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: Kung Pao Chicken and Smashed Cucumbers
Game Plan: Start by smashing and salting the cucumbers. While the cucumbers sit with the salt, make the dressing and prep the ingredients for the stir-fry. Toss the cucumbers with the dressing once the stir-fry is done.
To produce the requisite tingly, spicy flavor in our Gōngbǎo Jīdīng (Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken), we use toasted crushed Sichuan peppercorns and arbol chiles that we halve lengthwise to expose their interiors. We prefer to use chicken thighs with this dish, but boneless, skinless chicken breasts will also work. We pair the bold stir-fry with a cooling dish of Pai Huang Gua (Smashed Cucumbers). English cucumbers, which are nearly seedless and have thin, crisp skins, are best in this dish, but regular cucumbers can be substituted. They will need to peeled and seeded before being smashed.
The Best Silicone SpatulasA spatula should feel like an extension of your arm, nimbly stirring, scraping, and folding any food you put in its path. Why is a good one so hard to find?
Dinner 2: Roasted Chicken Breasts and Sautéed Swiss Chard
Game Plan: Prep the chicken and place it in the oven. While the chicken roasts, prep and start sautéing the chard, stopping once the garlic and cumin are added to the skillet. Once the chicken has been browned and is resting, finish the chard.
Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts start with an application of salt under the skin to season the meat and help it stay juicy. Gently roasting the chicken at 325 degrees minimizes moisture loss and results in even cooking. This method can also be used to cook 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Bring them to 170 to 175 degrees in step 1. The ingredients in Sautéed Swiss Chard with Currants and Pine Nuts can be altered to suit what you have on hand: Raisins or dried cranberries can be used in place of the currants and almonds or pistachios can be substituted for the pine nuts.
Petty and Utility KnivesWith a blade that’s halfway between that of a chef’s knife and that of a paring knife, a petty knife or utility knife is the perfect blade for medium-size kitchen prep tasks. Which is best?
Dinner 3: Shrimp Scampi and Broiled Asparagus
Game Plan: Start by prepping and salting the shrimp. While the shrimp sit, prep the remaining ingredients for both dishes. Once the shrimp have been added to the skillet in step 3, start broiling the asparagus.
We like to use jumbo (16/20) shrimp in our Shrimp Scampi recipe, but extra-large (21/25) shrimp can be swapped in. In a pinch, large (26/30) shrimp can also be used; just be careful not to overcook them. One-quarter teaspoon of dried thyme can be substituted for the fresh sprigs. We prefer thin spears for Simple Broiled Asparagus, but thicker sizes can be used; just make sure to extend the cooking time a bit. Serve the asparagus with a squeeze of lemon or drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette.
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