They're weeknight friendly but special enough for an occasion.

By Rebecca Morris
April 27, 2021
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Most nights, we feel a certain level of satisfaction with eating the same old favorites for dinner, whether it's because these dishes are super easy, extra comforting, or ridiculously fast. But every once in a while the need to get a little fancy or prepare something impressive comes along. Whether you have visiting in-laws, friends who drop-in unexpectedly, or were struck with the simple desire to treat yourself, it's nice to have a few back-pocket recipes that feel a little more special but are still so easy to make.

That's why we've corralled five of our fastest everyday dinners that possess that certain kind of fancy; the kind that will make your dinner guests go "ooh" at the table before digging in. No two of these recipes achieve this level of fast-and-fancy the same way. For instance, one relies on the broiler to make it happen while another calls for quality store-bought shortcuts. Whichever way you choose to go, these recipes will help you put together a delicious, impressive-looking meal that everyone will get to enjoy in 30 minutes or less.

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Credit: Bryan Gardner

Broiled Coconut-and-Lime-Crusted Shrimp with Rice-Noodle Salad

Our Broiled Coconut-and-Lime-Crusted Shrimp with Rice-Noodle Salad, pictured above, is the kind of meal you make for yourself and your friends on a really hot day—it requires very little use of the stovetop or oven and looks and tastes like a dish you'd enjoy at a restaurant. The broiler goes a long way in making this dinner quick and easy. In fact, it takes just five minutes to cook the crunchy panko-crusted shrimp.

Chicken-and-Polenta Puttanesca Melts
Credit: Kate Sears

Chicken and Polenta Puttanesca Melts

It looks like it could earn top billing at your favorite Italian restaurant, but this recipe for Chicken and Polenta Puttanesca Melts is actually developed with the busy home cook in mind. Starting with supermarket shortcuts, like pre-cooked polenta in the tube and marinara sauce in the jar, means you have more time to embellish this saucy skillet chicken dinner in other fun and impactful ways: You'll spike the marinara with briny capers and olives to create a puttanesca sauce of your very own.

Skirt Steak with Warm Bean Salad
Credit: Petrina Tinslay

Skirt Steak with Warm Bean Salad

A quick sear in a hot skillet sets this Skirt Steak with Warm Bean Salad on the right track. While the steak rests off to the side, the same skillet is used for stirring up a quick vegetable and bean side dish. Every fancy-looking element to this side dish is thanks to low-prep vegetables and legumes: The eye-catching blistered cherry tomatoes, the verdant green beans cooked just until crisp-tender, and the creamy white beans that are pan-fried to perfection.

Leek-and-Asparagus Crispy Rice
Credit: Ren Fuller

Leek and Asparagus Crispy Rice

It will only cost a few bucks in groceries, but this recipe for Leek and Asparagus Crispy Rice remains a fancy choice thanks to its clever combination of flavors and textures. Think grains of crunchy rice interspersed throughout, crisp-tender stalks of asparagus, creamy sweet peas, and nutty grated Parmesan. Last but not least, a fried egg is placed on top of each portion to self-sauce with its rich and runny yolk.

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Credit: Yunhee Kim

Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

When you're cooking with ingredients like smoky bacon and umami-laden Parmesan cheese, you don't need to work very hard to make dinner feel fancy. Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Recipe calls for you to caramelize thinly sliced Brussels sprouts in rendered bacon fat, then combine them with garlic, spaghetti, starchy pasta water, cheese, and crispy bits of bacon for good measure (and great texture). For an even speedier experience, look for pre-shredded Brussels sprouts in the produce section, they can typically be found with the bagged salad mixes.

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