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: Spaghetti Carbonara and Insalata Mista
Game Plan: Prep all the ingredients for the salad, but wait to toss it. Make the Carbonara. As the pasta rests at the end of step 3, rewhisk the dressing and toss the salad.
For our Spaghetti Carbonara, we reduce the usual amount of water used to boil the pasta by half. This gives us a concentrated starchy liquid to use in the sauce. The extra starch coats the proteins and fats in the cheese and prevents them from separating or clumping together. The starch also works in concert with the egg white proteins to lend viscosity. Egg yolks introduce a pleasant custardy richness. Insalta Mista uses a mix of mild lettuces along with smaller amounts of spicy greens (watercress and arugula) and bitter greens (radicchio and endive). For color and textural contrast, we add grated carrot and slices of cucumber and red onion. In the dressing, we use two types of vinegar: Red wine provides assertive acidity while balsamic vinegar brings sweet, caramel-like notes.
The Best GratersWant the best grater? Look for the stamp of approval.
Dinner 2: Quick Chicken Fricassee with Boiled Potatoes
Game Plan: Start by browning the chicken. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes. If your potatoes are small, they may be tender before the chicken is done. In that case, return them to the Dutch oven and cover them to keep warm while the chicken finishes.
To make our Chicken Fricassee weeknight friendly, we use quick-cooking boneless, skinless chicken parts. We brown the chicken, then set it aside while we make a rich sauce by cooking onions and glutamate-rich mushrooms until they develop a savory fond, then pouring in chicken broth and white wine. A final addition of sour cream mixed with egg yolk thickens the sauce and makes it incredibly silky. We pair the chicken with a simple dish of Boiled Potatoes with Butter and Chives . We like to cook whole potatoes that are less than 2½ inches in diameter since larger spuds tend to get mushy right under the skin by the time the center is cooked. We boil the potatoes skin-on in well-salted water to highlight their earthy taste.
The Best 9-Inch TongsWe typically reach for 12-inch tongs to protect our hands from heat and messes, but we decided it was time to shine the spotlight on their shorter sibling.
Dinner 3: Easy Salmon Cakes and Sautéed Peas with Fennel
Game Plan: Both recipes call for a 12-inch skillet. If you only have one traditional skillet, a nonstick or cast-iron skillet can be used to cook the salmon cakes. First, mix and shape the cakes. Next, start the pea recipe. Once the fennel is softened (step 1), fry the salmon cakes. While the cakes brown, finish the peas.
For our Easy Salmon Cakes with Smoked Salmon, Capers, and Dill, we turn to the food processor. Pulsing small pieces of salmon allows for more even chopping and results in small, discrete pieces of fish. We also ditch the somewhat messy egg and flour steps of the breading process. Instead, we simply coat the cakes with panko bread crumbs, which we also use to bind the fish mixture. Frozen peas have already been blanched, so the key to good Sautéed Peas with Fennel is to avoid overcooking. Just five minutes of simmering is all that is needed to produce bright, tender green peas. Switching from a saucepan to a skillet allows the peas to heat more quickly and evenly over the larger surface, further reducing the cooking time.
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