From the authors of the IACP award-winning cookbook KEEPERS, an entirely new and personalized approach to tackling the dinner dilemma: Between juggling work, family activities, mismatched schedules, and often bare refrigerators, there are all sorts of situations that make weeknight cooking a universally challenging—and frustrating—experience. The Dinner Plan offers five meal strategies—Make-Ahead, Staggered, One-Dish, Extra-Fast, and Pantry—that will help get dinner on the table no matter what the workweek throws at you. The 135 recipes—from main dishes to sides to salads and “lifesaver” condiments—provide lots of practical options whether time is super-tight, you haven’t had a chance to run to the store, or everyone is coming home at a different time. And most importantly, all of the recipes are “keepers”—brag-worthy, reliable, crowd-pleasing preparations that you’ll confidently turn to again and again. Shrimp Scampi, Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas, Foolproof Carbonara, and Mexican Skillet Lasagna are just a few examples of doable recipes that will earn their place in any busy cook’s repertoire. Rounded out with plenty of tips and a bonus section on healthful snacks called The Forgotten Meal, The Dinner Plan is every home cook’s indispensable weeknight dinner guide.
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About the Author
Kathy Brennan is a food/cookbook editor and writer. A winner of the Bert Greene and James Beard Journalism Awards and a graduate of New York's International Culinary Center, she was a senior editor at Saveur and also worked at Gourmet and Food Arts. Caroline Campion is a freelance writer and the creator of the award-winning food blog DevilAndEgg.com. She was also a senior editor at Saveur, GQ, and Glamour and has contributed to the New York Times, Martha Stewart, Redbook, and Cherry Bombe. Their first book together, KEEPERS: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen, won the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award for General Excellence in 2014 and was chosen by NPR as one of its Good Reads of 2013. The Boston Globe also called it possibly "the best-value weeknight cookbook around".
Read an Excerpt
One of the reasons we love this dish is because it's so versatile. Serve it as an hors d'oeuvre or appetizer or as a main course with rice, orzo, or your favorite grain, spooning the garlicky sauce over everything. It's also great with crusty bread. Many scampi recipes involve cooking the shrimp with the other ingredients. You can do that here, too, but the benefit of cooking the shrimp separately is two-fold: It's easier not to overcook them and you can whisk in the butter to create a smooth, emulsified sauce.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra, if needed
— In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, then put them in the skillet in a single layer. Cook, undisturbed, until the bottoms of the shrimp begin to turn pink, about 1 minute. Flip the shrimp over and cook until almost cooked through, about 1 minute more. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and set aside.
— Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, pepper flakes, and a little more oil if the pan seems dry, and cook, stirring often, until the garlic just starts to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add the wine, scraping up any caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and simmer until most of the wine has evaporated.
— Whisk in the butter one piece at a time, then season the sauce with salt and lemon juice from the lemon half. Add the cooked shrimp, any juices accumulated on the plate, the lemon zest, and parsley (if using) and toss together until the shrimp are warmed through, about 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges, if you like.
TIP: As handy as it is to have a stocked freezer, it doesn't help much if dinnertime is approaching and you're staring at a package of rock-hard chicken. Defrosting items in the fridge overnight may be the best and easiest way to ensure they are ready to use, but what if you haven't planned ahead? The microwave is the fastest option, but can be uneven and affect the texture. We prefer this quick-defrost method, which is ideal for thinner ingredients and things like soups that have been frozen flat in resealable plastic bags: Make sure the food is sealed airtight, cover it with cold water in a bowl or pot, and submerge it with a plate or some such. Change the water every 30 minutes until the item is defrosted; breaking up pieces of fish or meat when they are soft enough will speed the process. A small container of pesto takes about 10 minutes, shrimp about 15, and boneless chicken breasts about 40.
BUFFALO SHRIMP TACOS
Call it our not-so-secret shame, but we are completely obsessed with the heat and tanginess of buffalo sauce. Although you may normally associate the intoxicating alchemy of butter and hot sauce with chicken wings, sports bars, and cold pitchers of beer, it also goes perfectly with shrimp, which we discovered when trying to come up with something new, handheld, and irresistible to serve during the Super Bowl. Now the tacos are on our tables year-round.
1 cup (240 ml) Greek yogurt or sour cream
— In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, cheese, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, then set the yogurt mixture aside. Put the flour in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss until completely coated.
— In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Shake off any excess flour from the shrimp and put them in the skillet in a single layer. Cook, undisturbed, until the bottoms of the shrimp begin to turn pink, about 1 minute. Flip the shrimp over and cook until almost cooked through, about 1 minute more. Add the butter and hot sauce and stir until they form a thick sauce that completely coats the shrimp. Remove the pan from the heat. Divide the shrimp among the tortillas and top with some of the celery and reserved yogurt mixture.
