Better Basic Recipes: New Takes on 10 Family Favorites
Easy on Effort
Pancakes for breakfast. Macaroni and cheese for lunch. Steak for dinner. Brownies for dessert. These are the foods your family hankers for day in and day out, all year long. Lucky for you, they’re also the recipes you have committed to memory. The 10 dishes here promise to become just such regulars: They’re the everyday options you love to cook and eat, each with an update or twist that makes it easier, speedier, more of-the-moment. Consider them our best go-tos yet.
Everyone loves pancakes. Which is why you can run into supply-and-demand woes, standing over the griddle, flipping one after the other. Let this baked pancake take the pressure off, since you just mix and pour the batter, then pop it in the oven. It has all the tender texture of old-fashioned flapjacks, but it slices into wedges so everyone can eat together (and you don’t end up feeling like a short-order cook).
Speedy and Silky Mac and Cheese
Homemade macaroni and cheese requires many more steps than store-bought mixes, including making a béchamel sauce from scratch. This stove-top version, which matches the boxed kind in ease, approaches the sublime flavor of more-involved baked varieties. Whisking a mixture of eggs and grated cheddar and Parmesan into steaming-hot noodles on the stove top creates a luscious sauce -- in mere minutes.
Chicken Dinner in a Flash
It’s not only a mainstay for Sunday supper: A quartered chicken roasts in just half an hour on any old weeknight. Since the bird is cut up, it has more exposed skin than a whole chicken, leading to more irresistible crispiness all over. When the bird is hot out of the oven, its toasty skin melds with the savory herb sauce for the most intense flavor.
Better Than French Fries
These potatoes taste just like french fries -- but they're not deep-fried. Parboiling before roasting creates a light and fluffy inside, all the while promoting a perfectly golden exterior.
Seal In the Flavor
Cooking fresh salmon en papillote (that is, in parchment) is a messproof way to coax the most flavor from the fish without adding a lot of oil or butter: The salmon, asparagus, and leek steam in their own juices, and the entire meal -- main course and vegetables -- goes from oven to dinner plate with very little fuss (and even less house-permeating fishy odor). And unlike with other cooking methods, it’s pretty much impossible to dry out the salmon.
The New Tomato Sauce
This is the slow-roasted version of the stove-top tomato sauce, and it’s jam-packed with flavor. Drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a tiny bit of brown sugar to mellow the flavor, the tomatoes shrivel a bit as they roast and turn meltingly tender inside. You’ll want to have it with everything -- not just over pasta but on crusty bread and scrambled eggs, and paired with soft cheeses. And this fresh, chunky sauce is seasonless, since you can find good cherry or grape tomatoes year-round.
Elevate an Affordable Cut
This inexpensive cut of meat makes excellent use of one mighty marinade: The combination of olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, and brown sugar assures a nice caramelized crust and deepens the flank’s flavor -- so it tastes like a much more expensive cut. The marinade sees the dish all the way through, too, since it gets boiled and poured over the thinly sliced meat, which is then finished with peppery arugula and more zesty lemon juice.
This whole-grain and hearty-green salad is such a welcome update on the tossed garden salad. It’s a satisfying mix of chewy farro, crunchy kale, and smooth, creamy feta. Unlike a lot of more tender salad greens and pastas, the kale and the grain stand up to dressing and can be tossed a few days ahead without going limp and soggy. In fact, the whole thing tastes even better as leftovers, so make a big batch.
Prepare this salad at the start of the week, then enjoy it for lunch and dinner over several days.
Brownie With a Cookie Twist
Imagine the happy marriage of a brownie and a cookie: From the cookie, this petite, two-bite treat is blessed with appealing crispiness around the edges. From the brownie, it gets a rich, fudgy chewiness and full-on chocolate deliciousness. The best of both worlds, indeed.
Made with both cocoa powder and dark chocolate, the cookies have a bold flavor that goes well with espresso.
Crunchy, Creamy, Dreamy
A meringue crust tastes heavenly, so it makes sense that this vintage lemon-curd-and-cream dessert is known as “angel pie.” Our puckery-sweet update of this all-American classic is basically an upside-down lemon meringue pie -- but you get to skip the task of rolling out pâte brisée and can simply spoon fluffy meringue to form the ethereal crust. Don’t let the fissures in the baked and filled shell fool you: This pie is a dream to slice.