A roast chicken that has been brined, notice shiny skin. Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

[Update 1/16: Winners have been chosen; their dishes are at the bottom of this post.]

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post on staple meals because I’m fascinated by what people eat at home when they don’t want to think about what to make, what their go-to, middle-of-the-week meal is, because they are invariably quick, efficient, economical, and well, good enough to eat once a week forever. (I think they also tell us a lot about who we are).

The woman who has been cutting my hair for 12 years, three kids 16 and younger, husband not always at home, an “I don’t have a lot of time” mom. She makes chicken legs on a small rotisserie, and will do lamb or steak, with beans and rice.  Soup once a week with what’s in the fridge (lamb or chicken bones for the brown, with leftover, pasta, rice, veg). Fresh vegetables are hardest because of the prep time she told me.

For us, it’s a stir fry, or THE best all purpose meal, roast chicken. Roast chicken, baked potato and baked cauliflower with brown butter, all thrown into the oven at the same time and then, well, what to do? It takes an hour, what on earth to do with all that time? It’s up to you.

Afterward, I pick beans and boil them, though they can be roasted too, with whole cloves of garlic, cumin and red pepper.

Chicken that has been given an aggressive salting before roasting.

I like to hear about those special preparations for holidays or fancy dinner parties—the home-cured ham, the torchon au foie gras, the butter poached lobster with beets and leeks—but how we eat day to day, what we cook for our family in the middle of the week, is what interests me.

In order to learn more about what we eat, I’m asking again, with an incentive. Go try to buy my book Ruhlman’s Twenty on Amazon. Not to be had, alas (sold out, back in stock 2/22). But I’m giving away three copies here to those who describe their best staple meal in comments below. Please be more specific than “roast chicken” or “steak fajitas,” and list the entire menu, details of cooking or seasoning are welcome but not required. If you want to be in the drawing, leave an actual email (it won’t leave my site, promise) so that I can contact you if you’re one of the randomly chosen three. (I must add with my apologies that I can only ship within the US, customs and costs are too much; but feel free to comment anyway, I still want to know what you eat in India or England or Australia!) If you want to enter more than once, you may but it has to be a bonafide staple meal. Also, please note if it fits a special category: vegetarian, gluten-free, or vegan. Winners will be announced here and on Twitter via my account @ruhlman on Monday.

So: what’s for dinner?

Update 1/16: Comments for the giveaway are now closed.  Many thanks to all for making this such a fascinating ride through American dinner time.

The following winners have been chosen by Random.org:

Bradley January 16, 2012 at 7:38 am

As for a recipe I…
-sweat about half of a yellow onion diced.
-add some garlic and chili flake
-add 1 cup arborio or carnaroli
-stir and toast or risollet the rice
-add about 1/3 c wine
-reduce wine
-cover with stock
-cook over med high heat adding stock as needed throughout
-When the rice is done I add whatever I want: peas, mushrooms, radicchio, etc.
-I finish the rice with a lot of butter 3T or more and whatever cheese I have if any, I

I cook my rice on pretty high heat and I can crank it out in 25 minutes easy. I dont stir the hell out of it because I buy good rice and the starch is released as the rice is self agitated by the bubbling.

Judie B. January 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

Since my husband’s heart by-pass surgery, I try to serve fish twice a week. He loves spicy things,so I make up big batches of artichoke caponata and puttanesca and divide them up into small freezer containers. Depending on the fish purchased at the fish store, one of these sauces will be served with it ( usually halibut, grouper or swordfish) which has been grilled or pan sauteed. First, we always have a mixed green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, red onion and beans (usually black) tossed with my home-made shallot/garlic vinaigrette. Veggies (whatever looked good at the store) cooked in the microwave are served on the side. The second fish we always have is salmon. My favorite way to prepare that is to coat it with a mixture of equal parts Dijon and maple syrup and then roll it in finely chopped pecans and pan saute. Michael, we love Cleveland; we used to live in Chagrin Falls.

Josh January 11, 2012 at 10:57 am

Our go-to meal: skirt steak tacos with caramelized onions. Only a handful of ingredients (skirt steak, chipotles, garlic, onions, tortillas), most of which we have on hand all the time. We make a marinade by blending the garlic and the chipotles en adobo. Let that sit on the steak for 15-20 minutes. Cook it quickly under a broiler, rest, cut against the grain. Meanwhile, caramelize a couple white onions. Serve it all with warm tortillas, good beer, and, if we’re feeling ambitious, homemade guacamole. It’s an awesome, simple meal.

The other go-to would be lemon pasta. We make a vinaigrette of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, parm, good olive oil. Cook whatever pasta we have on hand and toss it in the dressing.


If you liked this post on Staple Meals, check out these other links:

  • Stay at Stove Dad is a blog about dads who cook for their families written by John Donohue, a New Yorker editor, journalist, and sometime cartoonist.
  • Looking for some new recipes and interesting articles, have a look at Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen.
  • 2011 food trends shared by Food Tech Connect.

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


605 Wonderful responses to “Ruhlman’s Twenty Giveaway!
What’s Your Best Staple Meal?”

  • Laurie Jesch-Kulseth @ Relishing It

    My family’s go-to meal is, without a doubt, spaghetti. We like it made with whole-wheat pasta, grass-fed beef, our own canned tomatoes, and lots of garlic and mushrooms! This is our favorite, though most any pasta dish is exciting for us.

  • Jeanne Ketterer

    My go to meal is a vegetable chili made with black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans — any combination of these beans or just black beans, depending what’s on hand. Saute onion, green pepper, carrots, zucchini, add hominy (or corn), tom. paste, roasted toms, cumin, oregano, cinnamon stick, chili powder, stir and combine, liquid (water, veg. broth, beer whatever you have or want) to cover and simmer for about 45″, maybe more depending how softened you want the vegetables/beans. Serve with tortillas, add cheese if want.

  • ian

    Stir Fry! Whether chicken, beef or pork, any cut can make the cut (and the serving size of protein shrinks dramatically). We usually throw any produce that look close to their expry date in first (green beans, squash, even cabbage or pineapple) along with always on hand staples like mushrooms onion and garlic. Sometimes include rice or noodle but not always.

    So fast and easy bc chop is relatively uniform. Sauce is a simple combo of soy sauce, lime juice and chili flakes.

    20 min start to finish, fresh, and usually cleans out the veg drawer!

  • Tim

    We never eat anything every week but I would say our most common meal is pork tenderloin marinated in teriyaki sauce and cooked on the grill. That’s usually eaten with sweet potatoes and a seasonal green vegetable like green beans or broccoli. It’s a “can’t miss” meal!

  • Ryan

    I like to boil chicken and shred it. Then I mix it with a little sour cream the make tacos topped with diced onion, cilantro, and maybe a little chihuahua cheese. Super quick and simple and if all the chicken doesn’t get ate it makes for sandwiches or you can use leftovers from a roast chicken and it all tastes great.

  • Bud

    It used to be pasta with a cream or tomato sauce made from any leftovers in the fridge. My wife and daughter (9yrs old) have celiac disease now so we still have quinoa pasta, but not nearly as often. Now that we are gluten free, the “staple weeknight go to” is a big thick steak(NY or Ribeye) and baked potato. My daughter loves it very pink and well rested. we let it come to room temp while the potatoes bake(oiled and salted skin). For the steak, lots of salt and ground pepper, into a hot cast iron pan, few minutes on each side and into the oven till MR. We always have a bag of brown chicken stock ice cubes in the freeze. With a few of those cubes we make a pan sauce from the brown bits in the steak pan while the steaks rests. Hazel says sour cream for the potato is important, but a well rested pink steak is critical. We usually do this on Tuesday because that is SKI P.E. day. She has no idea how good she really has it. Living the good life in Telluride! P.S. This is in the winter when the farmers market is not going on. Whole different game in peak veggie season here in the mountains. Rhulman, we have never talked or even met and you are my food mentor. Thank you for what you do(so well).

  • Damian

    Shrimp and grits of all things. The shrimp pan is just shrimp, pork product (fat back, bacon, or something of the sort), and tomatoes. The grits are standard with jalapeno and cheese added. The shrimp can be put in a quickly thrown together marinade while I chop the pork and tomatoes and start cooking the grits. Since I do about once a week, it actually goes rather quickly. A little cilantro on top to finish is a bonus.

  • Tricia

    We have two, both of them guaranteed to preclude complaining at the table. When I’ve had a long day it’s not so much the cooking I mind, it’s the griping I have no energy for.

