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: Corn and Chicken Soup with Sautéed Baby Bok Choy
Game Plan: Prep the ingredients for both dishes. Cook the soup up to the point where the chicken is added (step 3). Before adding the cornstarch mixture, remove the soup from the heat and cook the bok choy. Once the bok choy is cooked, finish the soup.
Chinese Corn and Chicken Soup is a classic, quick-to-make dish that is historically made with canned cream-style corn. For a version based on fresh corn, we start by pureeing a portion of the kernels so that the vegetable's vibrant, sweet flavor suffuses the chicken broth base with freshness. Whole kernels add sweet, juicy bursts. Sautéed Baby Bok Choy with Shallot and Fish Sauce calls for lightly steaming the vegetable to soften its stems before it is quickly sautéed. A mix of fish sauce, shallots, and garlic forms the base of a salty, aromatic sauce.
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Dinner 2: Sautéed Pork Cutlets and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Game Plan: Start by prepping and brining the pork. While the cutlets brine, make the sauce for the pork (step 2) and prep the herb mixture for the potatoes. Start roasting the potatoes. Once the foil has been removed from the potatoes, remove the cutlets from the brine and sauté them. The two dishes will finish cooking at about the same time.
Instead of using supermarket pork cutlets for our Sautéed Pork Cutlets with Lemon-Caper Sauce, we opt for boneless country-style spare ribs that we pound ¼-inch thick. We brine the meat to retain moisture and then sauté it in a combination of olive oil and butter to promote browning. For creamy, tender Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Mixed Herbs, we start cooking in a covered 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan, which steams the potatoes. We then remove the cover and let the potatoes finish roasting in order to brown them. Finely chopping fresh thyme and sage with salt and then tossing the hot potatoes with the mixture helps to disperse all three ingredients evenly over the potatoes.
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Dinner 3: 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.