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: Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese with Spinach Salad
Game Plan: Prep the ingredients for both dishes, including the dressing for the salad. While the pasta cooks, make the bread crumb topping (step 2). Once the cheese has been added to the pasta, toss the salad.
Our Simple Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese is inspired by an innovative macaroni and cheese recipe that calls for adding sodium citrate, an emulsifying salt, to cheese to keep it smooth when heated (instead of adding flour to make a béchamel). We base our sauce on American cheese, which contains a similar ingredient. Because American cheese has plenty of emulsifier but not a lot of flavor, we combined it with more-flavorful extra-sharp cheddar. For Spinach Salad with Carrot, Orange, and Sesame, we shave carrots thin with a vegetable peeler so they don't collect at the bottom of the bowl, then add fresh orange segments for bright, clean flavor and textural appeal.
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Dinner 2: Steak Tips with Gravy and Mashed Potatoes with Scallions
Game Plan: Prep and marinate the steak tips and soak the dried porcini mushrooms (steps 1 and 2). While the steak sits, prep all of the remaining ingredients. Next, start simmering the potatoes and cook the steak tips through step 4. Finish the steak tips (step 5) once the potatoes are mashed.
Our one-pan Steak Tips with Mushroom-Onion Gravy calls for relatively inexpensive sirloin tips, which have lots of marbling for flavor and tenderness. We combine dried porcini mushrooms with deeply browned onions and white mushrooms for a rich sauce that we finish with sprinkles of minced garlic and woodsy thyme. Mashed Potatoes with Scallions start with rich, satisfying mashed potatoes made with just the right amounts of butter and half-and-half. We then jazz things up by adding two types of horseradish (fresh and prepared), along with fresh-tasting scallion greens.
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Dinner 3: Almond-Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Napa Cabbage Slaw
Game Plan: Start by salting the chicken (step 1). While chicken sits, prep the ingredients for the slaw and complete step 1. Coat and bake the chicken (steps 2 and 3). While the chicken rests, toss the slaw.
To ensure that our Almond-Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Lime and Chipotle are juicy and flavorful, we pierce the chicken breasts with a fork, salt them, and let them rest before dredging them with a seasoned mixture of half almonds and half panko bread crumbs. To enhance the nutty taste, we toast the coating in browned butter. Napa Cabbage Slaw with Jicama and Pepitas offers a more tender, delicate texture and a sweeter flavor than traditional green cabbage slaw. To avoid a bland, watered-down slaw, we make a potent dressing with a high ratio of vinegar to oil. After tossing the cabbage with the dressing and letting it sit for about 5 minutes, moisture from the cabbage dilutes the dressing slightly, so the slaw reaches the perfect level of bright acidity.