TIP: If you have a favorite way to warm tortillas, use it. We usually wrap a stack of about 4 at a time in a layer of damp paper towels and microwave them on medium-high heat for about 20 seconds or wrap them in a layer of foil and bake at 250°F (120°C) for about 15 minutes. Either way, keep the tortillas wrapped until you're ready to use them, so they stay warm and pliable.
OKONOMIYAKI (JAPANESE "PIZZA") WITH SHRIMP
Makes about eight 3-inch (7.5-cm) pizzas
Okonomiyaki is a beloved crispy pancake-like dish that is sometimes called Japanese pizza, perhaps because of its shape or because it's cut into wedges, it's usually shared with others, and you can play with the ingredients (okonomiyaki means "as you like it, grilled"). Try it with thinly sliced pork, ham, or squid instead of the shrimp or leave out the protein altogether and add some shredded carrots.
Toppings vary depending on the region and include a Worcestershire-like sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, which is sweet and tart, bonito flakes, and pickled ginger. We typically use regular mayo or mayo and Sriracha, but it's also delicious plain. As for the size, we've scaled them down so they are easier to manage in the pan, but if you're feeling confident, make two in a 10-inch (25-cm) skillet and cut them into wedges.
3 large eggs
— In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and salt. Add the flour and cornstarch and whisk until just incorporated. Avoid overmixing; some lumps are okay. Add the cabbage, scallions, and shrimp and gently fold into the batter.
— In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Spoon about ½ cup (120 ml) of the cabbage mixture into the skillet. Use a spatula to lightly pat down the surface to form a round about 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide and ½ inch (12 mm) high. Repeat until the skillet is full, but not overcrowded. Cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
— Flip the rounds over and cook, undisturbed, until cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes more. Transfer to plates and repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and cabbage mixture. (It's okay if there's liquid left in the bottom of the bowl; don't use that.) Serve with the mayonnaise and Sriracha, if you like; you can also mix them together as shown in the photo.
STAGGERED: Okonomiyaki is best eaten right away, but will keep, covered, in a 200°F (90°C) oven for about 1 hour.
TIP: If you're ever in Japan, we suggest going to an okonomiyaki restaurant that has tables fitted with griddles. The server will bring the ingredients for you to cook yourself. It's a lot of fun, especially with a group, and, dare we say, even better than pizza.
SHRIMP SUMMER "ROLL" SALAD
8 ounces (225 g) thin rice noodles
One of Kathy's kids' favorite dishes is Vietnamese summer rolls — rice paper sheets wrapped around shrimp, raw vegetables, rice noodles, and herbs. The wrapping can be hard, though, so sometimes they skip that part. Over time, the rolls evolved into this salad, which we like just as much. If you prefer the convenience of ready-to-eat shrimp, use them; you can also substitute shredded rotisserie chicken or cubed tofu. We dress the salad with a thinned version of the typical peanut sauce served with summer rolls, but if you don't like peanuts or have a nut allergy, Chile-Lime Sauce (page 75) and Citrus-Soy Dressing (page 112) are great alternatives.
— Prepare the noodles according to the package instructions. While they are soaking, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, season it with two large pinches of salt. Add the shrimp and simmer until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Peel, devein, and cut the shrimp into thirds (or leave them whole, if you prefer).
— Divide the noodles among four shallow bowls. Top with the lettuce, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, avocado, cooked shrimp, and cilantro, if you like. Drizzle with the thinned peanut sauce and serve.
MAKE AHEAD/STAGGERED: You can keep all the prepped ingredients separate in the fridge and let people compose their own salads or compose them in advance, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Either way, cut and add the avocado and dress the salad right before serving.
Makes about 1 cup (240 ml)
This is a creamy, full-flavored, all-purpose dipping sauce that does double duty as a salad dressing when thinned with a little warm water until just pourable. You can make this in a food processor; put the garlic in whole and use about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of peeled ginger.
½ cup (120 ml) smooth peanut butter
— In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, water, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and Sriracha to taste. Whisk together, then check the seasonings.
MAKE AHEAD/STAGGERED: Keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
YOGURT-LIME GLAZED SALMON
We're always pleased with ourselves when we've remembered to stock the freezer with several salmon fillets (preferably organic or wild-caught) so we can make this dish anytime. By adding some of our favorite flavors to Greek yogurt, we created a tart and smoky marinade that really complements the richness of the salmon. Serve the fish over plain couscous alongside our Carrot Salad the French Way (page 197) for a light dinner that can be ready in about 30 minutes.
½ cup (120 ml) Greek yogurt
— Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C), with a rack in the middle position. Put a gallon (3.8-L) -size resealable plastic bag in a medium bowl to hold it steady. Add the yogurt, lime juice, paprika, Sriracha, and salt and stir to combine. Add the fillets and seal the bag, pressing out any excess air, and turn it over a few times to coat the fillets. Marinate them at room temperature for about 15 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. —
— Remove the fillets from the bag, letting any excess marinade drip off, and lay them on a sheet pan (lined with foil for easier clean-up, if you like). Roast until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve with lime wedges, if you like.
