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: Pan-Seared Scallops and Risotto with Parmesan and Herbs
Game Plan: The scallops cook quickly and will require your full attention as you sear them. Start by making the risotto up to the point where the Parmesan is added in step 4. Meanwhile, lay the scallops on towels to dry (step 1). Once the Parmesan is added to the risotto, cook both batches of scallops. When the scallops are ready to serve, the risotto can quickly be finished.
Achieving a perfectly browned crust without overcooking is a challenge with Pan-Seared Scallops. Waiting to add the scallops to the skillet until the oil is beginning to smoke and cooking in two batches instead of one are all steps in the right direction. But a common restaurant technique—butter basting—is the real secret. We sear the scallops in oil on one side and then add butter to the skillet after flipping them. (Butter contains milk proteins and sugars that brown rapidly when heated.) We then use a large spoon to ladle the foaming butter over the scallops, which helps to brown them quickly and adds a nutty flavor. For our Almost Hands-Free Risotto with Parmesan and Herbs, we swap the normal saucepan for a thick, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven that traps and distributes heat uniformly and ensures the rice cooks evenly. We add most of the broth after the rice absorbs the wine and simmer it with only a few stirs during the process.
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Dinner 2: Grilled Chicken Breasts with Couscous
Game Plan: Start with soaking the chicken and preheating your grill. Meanwhile, prep the remaining ingredients for the chicken and cook the couscous. Once the couscous is done, cover and keep it warm, while cooking the chicken.
For Grilled Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts with Red Pepper-Almond Sauce we first pound the breasts to a ½-inch thickness so they cook through evenly. Soaking the chicken for 30 minutes in a potent “brinerade” seasoned it and added moisture that helped keep it juicy during cooking; we spiked the salt water with just enough umami-rich fish sauce to add savory depth without any trace of fishiness, as well as honey that encouraged browning and balanced the salt. Couscous with Dried Cherries and Pecans relies on the pilaf method to produce a light, fluffy texture. Dried cranberries can be used in place of the cherries and other nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, can be swapped for the pecans.
The Best Gas Grills Under $500It doesn’t matter how powerful a grill is. If it can’t distribute and hold the heat where you want it, your food will suffer.
Dinner 3: Pan-Seared Flank Steak and Oven Fries
Game Plan: Start by prepping and roasting the potatoes. Pan-sear the steaks after removing the foil from the potatoes.
To produce well-browned Pan-Seared Flank Steak with Garlic-Anchovy Butter, we first cut a single steak into four individual steaks so that they fit neatly in a skillet. We then slowly bake the steaks before searing to ensure that all the pieces are evenly cooked to medium-rare. For Oven Fries, we coat the potatoes in a cornstarch slurry that crisps up like a deep-fried fry would. We arrange the coated planks on a rimmed baking sheet that we coat with both vegetable oil spray and vegetable oil; the former contains a surfactant called lecithin, which prevents the oil from pooling and, in turn, prevents the potatoes from sticking.
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