Weeknight Cooking

Dinner This Week: Smashed Burgers

This week’s menus include Smashed Burgers, Corn and Black Bean Quesadillas with Pepper Jack Cheese, and Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts for dinner in about an hour.

Published Feb. 12, 2021.

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: Smashed Burger and French Fries

Game Plan: Prep the ingredients for both recipes and make the burger sauce. Start cooking the fries. Once you have stirred the french fries (step 2), start the burgers, monitoring the fries as they cook.

Smashed Burgers share the same thin, verging-on-well-done profile as typical fast-food burgers, but their big selling point is an ultrabrown, crispy crust. We use commercial ground beef instead of grinding our own because the former is ground finer and thus exposes more myosin, a sticky meat protein that helps the patties hold together when they are smashed. Using a small saucepan to press straight down on the meat ensures that it spreads and sticks uniformly to the skillet (instead of shrinking as it is cooked), which helps guarantee deep browning. Our Easier French Fries recipe uses a modest amount of oil and doesn't call for double frying. We start the potatoes in cold oil and fry them over high heat until browned. Low-starch Yukon Golds make for a crisp exterior and a creamy interior. 

Printable Shopping Lists: Smashed Burger and French Fries

Equipment Review

Clip-On Probe Thermometers for Meat, Deep Frying, and Candy Making

We made French fries, fried chicken, and caramel sauce, evaluating four thermometers for accuracy, functionality, and durability.
Read Our Review

Dinner 2: Corn and Bean Quesadillas with Quinoa Pilaf

Game Plan: Start cooking the quinoa. As the quinoa simmers in step 3, prep the ingredients for the quesadillas and the remaining quinoa ingredients. Once the quinoa is removed from the heat, cook the quesadillas.

Our Corn and Black Bean Quesadillas with Pepper Jack Cheese make for a quick, yet satisfying, meal. We start by lightly toasting tortillas in a dry skillet; we then fill them with cheese, frozen corn, and canned beans. We finish the quesadillas by lightly coating the exteriors with oil and returning them to the skillet until they are well browned and crisp. To develop nuttiness in our Quinoa Pilaf with Chipotle, Queso Fresco, and Peanuts, we toast the grains in a dry skillet before adding liquid. We then season the pilaf with boldly flavored chipotle chiles and cumin.

Printable Shopping Lists: Corn and Bean Quesadillas and Quinoa Pilaf

Equipment Review

The Best Kitchen Tongs

Which pair offers the best precision and comfort?
Read Our Review

Dinner 3: Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts and Pan-Steamed Broccolini

Game Plan: You will need two 12-inch skillets for this pairing. If you decide to make the optional pan sauce for the chicken, make sure to use a traditional skillet, which will help to create a flavorful fond. Start by salting the chicken and putting it in the oven. While the chicken bakes, prepare the broccolini ingredients. Once the chicken has been seared, start steaming the broccolini.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cook quickly, but they’re also notoriously dry and bland. To keep our Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts moist (and well-seasoned), we salt them and then gently parcook them in a low oven. Right before serving, we coat them in a protective layer of oil and cornstarch and sear them in a hot skillet to develop a crisp crust. The tender florets of broccolini cook more quickly than its thicker stems, resulting in overcooked florets by the time the stalks become crisp-tender. For Pan-Steamed Broccolini, we solve this problem by splitting the thicker stems lengthwise so that they are the same size as the thinner ones, allowing for even cooking along the length of the vegetable.

Printable Shopping ListsPan-Seared Chicken Breasts and Pan-Steamed Broccolini

View more weeknight dinner ideas below, or check out all of the Dinner This Week menus.


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