    1. Pasta carbonara. If I have the bacon fried ahead of time, it takes all of 15 minutes. The kids can even make it themselves, except for draining the big pot of pasta. We use whole wheat linguine, with freshly grated parmesan (I use the microplane so it melts instantly), a tiny bit of lemon zest and tons of freshly grated pepper. I would add peas, but that would foil my no-complaints plan.

    2. Pizza. I make the dough the night before, which takes all of five minutes. It rises overnight on the counter. I make one pizza with just homemade tomatoes and mozzarella/parmesan, and then use the others to get a little more creative: egg, pesto, fresh greens, homemade ricotta.

    And with both of these I’ll serve either pan-fried green beans or broccoli. Once again: the only two guaranteed no-gripe vegetables. I use the Cook’s Illustrated method and, again, tons of pepper.

  • michelle nguyen

    We make mapo tofu quite often. Spooned over a bowl of steamed rice and topped with scallions and cilantro. Never gets old.

  • Ben

    Spaghetti squash has been a favorite of ours for a while. It’s pretty versatile – Italian (obviously), French (mmm, creamy garlicy gratin), or even Asian. And, aside from the fats and oils we add, is great for the days we want to go vegetarian.

    Don’t worry though, that’s only 1 or 2 days a week.

  • CJ

    What a great post! I love hearing what other people eat. 🙂 We seem to have two go-to meals. One is to create pizza using whatever leftovers are in the fridge (we did one with taco beans and roasted chicken this week), or a really simple version of black beans and rice. We saute some onion and garlic, and maybe some green pepper in a good size skillet. Then we add about a cup (??) of cooked, drained black beans and 1 1/4 cups of rice. Add enough water to cover the rice and cook, covered until the rice is done. We like to top it with salsa and shredded cheese to make it a complete protein – adding avacados is also yum. Its basic enough that just about anything would make it tastier.
    Thanks so much for sharing all your research with us! I really enjoyed reading “Ratio” a few weeks ago.
    God bless!

  • fuad

    [vegetarian] My family’s not vegetarian, but my family’s favorite staple midweek dinner is Mark Bittman’s nut burgers. I’m not a fan of bean-based veggie burgers (I think they taste like poorly made falafels), but Bittman’s nut burgers have their own unique taste. I season them with smoked paprika, and sub the egg for 2 tbsp miso (something Bittman suggests in his book). I usually serve them on homemade whole wheat buns, or in homemade pita pockets, top them with cheddar cheese, and serve them with the usual burger fixins with a light salad on the side. As a matter of fact, this is what’s for dinner tonight!

  • irene

    our version of bucatini alla carbonara using the pancetta from your book (always in my freezer), farmers’ market eggs, parsley from my garden and costco parmesan. i might add a splash of wine, some shallots and garlic and any other herbs surviving the elements but if i don’t have any of these, no biggie (except for wine to drink of course.) by the time the water boils for the pasta the sauce is practically ready. drain the pasta water to heat the bowls and bob’s your uncle.

  • Greg Berg

    When I really being lazy I poach a few eggs, toast some English muffins, slice a bit of cheddar and make an egg sandwich. But my actual….I don’t even have to think about it meal is blackened boneless chicken breast using a fairly standard mix of spices served with orzo and a fresh vegetable. I heat a cast iron skilled till smoking hot and drop the chicken breast in and cook for about 3 min per side and then through in a 350 oven til cooked (about 15 minutes). I cook some orzo (8 minutes) drain and add a bit of butter, parmesan and lemon zest and of course season with salt and pepper. For my vegetables like a green bean i will blanch and then saute with a bit of shallot and butter. This meal is quick and very tasty.
    I have to add to the comment above by Bud that you are really helping my skill sets in the kitchen. I am happy to say that I have a copy of the book and I am on chapter 13. This is the first cook book that I have read from cover to cover. Should I receive an additional copy I would forward to a relative who is also passionate about food.

  • Paula

    Pesole! Traditional green chile stew. Amazingly tasty, and has a lot of variations that can be used to save time.

    Heat up a couple of quarts of chicken stock, and chop up 1 onion, 2 serranos, 2 jalepenos, and 2 cloves garlic. Also cube up 2 chicken breasts (no skin), and season liberally with your favorite chile, cumin, salt, pepper, thyme, cilantro, and mexican oregano. If you’ve got time, brown the chicken, then vegetables and garlic slightly in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Add to the pot along with canned green chile and canned hominy (drained). Simmer everyone together until the chicken is done. Squeeze with lime juice or hot sauce just before serving. Can also be served with tortilla chips.

    Also, if you want to be a bit more authentic, cubed pork butt can be used in place of the chicken, but it will need to be simmered for about an hour before adding vegetables to become nice and tender.

    15 minutes prep, 15 minutes simmering, and it’s ready to eat. It keeps wonderfully for leftovers, and freezes well too.

  • Jamie

    i live alone and i think that may alter it somewhat… it use to be sauted chicken breast with a balsamic & raspberry jam reduction (found recipe years ago in cooking light mag. I then saute broccolli with a squeeze of lemon. if i don’t have fresh chicken, it is soup thrown together with whatever is in the kitchen. usually potato soup or more recently letil with a can of tomatoes & sauted onion and/or celery. Simple tasty food. And all the dishes warm up well the next day for lunch at work.

  • Jacquie

    I have a few meals that are staples at our house.

    The first one is potatoes, bacon & eggs (for dinner). I put some bacon on a cookie sheet & toss it in the oven. In the meantime I fry up small diced potatoes in bacon fat. Sometimes I’ll add onion. Once the potatoes are golden brown & cooked through, I’ll either poach an egg or fry it up over easy & put on top of the potatoes. Finally I add some sambal oleek for some heat & extra flavor.

    Another dish is Fried Chicken. Nothing fancy, just chicken breasts dipped in egg & flour. Fried up & served with mashed potatoes, corn, gravy, & biscuits. (Have to have blackberry jam for the biscuits)

    Soup is always a staple at our house. Today it’s Chicken Noodle Soup with stock from a Chicken roasted on Sunday and started while I was lunch today. Some of our favorite soups are Pasta Fagioli, Tortilla Soup, Potato Soup, & Roasted Tomato Soup.

    Sandwiches are always good too. One of my favorites is thinly sliced med. rare roast beef, any type of cheese (I like brie or havarti), spinach, and a roasted red pepper mayo on ciabatta bread. Add some potato chips (yes, put the chips on your sandwich, just try it once, you’ll understand) & you have a quick filling meal.

    Finally , when my husband is craving Tuna Casserole, my kids & I have Smoked Fontina Fondue (smoked fontina cheese tossed with cornstarch, shallots, champagne vinegar, & chicken stock or water) with bread & prosciutto and chocolate fondue with angel food cake & various fruits.

    We really like to try new dishes but there are some nights that we either want something we know we like or that we don’t have time to be in the kitchen for an hour or two.

  • Anita

    Our big staple when we had a young child was homemade macaroni and cheese, speeded along with liberal use of the microwave. Now I would say it is spaghetti with bean sauce. I prefer to use small red beans, like aduki, which cook in about 20 minutes. I saute onion and mushrooms (an important ingredient to boost a meaty taste), add a can of Cento crushed tomatoes (the purest such product I have found on the grocery shelves), and season according to the mood I’m in. Seasonings usually include pressed garlic, oregano and thyme, salt, freshly ground pepper, and something for a little heat, like a teaspoon of oriental chili/garlic sauce. I make sure to add a half-cup or so of red wine to the sauce – it makes a big difference to the flavor. Add beans when they are velvety but not mushy, enough so that the distribution looks like a hamburg meat sauce. I serve this with vermicelli or angel hair, one of the new varieties that has been fortified with legume flour. I also serve either a green salad or a steamed green vegetable, like broccoli or peas.

    My husband does not have a good sense of smell or taste and judges food a lot by mouth-feel. He likes this dish because it feels like spaghetti with hamburg meat sauce in his mouth.

  • KD

    The staple or the simple meal for us is usually lentils (like an indian dhal) and rice and whatever veggies we can can cook quick in a pan (usually broccoli and carrots).

  • Margaret R

    Well a well salted steak seared in cast iron pan til barely medium rare with a baguette and a quick green salad with homemade vinaigrette is one. But we probably do more of the “kitchen cacciatore” stir frys than anything else. Some protein, some veg and an impromptu sauce from my collection of Asian seasonings, juices, vinegar and random chillis served over rice is it.

  • kristin

    In the winter, it’s pasta with prosciutto that has been crisped up in butter and some freshly grated parmesan cheese. 1 ounce of pasta, 1 ounce of prosciutto, 1 ounce of cheese, 1 tbsp butter per person, can easily be increased as needed. Yummy!

