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

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

  • Sharon

    Gumbo!

    There’s nothing like the smell of a roux simmering on the stove to whip up your appetite! Throw in chopped onions, bell peppers, and garlic and that smell is amped way up, perfect for enticing the senses for the upcoming bounty. Gumbo is marvelous in its versatility: it can be made with any on-hand frozen stock (seafood, beef, chicken) and can include a single meat or many, each adding its own flavor to the mix. Served with rice, it is a meal unto itself. With crusty, fresh-baked bread — heaven!

  • JaySeeDub

    Being the single med student type, I don’t always have a lot of time to anything that takes more than a half hour. I’m sleepy a lot of times when I get home, ok? I do however, throw together something I grew up with regularly – rice, sardines and tomatoes. I’ll throw rice in a pot with water and salt and let that cook. Cut up some tomatoes and toss together with salt, vinegar (varies by what I feel like pulling out), olive oil and shredded basil. Once the rice is cooked, I’ll throw it on a plate with the tomato salad and open up a tin or jar of sardines. Sometimes I’ll also dice up a bell pepper.

  • Phill

    Sausage and onions.
    I get some sausage (haven’t made my own but its on the list of this year’s experiments) carmelize some onions nice and slow and toss them together, while the sausage finishes.
    I work at a bakery and get home around 3am so time is a big hurdle. Most nights I even carmelize the onions before I go to work and reheat them in pan with a table spoon of butter.
    The onions perfume the air and the promise of a cold beer, sausage and onions (with mushrooms when I can afford them) feeds the soul.

  • chris

    we often have pasta because the kids love it. Either with a quick sauce bolognese or with some shrimps. Fry ground meat (or shrimps cut into small pieces) with garlic and onions, then add 2 cans of tomatoes. Let simmer for 10-20 minutes, add some herbs and spices (i usually add frozen parsley – always available and a big time saver). while the sauce is simmering you can cook the spaghetti and you’re done.

  • RJ

    Gotta be an easy pureed soup.

    Leek & potato is our favorite (simmered in water, salt, pepper), butternut squash is a close #2 (microwave any hearty squash, then sautee with onion; add stock or water, season), & winter greens with caramelized onions and garlic is moving up the list (grown year-round in Ohio right up against the house in a cheap make-shift cold frame).

    All are super cheap, adaptable, vegan, and can be made with stuff in the cellar or picked from the garden. They’re also impressive enough to use for entertaining.

  • John K.

    Best staple weekday meal? In my house, it’s know as — LOTs! (Left Over Tacos)
    Weekends are when I do most of my cooking. Busy jobs, kids’ homework – all require a bit of preplanning for weekday meals. When the weather cooperates (another challenge here in north east Ohio), I use my smoker on the weekend, and stockpile low and slow cooked meats for the week. Which brings me to “LOTs” – one of my families favorites. Here’s a recent version:
    • Left over pulled pork
    • Flour tortillas
    • Salsa (quick, homemade when tomatoes are in season)
    • Guacamole – really just some quickly chunked/mashed avocado with a few other ingredients
    • Shredded cheddar
    • Cilantro (fresh!)
    • Black beans (another dish cooked in advance in large quantities, and stored for later use

    Easy to prep and heat everything on a weekday evening. Family time spent assembling soft tacos from dishes of “fixens” spread out on the table. Versatile – we’ve done this with the left over pulled pork, smoked and pulled chuck roast (or leftover pot roast), smoked brisket, and smoked or roasted chicken.

    So that’s our families favorite weekday stable meal – preplanned leftover tacos – “LOTs!”

  • shaun

    Since I’m usually just cooking for one…gotta go with chicken breasts (salt, fresh cracked pepper, garlic, and thyme–quick saute in a pan with some olive oil) and roasted baby Yukon potatoes (roasted at 425 with lots of fresh cracked pepper, several cloves of garlic, and some rosemary and olive oil)–hit the suds with salt when they leave the oven and a good time is had by all. It’s a twenty-five minute meal from start to finish!

  • Myron

    Pasta! I love to take grape tomatoes with some garlic and olive oil, broil it all and toss with whatever pasta I have around (spaghetti most of the time). It’s super easy, packs a bunch of flavour and is almost unbelievably satisfying.

  • scott

    I salt and pepper chicken thighs (bone in and skin on) and rub them with a little olive oil. I put them in the oven at 400 for 45 minutes to an hour. When they come out, the skin is like chicken bacon it’s so crisp. While they’re in the oven, I make a pot of rice pilaf and either a salad or whatever vegetable is in the fridge.

    • sheiladeedee

      I do this too, in big batches, and carefully deglaze the pan and save the juices, which turn into chicken jelly when refrigerated; that half cup or so of wonderfulness is just right for giving added flavor to rice, pasta, or whatever…

  • Mary

    Wraps filled with leftover meat/chicken/bacon and lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream.

