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: Sloppy Joes with Sweet and Tangy Coleslaw
Game Plan: Whisk together the dressing for the coleslaw and place it in the freezer. Meanwhile, prep the ingredients for the sloppy joes and the remaining slaw ingredients. Toss the slaw and refrigerate it while you cook the sloppy joes.
For a tender, flavorful, and cohesive Classic Sloppy Joe mixture that stays put when it's placed on a bun, we treat the ground beef with baking soda (so that it retains more moisture when cooked) and then break it down to a fine, uniform texture using a potato masher. Ketchup forms the base of the sauce, which we make more complex by adding a generous amount of tomato paste, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce. To keep coleslaw crisp, you need to get rid of the cabbage’s excess water. For our Sweet and Tangy Coleslaw with Red Bell Pepper and Jalapeño, we do this by microwaving shredded cabbage tossed with salt and sugar. In seconds, the cabbage sheds the same amount of liquid that it would release in 3 hours at room temperature.
The Best 12-Inch Ceramic Nonstick SkilletsThe ceramic skillets we’ve tested have never been able to compete with regular nonstick cookware. Have they improved?
Dinner 2: Pan-Seared Shrimp and Steamed Broccolini
Game Plan: Start by salting the shrimp. While they stand, prep the remaining ingredients for both dishes, including the spice mixture for the shrimp (step 2). Start steaming the broccolini. While it cooks, pat the shrimp dry and arrange them in skillet, but wait to cook them. Once the aromatics have been added to the broccolini (step 3), sear the shrimp.
To keep Pan-Seared Shrimp with Peanuts, Black Pepper, and Lime from overcooking, we start the shrimp in a cold skillet and heat them gradually so they don’t buckle and thus brown uniformly. Once the shrimp are spotty brown and pink at the edges on the first side, we remove them from the heat and quickly turn each one, letting residual heat gently cook them the rest of the way. For Pan-Steamed Broccolini with Ginger, we split the thicker stems so that they are the same size as the thinner ones in the bunch, allowing for even cooking.
The Best Rimmed Baking SheetsA rimmed baking sheet is essential for sheet cakes and handy for cookies. But if yours is flimsy or you use it only for baking, you’re not getting your money’s worth.
Dinner 3: Oven-Fried Chicken and Roasted Carrots
Game Plan: The two dishes in this pairing are baked at the same time in a 400-degree oven. Prep all of the ingredients while the oven heats, then put the carrots in the oven first. After 5 minutes, add the chicken. The two should finish cooking at about the same time.
To create Oven-Fried Chicken with real crunch and good flavor, we dip chicken in beaten egg seasoned with spices and Dijon mustard and then dredge the pieces in crushed Melba toast, which we found provided better texture, flavor, and color than cornflakes, bread crumbs, bagel chips, or any other coating we tried. We use legs and thighs rather than breasts because they don't dry out as quickly (breasts are OK if that's your preference) and bake the chicken at 400 degrees for 40 minutes to develop a deeply browned coating. For perfect Roasted Carrots, we start by cutting the carrots into identically sized batons. We first precook the pieces on a covered baking sheet to minimize moisture loss and withering. Then, when the carrots are tender, we remove the foil and roast them until they caramelize.
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