    In the summer, it’s pizza on the grill. There is always a batch of dough in the fridge. I marinate fresh grape tomatoes and chunks of fresh mozzarella in olive oil and balsamic, with a little salt, Grill the dough with some olive oil, then rub it with a freshly cut clove of garlic and top with the tomato/cheese mixture. It’s summer on a plate!

  • Jeff

    Count me as another spaghetti fan. It’s easy enough to break up and fry some Italian sausage with diced onions and garlic and add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, parmigiano rinds and let it simmer for a half hour or so while I’m playing with my 2 little boys.

  • Melissa @ The Fresh 20

    Staple meals should be called ‘hope at the end of a very long day’.

    Ground turkey with fresh parsley, a dash of cumin, can of beans (any variety) and two chopped tomatoes is the cure for my dinner angst. Ready in seven minutes.

    Believe it or not, the expert on weeknight meal planning does have her kitchen panic moments.

  • Durk

    For us, it’s a bunch of vegetables but up, seasoned and tossed with balsamic vinegar, and roasted on a sheet pan. Usually tossed with pasta at about a 1:1 ratio, or eaten straight up.

    In the summer, it’s usually a mix of zucchini, yellow squash, corn and tomatoes. Last night, it was carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potato and red onion.

  • Dave Wong

    My simple go to meal would definitely have to be a slow-cooked pork butt or shoulder. A good 3-4 lb, shoulder or butt roast typically goes on sale every 2 weeks or so. I scanned the store for the best deal and typically, for $8-11 it’s a steal. I typically bring it home on a day that I already have a meal planned, give it a healthy rubbing of sea salt, pepper, garlic, red pepper and olive oil and may give it a few quick injections of a heavy brine. I’ll put it in the fridge overnight and in the morning while I feed the cat, take a shower, and make the coffee, I pull it out and let it warm up. Before I leave for the office I just give it a good hard sear on all edges and throw it in the crock pot with about 1/2-3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, salt, carrots, onions and celery, and whatever flavorful stock I may have sitting around and leave it for the day. 8-10 hours later when I get home, there is a tender roast waiting for me that is fall off the bone delicious. I’ll typically strain off some of the cooking liquid and reduce it to make a gravy while either steaming up a pot of rice or cleaning up the pot from the morning. I’ll reach into my pantry and pull out a can of 3-bean salad, or saute up a handful of seasonal veggies and dinner is served.

    The meal is versatile too, because you essentially have a source of tender pulled pork that can then be turned into an future meal of enchiladas or tacos, added to a pasta sauce, or slathered with a tangy BBQ sauce for lunch the next day. By the time all your pork has been used, you’re ready for something new for a few days, but then on when the circular comes out, the pork is on sale again and the cycle starts all over again.

    Cheers and good eating…..

  • Saads12

    A staple meal for my husband and I in Trinidad is wholewheat sada roti and curried egg and potato. It is a great meatless option and it comes together really fast. A couple boiled eggs are lightly fried in two tablespoons of oil and put aside. Fenugreek is roasted in some canola oil first because it gives a splendid aroma. And then the curry is properly fried. Pigeon peas and potatoes are then curried together and seasoned with minced garlic, chadon beni (a version of cilantro) and onions. When the potatoes are cooked, the eggs are put in the curry for colour and flavouring. Eaten with sada roti (leavened bread cooked on a flat iron), you really don’t need anything else.

  • Nicholas L. Hall

    If there’s a better, more reliable weeknight dinner than Carbonara, I’ve yet to find it. I almost always have everything on hand (assuming some flexibility on the particularities of cured pork products), and can make it in my sleep by now. It’s also unreasonably delicious.

    All that said, I find that Carbonara is also a very telling preparation. Much like your beloved roast chicken, its simplicity belies the subtlety and technique involved in the making of the dish. I believe that a cook’s Carbonara can tell you a lot about his/her skill and mentality. Egg cookery, sauce technique, an understanding of proper seasoning, and the urge to resist gilding the lily are all important, here.

  • Jim

    When I can’t be bothered to actually cook for my wife and daughter, I pressure cook boneless chicken: a couple of quartered potatoes, about a half a bag of baby carrots, a couple of cups of chicken stock, and a chicken breast and two chicken thighs liberally seasoned with whatever sounds interesting. When everything’s done I pull out all the solids and thicken the cooking juice (puree one of the potato quarters and a hand full of the cooked carrots in the cooker with an immersion blender, add a bit of corn starch if it doesn’t seem thick enough).

  • ross mckay

    The McKay house go to meal is Tuna Pasta based on three ingredients. Sirena Tuna in oil, penne and frozen peas.

    Boil the pasta to just before al dente. half way through add the frozen peas. Cool & rinse under running water and drain.
    Empty Sirena tuna with all or some of the oil (no other brand works as well) into heavy bottomed (preferably enamel) pan and heat on high with the lid on until the water in the oil stops spitting.
    Pour in pasta and peas, pepper (lots) and salt and mix.
    put the lid back on and cook for 5 minutes or so on high heat to get crusty bits of tuna and pasta to stick to the pan, this is vital.
    serve with the crusty scrapings as garnish.

    this can have fresh chili, garlic, parsley etc or different vegetables if you want.

    simple, quick and absolutely delightful

  • Laura

    Tacos, rice & beans. I have 2 picky eaters plus a vegetarian. This is a meal that all of them will eat. I use rotisserie chicken, shred and season it with *gasp* a taco seasoning packet. I make rice flavored with garlic and tomato paste, and heat up a can pinto beans. I shred lettuce and have sliced olives, sour cream, hot sauce, sliced jalepenos, and shredded cheese. The vegetarian has bean tacos with all the fixings, while the rest of us have chicken tacos with varying degrees of the fixings. Sometimes – when I have time – I’ll make corn bread too. If I don’t have pre-made taco shells, we stuff everything into a tortilla and have – BURRITOS!

  • Kaye

    For an everyday Whatever-are-we-going-to-eat-tonight meal, it’s almost always Pasta Somehow. “Somehow” depends on what’s in the fridge needing to be used. Often something like broccoli, garlic, some goat cheese melted in.
    When I want a quick special meal for some reason, I defrost the two duck scallops that I keep in the freezer (and add them to the shopping list). They’re not that cheap, but are nice for a special meal. Because they’re thin, they defrost very quickly. S&P, dredge lightly in flour, sauté. The pan deglazed with … balsamic vinegar perhaps … to make a quick pan sauce. Usually serve this with orzo, since that’s my DH’s favorite, and it is a special meal after all. And a bit of veg (peas from the freezer, broccoli, or whatever’s available).

  • Kathy

    This time of year, one of our staple dinners is beef brisket with coleslaw. The coleslaw I make up ahead of time (like the night before or in the morning) and stick in the fridge — just shredded cabbage, poppy seeds, mayo, vinegar, sugar. If I’m feeling ambitious I throw a few extra veggies in – shredded carrots, green onions, whatever. The brisket gets rubbed with salt, pepper, brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, dried oregano and then cooked “low and slow” all day either tightly covered on a rack in a roasting pan that has a bit of water or beer in it (so, steaming rather than roasting, really) or in a slow cooker with no liquid added. This meal is great when the kids have a lot of after school stuff — knowing I can come home, rest the meat while I steam some baby carrots or a head of broccoli or something in the microwave, slice it all up and just pull the coleslaw out of the fridge and give it a toss before serving keeps me from running us through the drive-through somewhere on our way home.

  • Jim Haggerty

    Our go-to meal is either Salmon, or Bran crusted chicken breast on a bed of brown rice with broccoli. The salmon is broiled PERIOD. The chicken breast is dredged in egg and crushed Nature’s Path Flax Bran flakes and then baked until 165F internal temp. The brown rice is prepared by sauteing onions and garlic – dumping in the rice and adding chicken stock. Then it’s covered and put in the oven for 75 minutes. Add the broccoli when it comes out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.


  • Tim

    My “go to” meal during the week is an easy grilled/roasted chicken salad with fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers. The night before I’ll throw the chicken in some Italian dressing for an easy marinade. When I get home from work, I’ll throw the chicken in the over or on the grill during the summer, cut up some romaine, fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers. Once the chicken is done Ill slice it up and throw it on top and dinner is served. All toll, it’s done in 30 minutes, clean up is easy and more often than not I have leftovers for lunch the next day.

