Weeknight Kitchen with Melissa Clark takes on one of the biggest dilemmas of busy people: what are we going to eat? In each episode, you’ll join Melissa in her own home kitchen, working through one of her favorite recipes and offering helpful advice for both beginners and seasoned cooks. It’s a practical guide for weeknight eating, from the makers of The Splendid Table.
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While chicken breast is undoubtedly an easy, quick and uncontroversial option for dinner, I find it often to be quite disappointing: a little bland, usually dry and just a bit boring. Except when cooked this way: the meat is browned, then lightly poached in rich tomato sauce so it stays exquisitely tender, and each piece comes enrobed in a blanket of melting mozzarella cheese. Absolutely essential with this is some crusty bread for wiping up all the juices on your plate. And depending on your mood, you might also want a light salad or a few greens.
Almost every region has its version of seasoned rice and beans, and the Middle East is no exception. For me, the highlight of mujaddara is the deeply caramelized onions that are simply irresistible. The dish also uses lentils, which largely retain their shape and give the dish its name: “mujaddara” means “pockmarked” or “pimpled” in Arabic. In this version, we cook the cauliflower rice and lentils separately to maximize texture.
Tzatziki, meanwhile, is a similar preparation to the Indian raita, but is usually thicker and creamier in consistency because it is made with Greek yogurt. I find the pairing of these dishes particularly alluring as a complete meal.
This is one of the most popular recipes of all time on my blog. Normally, a restaurant chef would deep-fry the eggplant and then cook it with the sauce in a large wok over extremely high heat to keep it glossy and crispy. To avoid all that hassle, I’m sharing my favorite method for preparing eggplant without deep-frying while still making it crispy. The eggplant is then finished in a savory, sticky sauce—just enough to coat the eggplant so that it won’t turn soggy.
Sweet Onions & Peppers, Fluffy Rice, Yogurt & Arugula
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side
There are few things in life more welcoming than the scent of a roast chicken –
it has to be the ultimate comfort food, the sort of dish that brings people together around the kitchen table. This recipe for pot-roast chicken is good-mood food, and good-mood cooking, too. You just throw everything in the pot and let it roast away merrily. A wonderfully simple way to honour a whole bird.
These are so over-the-top fantastical. I already told you unironically that sandwiches are my favorite food, and this right here is why. This Italian sub is soft and melty and rich and saucy and toasty. It is gorgeous to look at. It smells divine. You know instantly you are about to be a delighted eater. I want these on football days with giant piles of salty chips and freezing ice-cold Shiner beer. Voilà! Perfect game-day food.
One of my favorite things to do with a batch of Sunday Focaccia is to dunk it into this simple Mediterranean-inspired soup. It features a combination of fennel and dill, which evokes the food I grew up with in a Greek American home. The best thing about the soup is that it’s quick to make (it’ll only need 20 minutes to simmer), and like most soups, it tastes even better after a day or two.
SERVES 4 TO 6
Tsukune is a Japanese-style meatball that is typically cooked yakitori style over live coals and accompanied by a rich dipping sauce. They are most often made with ground chicken thighs for rich flavor. At my parties, however, I have switched to ground turkey—US groceries sometimes won’t even sell ground chicken, let alone ground thighs, and turkey is both readily available and inexpensive. The following recipe finishes the meatballs under the broiler, but they are also marvelous grilled.
THIS IS THE ULTIMATE mashed potato side dish, with just a hint of smoky cheese and savory onion. I’ve used the smoked Gouda cheese sparingly so it’s not overpowering, but it truly makes these potatoes great. These mashers are fantastic on their own; with an extra pat of butter; with Thanksgiving turkey gravy; on the side of my Pot Roast, grilled steak, or chicken; and with Easter ham. Consider halving the recipe for a smaller, weeknight meal.