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: Bò Lúc Lắc (Shaking Beef) and Com Do (Red Rice)
Bò Lúc Lắc (Shaking Beef) pairs savory stir-fried beef with a crisp, peppery watercress salad. We use sirloin steak tips (aka flap meat) for their beefy flavor and pleasant chewy texture. We marinate the meat in a mixture of soy sauce, fish sauce, and molasses, then reserve the marinade to make a glaze. True to the dish's name, we shake and stir the beef as it cooks to develop good browning. Once combined with the sauce, the meat is placed atop a bed of watercress which has been lightly dressed with a mixture of lime juice and pepper. Com Do (Vietnamese Red Rice) is an ultrasavory Vietnamese side dish. It's normally made by stir-frying precooked rice, but we made ours from scratch in one pot. To re-create the slightly drier texture of fried rice, we held back a bit on the water when steaming.
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Dinner 2: Turkey Meatballs and Stir-Fried Bok Choy
Thanks to a couple of test kitchen tricks, our Turkey Meatballs with Soy and Sesame rival those made with beef or pork. We start with 93 or 85 percent lean turkey and add an egg and fresh bread crumbs to create a cohesive mixture. We also stir in a small amount of unflavored gelatin, which traps moisture and gives the meatballs a juicy mouthfeel. To boost meaty flavor, we add glutamate-rich Parmesan cheese, anchovies, and soy sauce. For crisp-tender Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Soy Sauce and Ginger, we separate the leaves and stalks and cook them separately. Small amounts of soy sauce and fresh ginger accent the bok choy’s fresh, vegetal flavor without overwhelming it.
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Dinner 3: Ciambotta (Italian Vegetable Stew) and Creamy Parmesan Polenta
Ciambotta (Italian Vegetable Stew) is chock-full of veggies and makes for a hearty meal with nary a trace of meat. To give the stew body, we embrace eggplant’s natural tendency to fall apart and cook it until it melts into a tomato-enriched sauce. To avoid mushy vegetables, we sauté the zucchini and peppers separately in a hot skillet. A final addition of a pestata (garlic and herb paste) provides a flavor punch at the end of cooking. For our Creamy Parmesan Polenta, we use coarse-ground, degerminated cornmeal, which yields a soft but hearty consistency. A pinch of baking soda cuts the cooking time in half and eliminates the need for stirring.