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: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Sausage and Roasted Pear Salad
Game Plan: Start by cooking the pears, then allow them to cool while prepping the pasta and remaining salad ingredients. Prepare the pasta dish. Once the pasta is finished, toss the salad.
Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Fennel balances the hearty flavor and firm texture of whole-wheat spaghetti with a bold sauce made with sausage chunks and sliced fennel. Starch from the pasta cooking liquid thickens the sauce and helps it cling to the spaghetti. For Pan-Roasted Pear Salad with Watercress, Parmesan, and Pecans, we toss quartered pears with a little sugar and cook them in a skillet until golden brown and softened. Adding a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the hot pan yields a sweet/tart glaze. Spicy watercress balances the sweet pears and shaved Parmesan and toasted pecans add richness and texture.
Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter
The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.
Dinner 2: Shrimp Scampi and Pan-Steamed Broccolini
Game Plan: You will need two 12-inch skillets for this pairing. Start by brining the shrimp. Meanwhile, prep the remaining ingredients for both dishes. Start cooking the scampi. Once the shrimp is added to the skillet in step 3, start cooking the broccolini.
Our Shrimp Scampi recipe uses a few test kitchen tricks to ensure flavorful and well-cooked shrimp. First, we brine the shrimp to season them throughout and keep them moist and juicy. Then we poach the shrimp in wine rather than sauté them, so they cook evenly and gently. The tender florets of broccolini cook more quickly than its thicker stems, resulting in overcooked florets by the time the stalks become crisp-tender. For Pan-Steamed Broccolini with Shallot, we ensure even cooking by splitting the thicker stems lengthwise so that they are the same size as the thinner ones.
Flat WhisksWe tested six flat whisks, using them to make a béchamel sauce and a pan sauce for skillet-roasted chicken breast alongside the tools we’d ordinarily use for these dishes—a wooden spoon and our favorite all-purpose whisk.
Dinner 3: Moroccan-Style Turkey Meatballs and Couscous
Game Plan: Starting this pairing by focusing on the meatballs and sauce. Once the meatballs are simmering in the covered skillet (step 3), make the couscous. As the couscous steams, the meatballs should be cooked through and you can finish reducing the sauce.