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.
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.
YOU’LL NEVER GO BACK to cooking a whole bird after making this recipe. I’ve broken the turkey into its primal cuts, which allows the meat to cook more evenly—in half the time! The meat turns out perfectly cooked, classically flavored, golden brown, and delicious every time—with far less babysitting than a whole turkey. This method frees up the oven sooner, plus the carcass can be simmering into stock for the gravy ahead of time.
I’ve used my spice cupboard staples for the seasonings so the drippings make tasty gravy, and all you’ll need is a standard half-sheet pan and a metal rack that fits inside it.
LOUISIAN A BARBECUE D SHRIMP is that sort of magical dish that’s intensely flavorful, quick to cook, and perfect for sharing—all you need to do is spend a few minutes revving at the spice drawer first. Despite the name, the recipe isn’t cooked on a barbecue but simmered straight in a spicy-bright pan sauce. As Toni Tipton-Martin explains in her book Jubilee, drawn from her collection of nearly 400 African American cookbooks, “‘Barbecue shrimp’ is just the name Louisiana Creole cooks assigned to shrimp braised in wine, beer, or a garlic butter sauce.” This one is Toni’s favorite version, based on one from the late model/chef/restaurateur B. Smith.
Sometimes, Toni doesn’t even wait to get the shrimp out of the pan, serving it in the kitchen as an appetizer, right in the skillet it’s cooked in, with lots of hot crusty bread to get every bit of sauce. No more than 10 minutes have passed.
In this vegetarian riff on the classic brick chicken, mushrooms are simply cooked with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, with capers added for zing. I have used oyster, maitake, and lion’s mane—all are delicious. Each variety has a different moisture content and will release varying amounts of moisture as the mushrooms cook. I don’t keep bricks in my kitchen, but a second cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven gets the job done. The weight of the second pan compresses the mushrooms and allows a nice crunchy crust to form while keeping them juicy and tender on the inside. Once you do this a couple of times, you might start keeping bricks in your kitchen!