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: Carne Asada and Refried Beans
Game Plan: Start by salting the steaks (step 1). While the steaks sit, prep and cook the beans through step 2. Light your grill, and as the grill heats, finish cooking the beans, waiting to add the cilantro. As the grilled steaks rest, rewarm the beans and garnish with the cilantro.
Carne Asada starts with rich, beefy skirt steak. This cut is most tender and juicy when cooked to medium, which allows us to create plenty of char on its exterior without overcooking the interior. For heady garlic flavor, we rub the rough crusts of the steak with a smashed garlic clove. Salt pork gives our Refried Beans meatiness; onions, garlic, chiles, and cumin provide complexity; and cilantro and lime juice added at the end lend brightness.
12-Inch Nonstick SkilletsWe demanded our contenders clear a slew of sticky hurdles.
Dinner 2: Skillet-Roasted Fish Fillets and Pita Bread Salad
Game Plan: Heat the oven. Prep and make the salad through step 2, keeping the components separate. Cook the fish. Once the fish is done, toss the salad and serve.
For evenly cooked Skillet-Roasted Fish Fillets, we sear the fish in a hot pan, flip it over, then transfer it to a hot oven to finish cooking. A sprinkle of sugar mixes with moisture on the surface of the fish, accelerating browning and giving the fillets a rich color and deep flavor that’s anything but sweet. Pita Bread Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumber (Fattoush) is at its best when it combines fresh, flavorful produce with crisp pita chips and bright herbs. To make the pita moisture-repellent, we brush its craggy sides with plenty of olive oil before baking. The oil prevents the chips from absorbing too much moisture from the salad and becoming soggy.
Kitchen ShearsA pair of scissors can be a sheer pleasure to use in the kitchen—if you get the right one.
Dinner 3: Grilled Glazed Chicken Breasts and Israeli Couscous Salad
Game Plan: Start by brining the chicken. As the chicken brines, toast and simmer the couscous (step 1) and prep the remaining salad ingredients. As the grill heats, finish the couscous and set it aside while grilling the chicken.
Our recipe for Grilled Glazed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts calls for dry milk powder to hasten the Maillard reaction and provide a craggy surface for the glaze to adhere to. For a thick, savory glaze, we use a small amount of corn syrup, which is less sweet than sugar, to provide viscosity without too much sweetness. Mustard and vinegar round out the flavors. To make Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes, Olives, and Ricotta Salata, we toast the pasta spheres in oil to bring out their nuttiness and then cook them in a measured amount of water to produce evenly cooked grains. We dress the couscous with a bold vinaigrette of equal parts acid and oil and then mix in plenty of fresh vegetables, cheese, and herbs.