Chef Adrienne Cheatham Shares Her Very Sensible, Low Stress Approach to Weeknight Dinner
There's no meal prepping for chef Adrienne Cheatham—at least not in the traditional sense, and we love her for it. Her secrets for preparing easy weeknight dinners involve not overthinking it and making sure both her fridge and pantry are stocked with the key ingredients she relies on each week.
Cheatham has worked at renowned restaurants including Le Bernadin and the Red Rooster, was a Top Chef finalist, and is the host of the popular NYC SundayBest pop ups held in secret locations around Harlem. She's also releasing her first cookbook, Sunday Best: Cooking Up the Weekend Spirit Every Day ($35, barnesandnoble.com), in March. Simply put, when someone who knows as much about food and cooking as Cheatham does says there's no need to overcomplicate, you should follow their advice. "At the end of the day, it's just food," she explains. "People get intimidated by cooking but people have done it for a millennium. It's one of the most fundamental things we do, cooking and feeding ourselves and others." Her advice for making a fuss-free, delicious, healthy dinner is simple: "Put a good seasoning on the protein you're going to cook, and toss your vegetables with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast."
What You'll Find In Her Pantry and Fridge
Cheatham keeps her refrigerator and pantry stocked with the must-have ingredients she uses night after night, which makes preparing a meal each evening so much easier. Her first essential? A good greek yogurt: "You can do so many things with yogurt," she says, who often often mixes her yogurt with mayo, adding additional ingredients like cucumber, garlic, lemon zest, or chopped herbs for an instant sauce that can be added to the dinner's protein.
Another ingredient you'll always find in her kitchen? Fish sauce. "I always have a bottle of fish sauce, a couple of dashes and it adds a bit of umami," Cheatham explains. Last but not least, expect to find Yuzo Kosho in her kitchen. This Japanese paste is available in green or red and adds citrusy, spicy flavor to dishes.
What You'll Find on Her Dinner Table
Cheatham's strategy is smart and gloriously streamlined: "I cook things that all go together on one tray," she explains. "And I cover the tray in parchment or foil, I do not want to scrub a tray at the end of the night." What types of meals does this method of cooking translate to? First up, is Cheatham's go-to: Roast chicken, which she makes "with mushrooms and whatever other vegetables I have," she says, adding that this is a great way to use up any extra vegetables you have at home. "If I'm roasting a chicken, I cut it in half and put it on top of everything else such as sweet potatoes, onion, mushrooms."
Another one of her go-to one-tray meals is fish. While she says salmon is pretty popular in her house, she's also a fan of black or striped bass. "It gives the sensation of eating something hearty and meaty but it's not as assertive as salmon and takes well to any type of prep whether you want to blacken it or do it with yogurt and dill," Cheatham explains.
And to get the most flavor out of whatever vegetables she's making alongside her proteins, Cheatham makes sure to toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasts them at 425°F or 450°F so they get those blistered caramelized edges.
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