Even with the best-laid plans, cooking during these strange times can be a challenge. So we've put together three recipe pairings, each with an entree and a side, that call for ingredients you may already have on hand. But if you don't have a particular ingredient or the supermarket is out of stock, don't worry; we've also provided ideas for subsitutions.
Dinner 1: Beef Stroganoff and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Game Plan: Start by taking the buttermilk out of the fridge and marinating the beef (step 1). While beef sits, prep the ingredients for both dishes. Bring the potatoes up to a boil while you cook through steps 2 and 3 of the stroganoff recipe. Once the heat under potatoes is reduced to medium-low, finish the stroganoff, monitoring potatoes for doneness. Keep the stroganoff warm while mashing the potatoes.
For our Classic Beef Stroganoff, we cut ultratender beef tenderloin into meaty chunks. To build flavor, we brown the beef and mushrooms and use beef broth to deglaze the pan. We then add chicken broth, tomato paste, onion, brown sugar, and wine to create depth; a little flour thickens the sauce; and sour cream adds richness and tang. To prevent our Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes from developing a curdled appearance, we add melted butter to room-temperature buttermilk: This coats the proteins in the buttermilk and thus protects them from heat shock when they hit the hot potatoes. Because buttermilk contains very little fat, we add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the potatoes so they don't taste too lean.
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Dinner 2: Crispy-Skinned Chicken Breasts and Steamed Asparagus
Game Plan: To keep the total cooking time to an hour, salt the chicken for just 30 minutes. To serve 4, we recommend cooking 3 chicken breasts. Start by prepping and salting the chicken. While the chicken stands, prep the remaining ingredients. Cook the chicken. While the chicken rests, start the pan sauce, followed by the asparagus. Monitor the pan sauce as the asparagus steams.
Crispy-Skinned Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Rosemary Pan Sauce boasts a shatteringly crispy skin and moist, tender meat. We start the breasts skin side down in a cold pan and weigh them down briefly with a pot to ensure good contact. Once the skin starts to brown, we remove the weight to promote evaporation and let the skin continue to crisp. A bright, flavorful sauce is a foil for the richness of the skin. For our Pan-Steamed Asparagus with Shallots and Herbs, we steam the asparagus in a small amount of water in a covered skillet to which we also add butter, salt, and garlic. We then simmer until the water evaporates, leaving the asparagus crisp-tender.
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Dinner 3: Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish and Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas
Game Plan: Start by prepping the fish and putting the breaded fillets into the oven. As the fish cooks, you will have plenty of time to prep and sauté the snap peas. Instead of buying two lemons for this combination, cut the lemon that was zested for the snap peas into wedges to serve with the fish.
For our Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish, we aim to put the crunch (and flavor) back into oven-frying. We use thick cod or haddock fillets so that the fish and coating finish cooking at the same time. To boost the flavor, we add shallots and parsley to the breading and horseradish, cayenne, and paprika to the egg wash for the fish. To guarantee that our Sugar Snap Peas with Pine Nuts, Fennel, and Lemon Zest cook evenly, we use a hybrid method of steaming the peas briefly before sautéing them; the trapped steam transfers heat more efficiently than air does so that the peas cook through more quickly. Cutting the peas in half further reduces the cooking time, so the pods retain more of their snap, and the pockets capture the seasonings rather than letting them slide to the bottom of the platter.