  • DF

    This is what we make when we want a quick meal, that we all like, with ingredients we have on hand.
    Garlic Lover’s Pasta
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    5 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    A little bit of oregano
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    1 (28-ounce) can Italian-style tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
    1 box of linguine
    1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

  • former butcher

    The “go to” here is something we call Mexican Chicken. It uses two ingredients I always stock up on : roasted Poblano chiles and toasted and finely ground Ancho chiles (which are dried Poblanos ).
    I put a quick pan sear on chicken breasts, take them out of the pan and sweat onions and roasted garlic in the fat and juices. Liberally toss the powdered Ancho chile on the onions, stir with a flat wooden spatula to get up any pan bits. Toss in some chopped roasted Poblanos. When they are all just short of burning, pour in a can of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce (yes, Hunt’s Tomato Sauce) and stir.
    Replace the chicken breasts in the sauce and let simmer for a while, then top with Monterey Jack cheese and set in the broiler until the cheese developes some brown spots.
    Serve with quick cooking rice and a green veggie.
    BTW I already own a copy of “Ruhlman’s Twenty”, so I’ll exempt myself from the competition.

  • M.C Hunt

    When my college student sons, husband and I get home and we’re all starving, our go-to meal(s) are either Asian or Mexican.

    Asian consists of brown or white rice in the rice cooker; tofu, scallions, chili peanuts, and whatever bits and pieces of meat and/or vegetables leftover or available for a quick chop – all thrown in the wok with a concocted sauce mixture (featuring whatever’s handy and in stock: ponzu, hoisin, soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, siracha, crushed red pepper, rice wine vinegar, chili sauce). The only question is “how spicy do you want it?”

    Mexican is similar. The corn and flour tortillas come out of the fridge to become tacos, burritos or quesadillas with a variety of sauces (salsa, taco, hot chili, cheese), leftover chicken or beef of any sort, shredded cheddar/jack , canned beans in any shape or form (refried, whole black, kidney, garbanzo, cannelini, pinto, etc. – sometimes even refried on the spot with a bit of oil, chili powder, cumin and garlic), some quick chopped lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, olives – whatever’s handy. Everybody assembles their own and nukes the result. We call it scavenging.

  • Carly

    Blackened fish, rice, and fresh green beans. There is an indoor farmers market nearby with a good seafood vendor, and I’m there every Thursday. If money it tight that week, it’s catfish. If I feel like splurging, wild salmon or something else fancy. We always have the spices on hand, and then it’s like 6 minutes in the broiler or grill. Rice practically makes itself, and I usually just blanche the green beans and dress them with oil and balsamic vinegar. Bonus that they’re still good if I buy them at the beginning of the week and don’t make them right away. My go-to used to be pasta dishes but I’ve developed a gluten sensitivity recently.

    I already have Twenty, but I wanted to contribute anyway 🙂

  • Tim dusza

    Without a doubt, it’s pasta.

    Once a week, I make a large stock pot of red vodka sauce. Really simple. 3 cans of whole tomatoes, some browned Italian sausage and pork neck bones, and if I have time some home made meatballs. Just let it simmer for a couple of hours with salt, pepper, basil, parseky, and oregeno. About halfway through, add about a cup of vodka and cup of heavy cream.

    If I can make fresh pasta or gnochi I will, but if not I have a whole bunch of boxed, dried pasta.

    As long as I have the sauce, i can change it up by making pasta, soup, or maybe even a casserole or eggplant.

    Because I make about 5 quarts at a time, it allows me to be creative or simple during the week, especially when I don’t want to have to run to the store, because my fridge and pantry are low.

  • Mike

    By “best” you could either mean the easiest to regular meal to prepare, or the one you enjoy best out of the ones you make that is quick and easy. I’ll go with the latter definition, and my staple meal is based on a sauteed protein (either fish or pork) with a mustard cream sauce, along with a green vegetable. A mustard cream sauce is quick to prepare and adds a richness and touch of elegance to a meal.

    One meal is sauteed salmon in a mustard cream sauce with green beans. After opening a bottle of white wine for cooking I freeze the remainder in silicone ice cube trays and put the trays inside a zip bag in the freezer. So to make this meal I put some water in a pot to boil, and then use a fork to scrape one of the cubes of wine (it doesn’t freeze hard, is more like slush) into a small saucepan and put on med heat. When the pan is almost dry I add in heavy cream (I always have a pint of this in the fridge) and reduce it by about 1/2, then stir in a glop of mustard and add salt to taste. Sauce is done; turn heat to low to keep it warm. Right after adding the cream I began heating a separate nonstick pan on medium. When the sauce is done the pan is warm enough to cook the fish so I add a pat of butter or splash of oil to the pan, sprinkle the fillets with salt (and sometimes a prepared spice mix such as Chesapeake Bay from Penzeys), and lay down the best side. When the fillets are cooked 1/2 way up the side I flip them. I also give the sauce a quick stir to keep it evenly heated. By this time the water is at a boil and a handful of green beans go into the pot along with a generous helping of salt. I put 2 plates in the sink and run hot water on them to warm them a bit. When the fillets are done (about 2 minutes after flipping I dry the plates, spoon some sauce onto the plates, put a fillet on top, then put a dab more sauce on top of each fillet. I test a bean with tongs, and when done grab the beans with the pair of tongs and plate, putting the remaining sauce along side.

    An alternative is pork chops in a mustard cream sauce with broccoli. Its pretty much the same steps as above except I use a regular pan instead of nonstick for the chops to get better color. I use pork chops that are about 3/4″ think so they cook relatively quickly. I sometimes sprinkle the chops with a seasoning in addition to the salt before adding to the pan. I prefer steamed broccoli to boiled since I think the texture comes out better.

  • Laurie

    Frittata. I almost always have eggs in the house and what goes in it depends on what else I have. Bacon is always welcome! Garlic, sundried tomatoes, any leafy greens that I can saute, cheese, onions, leeks… This can be vegetarian, can be dairy-free, usually gluten free.

  • John

    Hi Michael!

    I’m not going to win any points for originality, but my staple meal, at least October to April, is the basic roast chicken. I make mine by putting chopped ginger, thyme, and a lemon (sliced in two) in the cavity. If I’m feeling gourmet, I baste it with wine. With baked potatoes, it’s a no-work meal.

    If I’m busy (such as tonight!) I prep the birds in the morning, let them sit in the fridge uncovered in the roasting pan all day, and have my wife pop them in the oven before I get home. That way she can feed my girls and I can have dinner upon my arrival. And I did say birds, not bird. I do two chickens at once, and then eat the cold one for the rest of the week, for lunch or with salad or pasta and pesto sauce. It’s always handy to have a roast chicken in the fridge.

  • Celia

    I have a couple. The first is chili, usually made with stew meat. The “recipe” varies, but I always brown the meat in a little lard and put everything into the slow-cooker with home-canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies (fresh!), cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, oregano, and sometimes something like cocoa or allspice to kick it up a bit. We eat it topped with various things–cheese, cilantro, scallions, fresh tomato, guac–because we all like different flavors. I love the smell of something that’s been cooking in the crock pot all day.

    Our other staple is roasted sweet potatoes (in ghee or bacon fat, depending on the day) alongside a simple sausage and greens saute. We’re lucky enough to have a fabulous source for sausages in our CSA, so we rotate through lamb and pork. Sometimes I’ll get chorizo or andouille from Whole Foods. The greens rotate between collards and kale, depending on what’s available. It’s our simplest meal, but usually the best. We eat it at least twice a week. I add spices as I want, but usually the sausage gives the greens enough flavor so as to need nothing extra.

  • Timothy McKernan

    Ragu Bolognese. Easy to make in quantity. Freezer meals that can be put on the table in less than 30 minutes.

  • Beth

    I have 2, one of which I actually made last night!

    The first is 40-Clove Garlic Chicken, using chicken breast strips, an insane amount of garlic, olive oil & a whole lemon sliced thinly. Peel the garlic, drop it & the chicken in a 9×13 pan and toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Then, lay the thin slices of lemon over the top of the chicken. Roast at 350 until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. I usually turn on the broiler for a couple minutes at the end to give the chicken & lemon some additional color. Serve with couscous and good bread. An amber lager or glass of pinot grigio is optional.

    The second is shepherd’s pie, which was last night’s dinner. Make mashed potatoes, adding some roasted garlic (I cheated and used instant, as I was late leaving work; homemade potatoes are definitely better). Brown a pound or so of ground beef, adding 1 medium chopped onion and about 2 tablespoons of garlic. Add about 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables (or chopped fresh vegetables, if you’re so inclined, but frozen is faster) to the beef. As they start to thaw & cook, add about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of vegetable broth and 2 -3 tablespoons of tomato paste. Keep mixing it in the skillet until the tomato paste mixes into the broth. Add about a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of fresh ground pepper & half a teaspoon of tumeric. As it is cooking down, dissolve a teaspoon of corn starch in a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cold water. When it is completely dissolved, pour it into the ground beef mixture, stirring constantly until it is mixed into the liquid (the color will change from bright red to orange). Let it stay on the heat until it comes to a boil to allow the starch to cook. Grease a casserole pan and pour in the mixture, creating a level surface. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top, covering all of the beef & vegetable mixture. Put the casserole into the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes, then under the broiler for a couple minutes to get the top of the potatoes to brown.

