Melissa Clark's Basic Meals Done Better
Black Bean Skillet Dinner
This is my version of vegetarian chili, which I simmer in a shallow skillet instead of a deep pot so that it comes together quickly enough for any given weeknight (wider pan = quicker evaporation = dinner on the table faster). I like to serve this with quick-pickled onions—red onions soaked in lime juice, salt and sugar—to add a tangy bite to the beans, contrasting with their starchy softness. There’s also a lime crema in this recipe, which may feel like one step too many on a weeknight, in which case you can absolutely skip it. Or substitute a dollop of yogurt straight from the container to add a little creaminess. But do make the pickles; they’re worth the extra 3 minutes it takes to throw them together.
Vietnamese Caramel Salmon
In Vietnam, thick bone-in catfish steaks are simmered in a dark and highly peppery caramel for upwards of an hour, until the fish practically falls apart in its bittersweet, pungent sauce. Here, I’ve replaced catfish with salmon. And by using brown sugar instead of making my own caramel, I’ve also speeded up the process so that the whole thing is ready in less than 30 minutes. The salmon still has time to absorb all the intense flavors of the caramel, but it doesn’t overcook.
Roasted Turkey Breast with Rosemary and Anchovies
If it’s not Thanksgiving or Christmas, people tend to forget about turkey beyond a club sandwich or a substitute for ground beef in burgers and the like. Turkey parts, either legs or breast, make robust meals any time of the year. Here,
I roast a boneless whole turkey breast that’s been rubbed down with a potent paste of anchovies, garlic, rosemary and lime zest, then plopped right on top of a thicket of rosemary needles for roasting. The breast emerges moist and very fragrant, ready to be sliced and served hot. Leftovers are excellent, of course, in sandwiches.
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Sesame Chicken with Cashews and Dates
In the classic Taiwanese dish—called Three Cups Chicken—a sauce of toasted sesame oil, dark soy sauce and honeyed rice wine gives pieces of chicken and scallions an extraordinary depth of flavor, while chiles and fresh ginger add verve. In my version, I also toss in slivers of dates and roasted cashews to add both a sugary depth and a substantial crunch. It makes a great dish ever so slightly more interesting, both texturally and flavor-wise.
Cumin-Chicken Meatballs with Green Chile Sauce
These relatively mild, cumin-flecked chicken meatballs are a gentle foil to the vibrant, fiery green chile sauce served
with them. Chile pepper avoiders (i.e., my daughter, Dahlia) will happily eat the meatballs plain, while heat seekers
(i.e., the adults, such as my husband and me) can slather them in sauce. If you love garlicky, spicy, herbal flavors, keep this sauce recipe handy. It’s excellent on pretty much everything, from roast chicken and fish to grilled steaks, to burgers, to plain rice, and will keep for a week in the refrigerator. It’s also nice cooled down with a drizzle of plain yogurt, which makes it appealingly creamy too. You can use either white- or dark-meat chicken to make the meatballs; the white meat will be milder, the dark meat more tender. Or substitute ground pork or turkey.
'Dinner: Changing the Game' Cookbook
Recipes reprinted from Dinner: Changing the Game. Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Clark; $35.