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: Garlicky Shrimp Pasta and Arugula Salad
Game Plan: Start by marinating the shrimp (step 1). Meanwhile, prep the salad and the remaining shrimp ingredients. Cook the shrimp and pasta, tossing the salad right before serving.
Garlicky Shrimp Pasta features al dente pasta and moist shrimp bound by a rich sauce. To infuse the shrimp with deep garlic flavor and keep them juicy, we marinate them in a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, and salt. To build a complex sauce, we use bright, herbal vermouth and briny bottled clam broth. A little bit of flour in the sauce ensures that it clings to the shrimp and pasta. For our Arugula Salad with Pears, Almonds, Goat Cheese, and Dried Apricots, we found ingredients to temper the assertiveness of the arugula while accommodating its lively flavor. Fruit and cheese add sweet and salty notes to balance the peppery greens. For the dressing, our surprise solution was to add a spoonful of jam, which adds fruity sweetness that pulls the flavors into line.
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Dinner 2: Cast Iron Steaks and Garlic-Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Game Plan: Start by preheating your cast-iron skillet in the oven. Meanwhile, make the butter for the steaks and the garlic butter (step 2) for the potatoes. Next, start cooking the potatoes. Once they are gently simmering, start searing the steaks. When the steaks are resting, the potatoes should be ready to mash.
Cast Iron Steaks with Blue Cheese-Chive Butter employs a cast-iron skillet: Its heat-retention properties are ideal for a perfect sear. Heating the skillet in the oven, rather than on the stovetop, ensures even heat distribution. Flipping the steak every two minutes leads to a shorter cooking time and reduces the gray band of dry, overcooked meat just beneath the surface of the crust. Our Garlic-Parmesan Mashed Potatoes have a triple dose of garlic for truly complex flavor. We start with garlic paste sautéed in butter for clean, mellow sweetness; follow that with a small amount of raw garlic paste for assertiveness; and then finish with rehydrated garlic powder (also sautéed in butter) for a complex, lightly roasted flavor. Rehydrating the garlic powder in water reactivates the enzyme that produces the compound allicin, which is responsible for garlic’s characteristic flavor.
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Dinner 3: Sesame-Crusted Salmon and Quinoa Pilaf
Game Plan: Start by prepping and cooking the quinoa. Once the quinoa is simmering, prep and cook the salmon. If the quinoa pilaf is done before the salmon, set it aside and stir in the scallions, vinegar, and mirin just before serving.
For Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Lemon and Ginger, we brine the fillets to ensure that each piece is well seasoned and remains moist after cooking. We also brine and toast the sesame seeds to bring out their flavor. Finally, we use tahini paste combined with citrus juice to glue the sesame seeds to the fillets. To develop nuttiness in our Quinoa Pilaf with Shiitakes, Edamame, and Ginger, we toast the grains in a dry skillet before adding liquid. We then season the pilaf with boldly flavored ingredients such as scallions, mirin, and ginger.