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: Stir-Fried Shrimp and Steamed White Rice
Game Plan: Start by cooking the rice. As the rice steams, prep the stir-fry ingredients. Once the rice is cooked, set it aside to keep warm while preparing the stir-fry.
Stir-Fried Shrimp with Onion, Bell Peppers, and Cumin starts with tossing the shrimp with a little salt and sugar and letting them sit for 30 minutes. This not only seasons the shrimp but also helps them retain moisture during cooking. When the shrimp are almost ready, we quickly stir-fry the vegetables and set them aside. Then, rather than cook the shrimp over high heat as most recipes call for, we add the sauce to a skillet and poach the shrimp gently in the liquid, covered, to ensure that they stay moist. We serve the stir-fry with Steamed White Rice, which is soft enough to soak up savory sauces, yet sticky enough to pick up with chopsticks. Rinsing the grains removes some of their surface starch and starting them in boiling water provides enough agitation to release the remaining starch, resulting in just the right amount of stickiness.
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Dinner 2: Pasta e Fagioli and Roasted Broccoli
Game Plan: Prep and cook the soup, using any unattended cooking time to prep the broccoli. Once the pasta has been added to the soup, start roasting the broccoli.
To build complexity in a short amount of time in Pasta e Fagioli, we looked for some quick flavor boosters. Adding the tomatoes and beans together allows them to absorb flavor from each other; a combination of chicken broth and water creates richness without turning the dish into chicken soup; a Parmesan rind gives depth; and a finish of parsley and minced anchovies lends a bright final note. We pair the soup with Roasted Broccoli that boasts a concentrated nutty sweetness and dappled brown exterior. To maximize contact with the baking sheet, which promotes even cooking and browning, we cut the crown into large wedges and slice the stalks into long rectangular pieces.
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Dinner 3: Cuban Picadillo and Quinoa Salad
Game Plan: Toast and simmer the quinoa (step 1). While the quinoa cooks, soak the meat and prep the picadillo ingredients. While the quinoa cools, start the picadillo. As the meat simmers, make the dressing and assemble the salad.
For Cuban Picadillo, we use a mixture of store-bought ground beef and pork for rich flavor. To keep the meat tender and moist, we soak it in a baking soda solution. Canned tomatoes and white wine provide bright flavor, and raisins introduce sweetness. For our Quinoa Salad with Red Bell Pepper and Cilantro, we start by toasting the quinoa to bring out its nutty taste. Spreading the cooked quinoa onto a baking sheet to cool produces the fluffiest grains and creates a salad with a light texture.