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.
This is a remake of my mama’s recipe. The southern way, the traditional way, the way my mama made hers is with sour cream, and then she would cut blocks of cheese into it and add lotsa pepper plus paprika for color.
One reason this recipe here is so sopped up is it’s layered with a rich egg custard and lots and lots of cheese. It’s the cheese that has the !ava, hunny! And it doesn’t matter what cheese you use. Grate up what’s in the fridge and mix ’em together for a pasta party! Cheddar, sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Swiss, Parmesan . . . they all like to play together!
While I make my mac in a big, deep cast-iron skillet, you can use a big casserole dish or a couple smaller ones to bake yours. Just know that your cookin’ time will be different and depend on how deep you’ve got yours layered.
One of my favorite ways to cook fish on a weeknight is on the stove. I save this dish for those especially busy days because it comes together in under 30 minutes. I like to use a firm fish, such as branzino or red snapper, which is less likely to fall apart than cod or other flaky fish. The method here is incredibly simple, just make sure to use a well-seasoned pan or a nonstick skillet and begin cooking the fish with its skin pressed down on the skillet. The scallion-lemon oil pairs well with anything, so you can also serve it with other dishes, such as roasted chicken. To keep the meal light but satisfying, accompany the pan-seared fish with a salad, such as Green Salad with Umeboshi Dressing, Cucumber and Fennel Sunomono, Potato Salad, or Loaded Vegetable Miso Soup in the winter.
Kimchi is deeply ingrained in Korean cooking and usually appears in a few different guises. I love the deep red colour that this pancake takes on from the kimchi and its liquid.
The combination of textures from the crispy outside and soft, gooey inside adds dimension and interest to any meal. You can make a few smaller, individual pancakes or two or three larger ones as you wish, depending on how much batter you add to the pan at a time.
When you’re short on time but your stomach can’t wait, this recipe is just the ticket. You’ll have this pot of mussels and sambal on the table in a flash.
With a bigger-than-usual meat patty topped with mashed avocado and fresh pico de gallo, these burgers are a double handful of drippy good fun. Mexican chorizo does the heavy lifting, flavor-wise, along with a bounty of fresh cilantro in both meat and pico. As for the cheese, American is the platonic ideal for burgers—salty, creamy-melty, and, well, what burgers need in order to taste like burgers.
This is not your average garlic bread. Gochujang really makes this sing, providing a bit of spice, but also a deep, peppery flavor. And for those who don’t like a lot of spice, don’t worry—the cream cheese softens the impact to create something that is very balanced. This is perfect as a starter, or you could top it with some salad and a bit of thinly sliced ham to create a delicious lunch.
Fishcake recipes are always handy, featuring ingredients from the pantry. In Malta, similar patties are also made with corned beef. I like to serve these with plenty of lemon and a salad of iceberg lettuce. They are also nice eaten cold and can be added to a platt Malti.
I love classic chiles rellenos—I make them a lot in the summer, when poblanos are in season—but the traditional method of dipping them in batter and frying just a couple at a time makes them hard to cook for a crowd. This casserole solves that problem. It has all the fresh flavors I love, but I can make it ahead of time and then put it in the oven just before my guests show up. It even makes a great brunch dish; just assemble it the day before and throw it in the fridge overnight so it’s ready to bake the next morning.
Growing up, this is one of the things we often made for parties with other Japanese-Australian families and it was always a hit with everyone, especially with the children – we nicknamed this dish ‘yummy chicken’, which says it all really.
The key here is marinating the chicken in the sauce. Don’t be tempted to keep all the delicious marinade in the tray because it will just burn. Instead, drain off the marinade, cook it separately to reduce it, then use it as a glaze towards the end of cooking. You could use fish fillets here instead of the chicken, too. Sake is used for flavour and is a tenderiser, but if you don’t have it, you can use a splash of white wine instead. If you don’t have mirin handy, try a delicate honey instead, which is what my mother would have used.
This is one of my all-time favorite savory breakfast items. I created this recipe for a client’s child—a picky eater who wouldn’t touch any vegetables. I took some popular kid foods—potatoes, eggs, cheese, and milk—mixed them with some colorful veggies, then baked the mixture on a sheet pan. Cut into palm-sized rectangles, the resulting savory “pancakes” were a hit. They taste as good as they look and are filled with gut-friendly nutrients, including fiber and prebiotics. I like to use a box grater, but if you prefer a food processor or mandoline, that’s fine. Make sure not to overblend with the food processor.