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: Congee with Stir-Fried Ground Pork and Skillet-Roasted Broccoli
Game Plan: Start by cooking the rice. As the rice simmers, prep the stir-fried pork topping and the broccoli. After the rice has been cooking for 30 minutes, start the broccoli. When the broccoli is done, transfer it to a serving platter, wipe out the skillet, and stir-fry the pork.
Congee (Chinese Rice Porridge) with Stir-Fried Ground Pork features soft, barely intact grains gently bound by their silky, viscous cooking liquid; the result should be fluid but thick and creamy enough to suspend any toppings. Our formula starts with a 13:1 ratio of liquid to long-grain white rice, which produces an appropriately loose porridge. We simmer the rice vigorously to encourage the grains to break down in about 45 minutes. Skillet-Roasted Broccoli yields deeply browned broccoli with a nutty flavor and a hint of crisp texture. To make it quickly on the stovetop, we cut broccoli crowns into wedges to create flat sides that sit flush with the surface of the skillet. We then steam the broccoli initially to soften it before browning.
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Dinner 2: Cast Iron Steaks and Fork-Mashed Potatoes
Game Plan: Start by preheating a cast-iron skillet in the oven. Meanwhile, make the butter for the steaks and prep the potatoes. Next, start cooking the potatoes. Once they are simmering, sear the steaks. When the steaks are resting, the potatoes should be ready to mash.
Our recipe for Cast Iron Steaks with Herb Butter uses the heat-retention properties of cast iron to help develop a perfect sear. Heating the skillet in the oven, rather than on the stovetop, ensures even heat distribution. Flipping the steaks every two minutes leads to a shorter cooking time and reduces the gray band of dry, overcooked meat just beneath the surface of the crust. Fork-Mashed Potatoes with Herbs starts by simmering thin-skinned, waxy baby potatoes in water seasoned with salt, fresh thyme sprigs, and garlic. After draining, we use a fork to break the potatoes into rough, savory chunks.
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Dinner 3: 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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