  • Tracy

    I have two go-to dinners I use in the winter. (In the summer, my go-to meal is almost always a protein on the grill, veggies from the garden, and a good bread. I love summer. 🙂 )

    The first go-to meal is pasta with cherry tomatoes, spinach and feta cheese. Cook the pasta (I usually use penne). While it cooks, halve a pint of cherry tomatoes. Open a bag/container of baby spinach. In a small bowl, juice 1 lemon, add about 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, 2 tbsp good olive oil. In another bowl crumble 5-8 oz feta cheese (use the block cheese, not the pre-crumbled – cheaper and better tasting). When pasta is cooked al dente, drain and return to cooking pot. Add bowl with lemon juice and oil, stir well. Add crumbled cheese, stir well. Add spinach and tomatoes, stir well. Put top on pot and let sit 1-2 minutes to wilt spinach. Serve with good, crusty bread.

    The second go-to recipe I make in the winter is pork chops with red cabbage. Sprinkle 2-4 pork chops with salt and pepper. Liberally rub each with dried thyme. In a large skillet, brown chops on each side with some olive oil; remove from pan. While chops brown, vertically slice one large red onion. After chops come out of pan, add more oil if needed, then add onions to cook until soft. While onion cooks, coarsely chop 1 small-medium red cabbage. (Can be cut into 1″x1″ pieces – not shredded.) When onion is soft, add cabbage. Pour in 1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar, sprinkle cabbage with 1 big pinch of sugar (a tablespoon, probably). Place chops on top of cabbage, cover skillet, and simmer on stovetop 15-25 minutes, or until pork chops are cooked the way you like them. (15 minutes tops for those really skinny grocery store chops, longer for thick cut chops – I tend to take the meat thermometer to the thicker ones.) This recipe also works with chicken thighs, but the cooking time is more like 35 minutes.

  • Terrie

    I have two. The most popular by far is chorizo and eggs. We make a large batch of bulk chorizo (using the recipe from Charcuterie, of course) and I freeze it in 1/2 pound flat portions. I take it out of the freezer and run cold water over it, it’s usually thawed in about 5 minutes. I make enchilada sauce 2-3 times a year and freeze it in individual portions as well. I fry the chorizo up in a frying pan and add scrambled eggs. My kids like it plain or rolled up in a tortilla. My husband and I like to add the sauce. Everyone’s happy!

    Our other option is pesto pasta. I make tons of pesto in the summer and freeze it in ice cube trays. I start a pot of water boiling, cut up some katamala olives and sundried tomatos, and put on large pot on medium. I put a little olive oil in the pot and toast some pine nuts. When they are toasted, I add the pesto and olives and tomatos and turn the heat to low. When the pasta is done, I add a little of the pasta water to the pot with the pesto, drain the pasta and add it along with some freshly grated parm. Done and delicious!

  • Adam Morgan

    Easy go-to is Pasta and Sauce. The sauce is always home made, I hardly ever buy jarred sauce anymore. Puree a 28 oz can of tomatoes (I don’t like chunks), add in an onion cut in half, a couple crushed garlic cloves, some fresh herbs and butter and olive oil–simmer for 45 minutes and fish out the aromatics. I have bread along with my pasta and sauce. Again, always home made. I almost always have a bucket of no-need bread in the fridge and if I don’t I’ll make up a quick focaccia.

  • Jim

    I can’t believe that I am the first person to mention risotto as my staple meal. Once I learned how to make a nice basic risotto, I now use it at least once a week, usually as a means of using up leftovers. I keep a steady supply of arborio and carnaroli on hand, and now, thanks to Ratio (with a little additional help from Alton), I have homemade stock always ready in the freezer.

    I start with a basic risotto and add things like leftover roasted chicken with sundried tomatoes, artichokes and a few porcini. Or, I use a combination of different mushrooms for a rich mushroom risotto. If I’m feeling a little upscale, I run over to my local seafood market and pick up shrimp or scallops for the pan. The other day I made one with smoked sausage and tomatoes, using the tomato juices for the bulk of my cooking liquid.

  • Jadagul

    I live alone, so my staple meals fall into two categories: things I can refrigerate and eat three more times during the week, and things that make exactly one meal and take close to zero effort. In category 2, I like to go with a simple beans and meat dish. Dump a can of red beans into a pot and slice in two hot dogs. Add about a cup of corn and a half-cup of sliced carrots. Salt and spices to taste–I use a mix of herbs, usually parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for about half an hour until the beans are soft and not gritty any more, then dump into a bowl and eat.

  • JE

    Huevos Rancheros. First a spicy tomato sauce with onion and jalapeño/serrano/chipotle/whatever peppers are on hand. Then a simple refried bean recipe with little more than onion, can of beans, peppers, and some water. Finally, poach the eggs in the tomatoes. So good, satisfying, and even fits into anyone’s lo-fat, lo-carb diet.

  • BShaddock

    Our staple meal has to be tacos. And I use that term loosely because although they are on our revolving list of meals, they are also a go to when nothing else sounds good or time is not on our side. We always have corn and flour tortillas in the fridge and almost always cilantro and/or parsley. Sometimes they are made with leftovers, other times something is quickly thawed. A little oil, chili powder, onion, garlic, and whatever other seasonings sound good that evening go in a skillet with the leftover meat from last night’s chicken, pork, I’ve used ham and even summer sausage. Add a little water once the onions look good and let it cook down for a minute. I’ve been known to add an egg or two just for good measure. Run the tortillas through a hot skillet to loosen them up and your ready. Top with whatever fresh herb we have in the fridge and it’s dinner time!

  • Chris

    My favorite has to be meatloaf, mashed potatoes and frozen corn. Just made it two days ago, again. Meatloaf is made with a ketchup/brown sugar topping, potatoes with cream and butter. There is only three of us eating so there is usually leftovers for a meatloaf sandwich the next day. (Which I had for lunch yesterday) I can have everything in the oven or on the stove in less than 15 min.

  • JC

    I am almost afraid to say it because it is fairly simple.

    My household includes 3 young kids so when we need a quick staple meal, the last thing we want to hear is a complaint. Thus, we go with soup. Yes, soup. A simple soup but soup none the less and one that can prevent complaints and is still easy to create.

    I take out frozen stock and heat it to a boil and then season it. I bring out all of the leftovers on hand (sausage, chicken, beans, Ham from the pizza two nights ago, tomatoes, onions, etc…) and other staples like carrots and celery as well as some very thin pasta.

    I chop everything up very fine only as each person requests it (e.g. – celery, carrots, mushrooms and sausage for my son takes about 20 seconds of chopping tops), put the results in a serving bowl and then pour the boiling soup over it and give it enough time to both cool down and heat/reheat all of the ingredients. Everyone loves it because each person gets to pick and choose but I only had to reheat/season stock, pull already cooked items from the fridge and do a tiny bit of tiny chopping. It looks like a lot of trouble but the time invested is small.

    I get an extra benefit out of it because a few members of my family like some of their vegetables at different levels of doneness. If someone wants to hear the crunch of a carrot when they bite into it, I just cut the carrot pieces larger to accomodate.

    Also – it is a good excuse for 12+ year old kids to practice their chopping.

  • Susan

    Our current quick, go-to meal involves boneless, skinnless chicken breasts, which I’d always poo-pooed as being flavorless, dry, tough and boring. Now, it’s the vehicle for flavor! I pound out the breasts, cut into medalions and season with salt, pepper and whatever herb I have a taste for. then dredge in flour. I heat a couple tbsps of olive oil and a tbsp of butter until sizzling, add the chicken and brown on both sides. Here’s where it varies: I’ve dumped chopped mushrooms into the pan with the chicken and poured in marsala wine, partially covered the pan and low simmered it for another 10 minutes until it’s thickened. I vary that application by using different wine combined with garlic or chick broth or lemon or other juices or tomatoes,. I’ve added capers and lemon for a picata variation, added breadcrumbs and parmesan as the chicken coating and added stewed tomatoes with wine for a quick caccitore, I’ve used cream and procuitto and a variety of cheeses and I’ve used broth, wine and grapes. The chicken is always tender and moist and it comes together quickly. While it’s cooking I boil pasta or rice or potatoes and steam or saute some vegetables. It’s on the table in about 1/2 hour..sometimes less…and it hasn’t disappointed yet!