    Or I will make rice in the ricemaker and you put on it what you can find in the fridge. Last week we had royal blend rice with leftover chicken, corn, black beans. Grated some cheese on top, served with salsa, sour cream, olives.

  • Josie

    I always have the wherewithal to rustle up Spagetti Carbonara for my husband and I, usually on a Monday night since here in Paris most fresh markets are closed that day: some dried pasta, a bit of pancetta (or bacon, in a pinch), a slug of white wine or Marsala, a good grating parmesan, an egg or two and some freshly ground pepper.
    Otherwise, if I have a ripe avocado handy, it’s an avocado, cut in half, pit removed, a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar dribbled into each cavity, then seasoned with salt and pepper, followed by some kind of omelet and a green salad.

  • scott

    Cut a couple of potatoes into wedges, cut an onion or two into wedges, if you have a red or green pepper cut it into large pieces. Toss them all with olive oil and a clove or two of garlic, and whatever herbs you like/have. Put them on a roasting pan and into the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. Then add a couple of Italian sausages (we use a locally made “Sicilian” sausage that comes in a coil), and roast for another half hour.

    Pop open a couple of beers while it’s cooking and a couple more when it’s done.

  • Tyler

    Right now, it’s soup. Usually pureed soups of sweet potatoes, carrots, or soup from leftover chicken is a weekly appearance for us, usually paired with some garlic toast.

    During warmer months, we grill almost nightly, which means using various meat cuts from our CSA, paired with grilled green beans or asparagus. My summer lunch staple, usually daily is tomato and mayo sandwiches. So good.

  • Marc Barringer

    Love this thread! Something like three weeks of meal ideas lifted!

    Mine is pot roast, usually done in the slow cooker. With Scouts, sports, church and everything else, meals that can be ready when people pass though is great. It hits the big three rules of busy night dinners:

    1: Prep is limited and can be done night before.
    2: Kids can do steps when they get home from school.
    3: Can be left alone and people can eat when they pass through.

    Prep:
    >Thaw (if necessary) and brown up chuck roasts.(Usually takes two to feed everyone and have leftovers.)
    >Add the slow cooker with liquid (wine, Guinness, coffee)
    >Add onions, crushed garlic, salt, pepper and what ever else strikes your fancy.

    Make it a Meal:
    Add veggies and/or potatoes when kids get home.
    Or make noodles, rice, couscous or whatever.
    Make a salad
    If time, use the bread machine to make rolls. (Though last time we did this, my 15year old hauled out the KitchenAid and was going old school).

    Leftovers end up as lunches and soup.

  • Josh Baugher

    David Chang’s ginger-scallion sauce, noodles, roasted cauliflower with quick pickles.

  • Chad

    Spanish tortilla – cook a couple diced potatoes slowly in a lot of olive oil in a small skillet. Drain and stir in to 3 beaten eggs in a bowl. Saute some onions, spanish chorizo if I’ve got it, frozen peas or whatever is in the fridge. Stir this in with the eggs and potatoes and let sit for a few minutes so the heat from the veggies and potatoes sets the eggs slightly. Heat a little of the left over olive oil almost to smoking in the same skillet. Throw the whole mixture in the skillet and cook til golden on both sides flipping a couple of times. Perfect quick dinner for two.

  • Dan

    Shakshuka!

    It’s so versatile–as long as you have some onions, garlic, a can of tomatoes and some eggs, you can really throw anything at it. The most standard version, and the one I make the most, has diced jalapeno peppers in it.

    It’s simple–saute the onions and jalapenos, then season however you like and add in the garlic. Then, pour the entire can of tomatoes into the skillet (crushing the tomatoes if they aren’t yet) and after it’s simmered for a while, crack as many eggs as you’d like into the tomato, essentially poaching them in the sauce. If you want, top with some cheese, and then grab some pita and have at it. Cheap and easy. And delicious.

  • Jacob

    Hoisin Porkchops with Rice.

    First, two cups of rice in cooker, followed by searing two boneless porkchops over high heat. Then we take the porkchops off, let them rest for a bit, then slice them and let them sit in a bowl with hoisin, sherry vinegar, honey, and sriracha. When the rice is done, everything goes back into the pan to reduce a bit, then the pork and sauce is served over the rice in a bowl. It’s a great meal to do on autopilot, and it’s sooo good.

  • Mark

    It’s porkchops for me, they are cheap and easy and tasty. I rub thin boneless chops with a crushed clove of garlic clove and season with salt and pepper. Then I dredge them in flour and pan fry over high heat in olive oil and butter. I usually have them with a baked potato or maybe a quick salad.

