Our streamlined, skillet version of Shepherd’s Pie starts with lean ground beef rather than chunks of meat. To keep the beef tender, we treat it with baking soda, which raises its pH and keeps the proteins from bonding too tightly. To boost the flavor of the gravy, we sauté onions, mushrooms, and tomato paste in the skillet until quite dark, and then deglaze the pan with Madeira. Our Bibb and Frisée Salad with Grapes and Celery uses a combination of frilly, crunchy frisée and soft, buttery bibb lettuce. Thin slices of celery incorporate easily with the greens. Seedless red grapes add pops of juiciness and freshness, while blue cheese adds salty richness.
2. Sautéed Pork Cutlets and Sautéed Spinach with Garlic Chips
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. To wilt the spinach leaves for Sautéed Spinach with Garlic Chips, we place them, still a little damp from washing, into a pot with a small amount of fat over medium-high heat and cover the pot. The water clinging to the spinach is all that is required to wilt down the huge volume of raw leaves to a manageable quantity.
3. Braised Halibut with Carrots and Rice Pilaf
Braised Halibut with Carrots and Coriander features moist, succulent fish; tender ribbons of carrot; and a sauce with balanced flavor and just the right amount of brightness. We like halibut for its sweet, delicate taste and firm texture. Because the bottom of the fillets are submerged in liquid and will cook more quickly than the upper halves that cook via steam, we start by sautéing the fillets for a few minutes on just one side to even out the cooking. For Rice Pilaf with fluffy, separate grains, we use a ratio of 1 cup of rice to 1½ cups of water. Sautéeing the rice in 3 tablespoons of butter for just one minute gives the pilaf rich, buttery flavor.