  • Chris K.

    My favorite go-to staple meal is Hainan chicken rice. It’s cheap, tastes great, and the leftovers are versatile. I strain and season some of the poaching broth and use it as a soup course, with pickled cucumber and carrot salad on the side. The chicken & rice leftovers are perfect for stir fry, with more broth for soup, and a chicken carcass for stock.

  • Lara Wallace

    Pizza margherita hands down! It takes 15 mins to make and is cheap and delicious with few ingredients. When i get home, I put a cast-iron pizza pan in the oven and turn it up as high as it will go (530 degrees for me). I use frozen pizza dough, pureed San Marzano tomatoes (uncooked) as the sauce, sliced fresh mozzarella, sea salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is light brown. Top with chiffonade of basil and dins is ready 🙂

  • Cale

    My go to most favorite few times a month meal, well, meat, is the flank steak. People people people. Stop blowing you hard earned money on the standard ribeyes, fillets, strips, etc. A flank has tons of flavor and the biggest one would only cost you $8. You can feed the family on this guy. You just have to cook it, and most importantly, cut it correctly.
    First, if you get the cut like I do, from a butcher, it usually has a lot of the silver skin and film on the meat. I remove as much as I can but usually i cheat with the film an cut very shallow slices every 1.5 inches across the grain on both sides. When it cooks this film will basically disappear.
    I have a signature marinade I make with this but anything with salt and oil will work fine. I drop at least 2 – 3 tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 onion, and whatever green I have starting to turn in the fridge (parsley, cilantro, or basil) in the blender. Anything! turn it on and start salting, grinding pepper, and pouring in about 3/4 cup of olive oil. Salt to taste, then add a bit more.
    Marinade your flank for at least 6 hours or up to 24hrs.
    Now grill it with high heat until rare to medium rare. You really don’t want to over cook this meat and be careful, because it cooks through quickly.
    Let stand for 10min. and now for the important part. Slice the meat in thin slices at a 45 degree angle ACROSS the grain. This is so important to the texture. Sliced any other way and you’ll be chewing awhile.
    Served with a tomato pie and wow do you have a meal.

  • terri

    we have three go-to meals:
    1) a fried egg over rice, with whatever greens happen to be available (e.g. spinach, chard, bok choy) sauteed. the seasoning varies according to whim–it can be as simple as freshly ground black pepper, a dash of soy sauce, a bit of chili paste, or shichimi togarashi.

    2) “clean out the fridge pasta”–pasta tossed with whatever veggies/ leftover meat is available, plus other staples that might be on hand (e.g. capers, olives, artichoke hearts, etc.). grate cheese over it and add freshly ground black pepper.

    3) quesadillas–put cheese in a tortilla, fold in half, melt cheese using heat source of choice (lazy method = microwave; i prefer the toaster oven, but have also done it in a skillet on the stove). in its simplest form, just add salsa. we also vary it depending on whatever is in the fridge (e.g. leftover meat, beans, veggies, pickled jalepenos, etc.)

  • Michael

    Brown chicken parts,skin side down. Remove. Saute onions and garlic, add wine (red or white), dijon, an herb (usually tarragon or thyme), sometimes tomato or tomato paste, simmer covered 30 minutes, add beurre manie, simmer a little longer and thicken. With bread or noodles.

  • Nick

    Fried rice. We usually have leftover rice, so I make it with eggs scrambled in the wok and whatever else is in the fridge: ham, lunch meat, almost any veggie, frozen peas, or even hot dogs (the kids like that one). Takes me about 15-20 mins.

  • Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Love this theme! I’ll be trolling the comments for ideas for months to come.

    My go-to staple meal for the cooler months is Keller’s Roast Chicken (Elise’s version from Simply Recipes). If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll do sauteed green beans or a spinach salad (with walnuts and cranberries, please) on the side, but it’s often a one-dish dinner around here.

    I hate to prep rutabagas so I skip those, and add sweet potatoes to the mix to make my daughters happy. We’re a gluten free household and I love how I can make this recipe (and I do just about every week) with zero revisions.

  • CTonn

    My staple for myself, my wife, and my two young daughters is typically boneless pork chops, seasoned with salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of cumin, seared on a cast iron skillet, then finished in the oven. Sometimes I’ll make a pan sauce out of the drippings, but the girls don’t like the sauces much.
    Sides are egg noodles, buttered, with lots of parmesan and a bit of parsley, and green beans from the freezer.

  • Tracy

    One of our favorites is Eggs in Purgatory, served with crusty bread (crusty bread might be the only true go-to in my house). That same spicy tomato sauce over pasta, maybe with some olives or artichoke hearts tossed in. Also various bean-based chilis, served over rice or with tortilla chips. A stir-fry of tofu, green peppers, scallions and pineapple in mushroom sauce served over rice or noodles. And sometimes, bread and cheese and a green salad suffice.

  • Michelle C.

    Linguini with white clam sauce. Garlic, olive oil, white wine, canned clams, red pepper flakes. Fresh parsley if I have it.

  • Carol C.

    Best and easiest staple meal:
    Cut yams, beets and butternut squash in 1″ pieces, coat with olive oil and mixture of curry and ground cinnamon. Cut onions and colourful peppers in wedges, coat all with olive oil and mixture of chopped garlic and ginger. Spread each mixture in 1 layer on different roasting pans. Add pork tenderloin seasoned with freshly ground pepper and salt (optional) to one roasting pan. Roast everything at 400 degrees F for 20 to 30 min. Wow!

  • Micaela P.

    another go-to weeknight dish, the one I “created” for my oldest son and which I cooked for him the night before his high school cross-country or track races: a short tube pasta (elbows, pennette, rigatoni) with a garlicky bolognese (turkey or beef) spiced up with sambal oelek. Ready in about 45mins with minimal prepwork, since the only thing that needs chopping is the fresh garlic.

  • Scott L

    Egg Wrap with eggs from farmer down the road. Peppers, Onions, whatever cheese is in fridge. Quickly grate a potato to mix in also. With a dash of hot sauce!

  • cybercita

    Homemade roti topped with melted cheese, avocado mashed up with garlic and lime juice, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes, or polenta and roasted broccoli. What I would prefer to eat for every single meal for the rest of my life is an enormous bowl of of spaghetti topped with a mountain freshly grated Parmesan and a river of unsalted butter in which a half a dozen cloves of Rocambole garlic have been gently sweated, followed by vanilla ice cream with freshly made salted caramel and whipped cream. {But I would also like to be able to zip my pants.}

  • Darcie

    Since my husband and I have a 3 hour a day commute, EVERY weeknight dinner must be a no-brainer. I echo many of the above comments: carbonara, breakfast-for-dinner, spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce, quesadillas, but what I didn’t see was a simple salad. I usually get a clamshell of organic greens of some sort each week, then you just need to dice up some veggies and make a fresh blue cheese dressing, or open a can of tuna, some cannelini beans and whip up a simple vinaigrette, or fry some bacon, add a splash of vinegar for hot bacon dressing, top with a fried egg and thinly sliced radish – quick, healthy, vegetarian, delicious. Toast some cubed bread for fresh croutons and you’re set!

  • Dan Glovier

    Our staple meal … breakfast. My family loves breakfast, it’s easy to make, and somehow feels a tad wrong when it is oh so right.

    First, the bacon. Thanks to you, I have been curing my own bacon, and sharing it with my family, for years. I use the basic recipe you have in “Charcuterie”, but with a few twists to satisfy my audience: my kids and my nieces and nephews. It’s a sweeter bacon, so I don’t skimp on the maple syrup during the cure. Seriously, I could eat a floor board if it had good maple syrup on it. Second, before I smoke it, I sprinkle on just a hint of fresh cracked pepper, and then my kicker: maple sugar. I told you it was sweet. Applewood smoke it and you are good to go. I use

    Pancakes are usually the staple in our house (with the kids and all), and when we’re in a hurry we use box (oh noes!). A quick strawberry or blueberry add and we’re done.

    Finish that up with some fresh cut fruit and you are good to go.

  • Jason

    The roast chicken from this site has made its way into a weekend staple. I picked up a Jamie Oliver roasted root veg that goes with it that has quickly turned into THE hit.

    A few years back I saw Alton Brown state that the broiler was really an upside down gas grill. That observation led directly to two of our staples.

