamy, and a pinch of nutmeg accentuates the nuttiness of the cheese.