MAKE AHEAD: Prepare to — without preheating the oven, then bake within 1 day.
STAGGERED: Serve hot, warm, or cold. Keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
TIP: If you'd like to grill the salmon, preheat the grill to medium, brush the grates with a little oil, and cook top-side down, for about 4 minutes. Flip the fillets over and grill until just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes more.
Any leftovers can be turned into a salad for lunch the next day by flaking the salmon in a bowl and adding a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lime, and perhaps some chopped fresh parsley, tarragon, chives, or cilantro and/or a dollop of mayo.
GO-TO SAUTEED FISH WITH THREE PAN-SAUCE OPTIONS: WARM TOMATO VINAIGRETTE, BROWN-BUTTER SAUCE, AND HONEY-LIME SAUCE
We learned this method of preparing fish from Michael Anthony, the very talented and wise executive chef of Gramercy Tavern in New York. It cooks the fish evenly, keeps it moist, lends flavor, and lightly glazes it. It's ideal for thick, white flaky fish fillets, such as halibut, cod, and mahi mahi, but thinner fillets, such as flounder, tilapia, or porgy are also fine; just shorten the cooking times. It's worth using fresh thyme, if possible. The fish is great as is, but we added a few of our own elemental pan-sauce options to help keep things interesting.
1 tablespoon olive oil Four 6-ounce (170-g) skinless thick, white flaky fish fillets, such as halibut, cod, or mahi mahi,
— In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Add the fillets to the skillet, draping each one into the oil and gently laying it down away from you (if you do it toward you, you risk splashing yourself with the hot oil). Cook until light brown, about 3 minutes.
— Supporting the tops with your fingertips, flip the fillets over and cook until almost cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Add the butter, garlic, and thyme along the side of the skillet opposite the handle, then add the broth and a splash of lemon juice. Tilt the skillet so the liquids pool around the garlic and thyme. Using a tablespoon, spoon the liquids over the fillets and repeat several times until they are just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more.
— Transfer the fillets to plates or a platter and serve with lemon wedges, if you like. Or, if you're making one of the pan sauces, tent the fillets with foil to keep them warm and continue with that recipe.
WARM TOMATO VINAIGRETTE
Makes about 1½ cups (360 ml)
3 tablespoons olive oil
— Wipe out the skillet used for the fish, add the oil and garlic, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, but not softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the vinegar, a splash of lemon juice, and the chives (if using). Season with salt and pepper, then spoon the vinaigrette over the fish.
Excerpted from "Dinner Plan"
Copyright © 2017 Kathy Brennan.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
About Us, 10,
Its a Keeper, 12,
Fish & Shellfish, 17,
Chicken & Turkey, 39,
Beef & Pork, 73,
Eggs, Rice & Meatless, 105,
Soups, Sandwiches & Dinner Salads, 139,
Starches & Grains, 207,
The Forgotten Meal, 225,
Recipes by Category, 246,
Pantry Ingredients, 249,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
THE DINNER PLAN is a prime example of what an informative, helpful cookbook should be. Authors Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion have really gone above and beyond to create a resource cookbook to help everyone prepare dinner no matter their schedule. The introduction starts off with a great guide for 5 Weeknight Meal Strategies. Each recipe in the book is tagged with one or more of these strategies to help you know the perfect meal for just the right circumstances be it make ahead or fast preparation meals. After a brief “About Us” page, the authors provide a list of 10 Gadgets for Greater Kitchen Efficiency. While I have a few of the mentioned items, I don’t have the ones they recommend, and I doubt most readers will either, but I have no doubt we can all make out with what we have. Next, the recipes. Some very simple, while others may take a bit more work. Beautiful full page color photos show finished dishes that will make readers’ stomachs growl. There are standard sections of recipes that include offerings such as . . . Buffalo Shrimp Tacos, One-Pan Chicken with Lemon and Potatoes, Skillet Chicken Parm, Turkey Sloppy Joes, Salisbury Steak, Mexican Skillet Lasagna, Bacon and Egg Fried Rice, Eggplant and Tomato Pasta, Corn and Potato Chowdar, Veggie Italian Hereos, Braised Green Beans and Tomatoes, Dark Chocolate-Banana Bread (Note: There are only about four dessert recipes), and so much more! Scattered among the recipes are full page tips for things like The New Dinner Party, and Home Alone. All leading to the end of the book with Recipes by Category (with the meal strategies codes), and a list of staple pantry ingredients. THE DINNER PLAN is a fantastic recipe book that will make a wonderful addition to any kitchen.