    During the week it’s one of these:
    Broiled chicken breasts in winter (usually with BBQ sauce); on grill in summer with potatoes, rice, or noodles.

    Broiled tilapia or salmon with honey or olive oil and rice or noodles.

    My wife’s excellent fried chicken with potatoes or noodles.

    Pancakes or French Toast (always with maple syrup from Burton, OH) with sausage or bacon. I like a sunny side up egg with it. We call this “Binner” short for BreakfastDinner

  • Andrea

    I never though I would says this, but our go to item is quinoa. Such a healthy and tasty grain. We love that it is an item that can be made weekly, but tastes different every time.

    We choose to cook the quinoa in our homemade chicken soup. You can’t go wrong adding items you canned in the summertime. My favorite – oven roasted cherry tomatoes from the summer garden.

    Simply pick and choose what to add. In the past we used a mix of oven roasted tomatoes – maybe homemade pesto, green onions,roast some peppers, variety of beans,dried berries, nuts,herbs, etc. And why not add leftover meat from other meals and you are done. Serve warm or cold. Love it with parmesan cheese too!

    Or the other day we made quinoa with fresh squeezed orange juice with veggies. So delicious! The options are endless. And if any is left over you can add it to a wrap or in a salad for lunch the next day.

  • carolina p

    my family’s go-to-without-a-second-thought would be spaghetti carbonara – farm fresh eggs, nitrate-free pancetta/bacon and spaghetti, it just doesn’t get any easier…plus the kids get to feel like they are having breakfast for dinner which is something that we do rarely as my husband detests breakfast for dinner…a close second would be frittata – you can use up any veggies hanging around in the crisper and any cheeses in the cheese drawer as well – with some crusty bread and a simple green salad, all of your bases are covered

  • Michele Grace

    My 9 year old daughter’s favorite dinner is steamed clams. They are so easy and quick we make them weekly. Sautee some garlic & shallots, add some wine, throw in the clams, cover and voila 5 minutes later you have dinner. A big chunk of tasty bread rounds out the meal. Sometimes we make homemade linguine and make the meal special.

  • Alison

    breakfast burritos – eggs, bacon, canned black beans, salsa if we have the ingredients, whatever greens we have in the fridge, hopefully tomatoes.

    marcella hazan’s tomato sauce with butter and an onion

    fried rice with crispy ginger and garlic and a fried egg happens often too. or a roast chicken. mmmmm.

  • Louise

    My quick to throw together when things are hectic is oven fries and a scrambler. The trick for the oven fries is to soak the sliced potatoes before tossing them in olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper.
    Scrambler is sautéing whatever veggies are available in the fridge, crack eggs over top, melt some cheese over everything. Easy, quick, and a family pleaser!

  • Bob Y

    It was interesting to see another pasta/tuna recipe in the comments. My go-to pasta is oil-packed tuna, chopped shallots, a clove of garlic (this is for one person), 2 anchovy fillets, and some white wine. Saute the shallots, garlic and anchovy until softened. Add the tuna and the white wine and simmer slowly while the pasta cooks – I like farfale with this. Add the slighly undercooked pasta to the saute pan and toss for a few minutes. 20 mins from beginning to end and a delicious and satisfying dinner.

  • Attrill

    For fast everyday meals I love the grill. Here’s a rundown of a go to grilled meal I make frequently:

    I dump some lump charcoal into the Weber grill (cover half the coal grate) and light it with a weed burner. I have the grill in place so I’m cleaning the grill while lighting the charcoal. Once that’s getting going (in about 2 minutes) I throw a couple red peppers on the coals. I also put a steel plate onto the grill right above the fire to get it nice and hot.

    While that’s going I go into the kitchen and slice a few tomatoes and onions into 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices, sprinkle with veal salt, pepper and drizzle with EVOO. I also sprinkle 2 steaks, usually sirloins, with salt and Guajillo pepper. Once that’s done I take everything outside (grab a beer or wine on the way) and turn the peppers to char all sides if they need it. Take the peppers off the fire when done, and put in a paper bag to rest. I scrub the grill and steel plate with a grill brush and then wipe with an EVOO soaked paper towel. Throw the tomatoes and onions onto the steel plate – I don’t move them at all, and let them get really burnt on one side. Once they’re burnt I remove the tomatoes to a plate (uncooked side facing down) and flip the onions so they cook on both sides. I slide the steel plate across the grill so it’s off the fire, and throw the steaks onto the grill directly over the fire. Flip once after a couple minutes and then take everything inside. Wash and seed the peppers, slice and mix with the onion rings. The tomatoes go on top of the steaks, burnt side up. I usually serve with some sliced French bread or rice with cilantro and scallions. Done.

    One of my favorite things about this meal is that clean up consists of 2 plates, tongs, spatula, and a knife.

  • David

    Since I am a strict vegetarian (vegan) and my family is not, finding something to be a staple dinner for all of us turned out to be problematic. I got away with serving Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP) based chili and spaghetti sauce a couple of times, but the only thing that works consistently is a variation on lamacuns that I make. I may not make it weekly, but it’s pretty close to it.

    I hydrate the TVP and some dried mushrooms with vegetable stock that has simmered with some jalapeno chilis to give it some bite. Then I mix in minced garlic, minced onion, freshly ground coriander and cumin, a glug or two of olive oil and a good dollop of red pepper or tomato paste.

    I mix that thoroughly, and put it in the fridge for a few minutes, I pre-heat the oven to 350 with one rack on the second highest position and the other right in the middle. While it’s heating I split a half dozen or so pitas into single layer disks (smooth side down), and start spreading the TVP mixture on the upper surface so that it nearly reaches the edge.

    When the oven’s ready, I have two cookie sheets, sprayed with olive oil, ready with two pita disks on each. The first tray goes on the middle rack for 4-5 minutes then I move it to the top rack and put the second tray in. After another 4-5 minutes I pull the first tray, move the second up, unload the first, then reload it and continue that process until all of the disks have been cooked.

    It sounds far more complicated than it really is. I’m so used to making this that I don’t remember what the original proportions were and judge it all by eye. If you plan it right, the whole operation takes less than 20 minutes,

    This is a very changeable recipe, nearly anything that you would use to top a pizza can be brought into the mix. I’m particularly fond of pitted oil-cured black olives, My wife and youngest son like to have cheese on theirs.

    Give it a try. It’s easy and fun.

  • Daren

    Chicken breast that have been flattened out very thin and breaded in Panko. I quickly pan fry them and make a sauce with lemons, butter and chives. Serve this along side mashed potatoes and I have a simple meal in about 30 minutes that seems to go with any any season.

  • Julie Cucchi

    Start by cooking chopped chorizo sausage. Throw in can of chick peas drained. Add diced shallot and cherry tomatoes when in season. Red bell pepper otherwise. Diced. Finally turn up heat and toss in raw calamari. Cook on high and toss just until color changes to white (2 minutes). 1 Tbs mustard. Splash of vinegar. Serve on rice or with salad or on polenta.

  • Art Good

    A staple meal for my family is an “Italian” pasta casserole that I make. I make a meat sauce with ground beef (sometimes I make my own sauce, sometimes I use jarred), and layer it with rigatoni noodles, cottage cheese, and mozzarella cheese (fresh and bagged shredded). After assembling I heat it in the oven on 350 for 30 minutes. We ate it the other night with a sliced baguette and salad.

  • Hilary Sunderland

    My go-to winter dinner is roasted vegetables — parsnips, beets, celeriac, butternut squash, red onions, carrots, brussels sprouts, or whatever other seasonal vegetables I have on hand — dressed with olive oil, kosher salt and home made chimichurri (basil, thyme, oregano, summer savory grown in my garden and dried with paprika and garlic salt) and some chicken cooked in a grill pan and seasoned with Penzey’s Northern Woods spice. I could eat it every cold night here in Vermont!

  • Jason Smith

    We always have venison in the freezer so our go to is a grilled venison steak usually seasoned with just salt, pepper and butter. We have a roasted green veggie, asparagus, broccoli or brussel sprouts for a side and usually some roasted Yukon Gold potatoes with rosemary, all from our garden.

  • alice

    My quick go-to meals are pizza, stir fry (which is a whatever-veggies-I-have-on-hand dish) with rice, or big salad (lettuce and/or spinach + whatever I have in my refrigerator/freezer/pantry which might in any way be considered a salad ingredient).

  • Sara M

    My staple meal is a simple pasta with cream sauce. I make the noodles from scratch and cut them fettuccine-style. After cooking, they’re tossed with a sauce made of heavy cream, butter, nutmeg, and Parmesan. Almost an alfredo. Depending on what’s in the fridge, I throw in some sauteed leeks, crispy bacon, or smoked turkey sausage. I like to eat it with a simple salad of diced vegetables – again, whatever’s at hand: tomato, carrot, cucumber, radish, snap peas, mixed with feta and olive oil/balsamic.

    And wine. Lots of wine.

  • Becca F

    Kale and Cannelloni beans warm salad

    I fry up 3-4 slices of bacon (diced) and let the bacon drain on a paper towel when crispy. I then dice a medium onion (any kind) and sauté in bacon fat (salt and pepper onions to taste). Drain and rinse one can of Cannelloni beans and add to onions. Add fresh chopped kale and add a few tablespoons of water to pan and cover with lid until kale is bright green and to your preferred doneness. We like ours with a little crunch left. Serve in big heaping bowls, top with bacon and add salt and pepper as desired. Garlic and white wine can also be added as well as chicken broth for a soupier or wetter warm kale salad.

  • Helen

    Thank you for this generous offer, and for encouraging your readers to share their favorites. How interesting! Mine is a French green lentil soup with Indian spices made with onion, garlic, fresh ginger, good homemade stock, carrot and lots of spinach (the spinach is organic frozen). Sometimes I add whatever other vegetables are on hand that seem to fit, e.g., cauliflower florettes, pieces of Blue Lake beans, etc. I serve it with phulka roti made fresh by me while the soup is simmering. (Roti is a small Indian flatbread that puffs up beautifully when cooked for about two minutes on a hot griddle. I buy generic uncooked roti in quantity from an Indian grocer.) If I have roasted butternut squash on hand — as I usually do this time of year, either in the freezer or the fridge — I make red lentil (masoor dal) soup with Indian spices and the squash, served with raita and a leaf lettuce salad that typically includes toasted nuts and persimmon, apple or pear slices. If I’m out of roti, I toast some of my homemade bread. We eat one of the two lentil soups described above at least once every ten days from October through April or May. And we never get tired of either of them. ;o)

  • Samba00

    My go to weekday meal is a meat sauce made with hot italian sausage served over radiatorre pasta. All of the ingredients are usually in my pantry save the sausage and the butcher a block away has that. I’m excited that with my new meat grinder that I got for xmas, I can start making my own sausage and skip the butcher trip as well.

    While the sauce takes about an hour to simmer, the actual hands on cooking time is only about 15 minutes. As an added bonus, the recipe is from my girlfriend’s mother, so it’s a good comfort food for her to have waiting on the table after a hard day’s work.

  • Samba00

    My second go to meal is a green chile risotto (adapted from the Pink Adobe cookbook) served with a southwestern chicken breast. Since I buy a bushel of hatch chiles every year and keep them in the freezer, this is another dish I usually have the ingredients for without shopping.

  • darren

    A favorite around here is curry night. It happens about every other Tuesday. Typically it is a chicken dish such as a murghi makhani (butter chicken) or chicken tikka masala . . . you’ll see these two things on a menu and they’re pretty much the same thing. I always use chicken thighs because it’s pretty hard to overcook them. Debone and skin them in the morning, cube them, marinate them in yogurt, garam masala, ginger, garlic, salt, and hot indian red pepper all day. Make up a tomato cream sauce with out of the ordinary things like kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and spices that we might consider “pie spices” in this country cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. Serve with basmati rice and naan—or onion kulchas if you can find them. To really take it to the next level serve a pakora, a vegetable (our favorite is cauliflower) deep fried in a chick pea flour batter. It’s a little slice of heaven . . . or maybe nirvana is more appropriate here.

  • Kate

    I have two staples:

    Chicken Paprikash, Mom’s recipe. Chicken w/ bones, onion, red or green pepper, an obscene amount of paprika, and a smidge of sour cream. Served with homemade galushka (Hungarian dumplings/spaetzle) and cucumber vinegar salad. Takes an hour to cook (I keep galushka in freezer ready to go) with maybe 20 minutes of actual work.

    2nd staple is a Kale Quinoa “salad” or maybe it’s more of a casserole. But I steam the kale, throw it in with cooked quinoa, add lemon zest and juice, walnuts, and goat cheese. Healthy and delicious.

  • Kelly

    A few staples:
    1. Pasta Carbonara plus Veg. I always have pancetta on hand, chop it and fry it up while prepping accompanying veg. Slivers of kale, or brussel sprouts work well, tossed into the pan with the pancetta fat. The easiest cheat of all is once the pasta is nearly done is to toss a few handfuls of petite frozen peas into the pasta water before you drain it – let it cook no more than one minute drain and continue as usual for pasta carbornara.

    2. Good sausages (this is where a good butcher comes in), browned in the pan while some vert du puy lentils cook. Bitter greens salad on the side.

    3. Ultimate quick, feed the child: Migas! Granted these are bastardized migas, but this is how I do it. Tear up fresh corn tortillas and cook them in a pan with a sprinkle of salt while you beat the eggs. Add a spoonful of salsa to the eggs if you have it. Pour the eggs over the tortilla pieces and scramble together til nearly cooked. This is now an opportunity to fold in complementary leftovers and extend them (roast chicken, bits of steak, some chopped chorizo, black beans). While this is cooking prep some fresh avocado, a bit of a salsa with what you have on hand, maybe a bit of cheese or even a drizzle of creme fraiche for the top. Tip the eggs out of the pan and top them off and enjoy. A very filling meal that easily extends what wouldn’t have been enough for one or two people.

  • Amanda Fisher

    For many years, my go-to pantry meal was red beans and rice with kielbasa, from Penzey’s. Assuming one has kielbasa, it’s quick and easy and makes a lot.

    However, then we started buying 10-15 pounds of varied meats from a grass-fed farm, and no more kielbasa. Woez!

    So at this point my easy meal is probably pasta with veg, and with chops or steaks along with it.

    Now, if I have a bit more time, I do casseroles like lasagna, enchiladas, moussaka, etc. These are great because they make roughly 8 servings.

  • Kim Foster

    Our staple is roast chicken – but served in a special way.

    It’s basically Keller’s simple roast chicken – bathed and rubbed down in olive oil and copious amounts of salt. It’s usually brined – thanks to you and Charcutepalooza – but occasionally not. Roasted at 485 for about an hour and 10 minutes. That usually makes a perfect chicken with my oven, without smoke.

    But here’s where it gets special – I make a really simple pan sauce with the juices. I just stick the roasting pan on the burner, add a big knob of butter, thyme, wine (sometimes), garlic, salt, simmer, and pour it all in a bowl. I break the chicken down into chunks – crispy skin and “the popes nose” for David and Edie, reserved chunks of breast for Lucy – set it on a wooden board with the bowl of sauce and bring it to the living room coffee table. No flatware, no plates, just a roll of paper towels to wipe our chins. We sit around the table, dipping chunks of chicken into the sauce and eating it, quite messily, with our fingers. It is chaotic and raucous affair, but the kids always gobble it up. Sometimes we add a salad for David and I, sometimes french fries dipped in sauce for the kids. Someone might grab the brown mustard out of the fridge door. But usually the chicken is just the thing. It’s its own thing. The main event. It needs nothing else.

    If you come to our house and ask the kids what they want to eat, this is what they’ll always want. if you make them roast chicken without the sauce, they won’t be happy. It will be like the world stopped spinning or something. They’ll ask you to go back in the kitchen and make them some sauce.

    It isn’t roast chicken without the sauce, without the fingers, without the mess. We have this dinner at least once a week, twice if we require a little more comfort.

    Hope that illuminates, Michael. 🙂


  • Brian Matheson

    My go to meal is chicken adobo on white rice. Marinated overnight in garlic, soy sauce and white vinegar, stewed in the marinade and water with some garlic and potato.

  • Georgia

    1. Staple meal for myself, assuming the husband and roommate aren’t home: caprese salad with fresh mozz, chopped Romas, and chiffonaded basil, with lots of roasted-garlic olive oil, flaked salt, black pepper…and shrimp simply boiled with tons of garlic and Old Bay. Serve with crusty bread.
    2. Staple meal for all of us: Chipotle-katsu chicken breasts. Chicken breasts pounded to even thickness, salt/pepper/cumin, painted with an even layer of chipotle mustard, rolled in panko crumbs, and sauteed in vegetable oil until nicely browned and crispy. Served with cilantro rice (add leftover cilantro stems to water before cooking rice) and a green salad with sesame-soy dressing. Twenty minutes, start to finish, and beating the chicken breasts flat is a GREAT way to work out some aggression after a bad day at work.


  1.  South Baltimore CrossFit » Thursday, Jan 12th: What’s your staple meal?