  • Laura @MotherWouldKnow

    Pasta and roasted vegetables with salad is our staple these days. when my kids were young, we had pasta almost every night – often with a steamed vegetable on the side, sometimes with sauce, other times with plain grated cheese, always with a salad or cut up raw veggies. When we no longer had kids at home, I began messing around with roasted vegetables. One day, I paired cut up roasted vegetables with fusilli, added a salad and our new favorite staple meal was born. No need for sauce – just the oil from roasting, salt, pepper, and a bit of good grated cheese. I use all kinds of vegetables. Cut into medium sized pieces, they take less than 1/2 hour at 450 degrees or so. Roasted onions and whole cloves of garlic are amazing when mashed up. The meal is easy to throw together and there are infinite variations, depending on the vegetables available. After experimenting with your fantastic roasted cauliflower, I started adding cauliflower to my roasted vegetable repertoire. It’s a great weeknight dinner because you can cut the vegetables and prepare the salad the night before. Arriving home in the evening, the vegetables roast and the pasta boils while you change clothes and set the table. Sit down to this meal with a good glass of wine and some nice music or good conversation – you’ll hardly remember the rough spots in your day!

  • Kate E.

    When the weather turns cold, as it finally did this week in NYC, I think of split pea soup. I can make it while my 2-year old colors at the kitchen table–simply chopping an onion, a couple of carrots and celery stalks and a few garlic cloves, and after a nice saute in olive oil (with a generous shake of smoked paprika and curry powder), I toss my dried peas, ham hock and broth/water into the pot with a handful of fresh herbs. Dinner on the stove in under 20 minutes, and an hour to play with the kiddo as it bubbles away.

    (and the leftovers are better the following day)

  • reball

    - Marcella Hazen’s San marzano tomatoe sauce w/pasta
    - Mapo tofu
    - Omelet w/whatever’s in the fridge
    - Chicken thighs (or legs) w/cut up potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions (veggies can vary) olives tossed in olive oil and baked on high heat in a cast iron pan

  • Sarah G.

    When I first started cooking, I picked up this recipe from the new Joy of Cooking book and I still use it as one of my go-to’s: take chicken breasts, pounds them out to an even consistency, season them with salt/pepper, lightly dredge them in flour, saute them in 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons olive oil for approximately 4 minutes each side. Easy, quick and tasty.

  • Caroline

    I always have corn tortillas, so my quick go-to meal is tacos. Sometimes I use beans, but more often it’s with whatever vegetables are hanging around. It’s a great vegetarian/vegan meal (although I am neither). I’ll either prepare the veggies fajita style (sautee with sliced onion, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika) or in the manner of refried beans (sautee with diced red onion and jalapeno, mash with a little bit of water, and stir in some cheese). A scoop of veggie mixture goes into each warm tortilla and is topped with any of the following, depending on what I have on hand: cilantro, sliced radish, cabbage, lettuce, tomato, avocado, salsa. I recently made some delicious butternut squash tacos using the refried bean method.

  • Naomi

    Our usual go-to weeknight meal, and one we eat almost once a week is just a plain chicken soup. We are both dark meat eaters, but prefer buying whole chickens (for the stock of course!), so there are almost always chicken breasts in the freezer. Diced chicken simmered in stock with whatever veggies we happen to have on hand. We add dried noodles, rice, or if we are feeling slightly more ambitious, we whip up a batch of korean hand torn noodles (from maangchi’s sujebi recipe), which are quick and easy to throw together, and make for a particularly hearty soup.

  • Erik

    Salmon filets, gently poached in a bit of olive oil seasoned with a garlic clove and peppercorns, in a low 200ish oven. Sauteed veg on the side… brussles sprouts have been the veg-du-jour recently.

  • Jameson

    I’d have to go with some grilled chicken breasts. They are my go-to staple. Season them up with a little bit of salt and pepper and maybe some olive oil and go to town with a topping. Usually, I can clean out my crisper by making a fresh salsa, with some tomatoes, peppers, onion and cilantro (which are always in the house). Other times when I’m feeling the need for some comfort food throw some goat cheese, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes on there and you’re in heaven.

  • Judie B.

    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.

  • Ryan Baughman

    Our staple meals at home are either pasta tossed with olive oil and whatever vegetables or leftovers we have on hand – tomatoes, bell peppers, chicken, shrimp, spinach, mushrooms, etc. – or roasted chicken with lemon and roasted potatoes with whole cloves of garlic. To me, there is nothing better than that soft, buttery, sweet roasted garlic.

  • Krista

    At least once a week we braise garlic, chickpeas, and kale and mix it with pasta and a squeeze of lemon. This is one of my easiest winter meals.

  • silvia

    I’m italian, I live in milan. for us (two adults and a kid) spaghetti tomato, basil and ricotta and then catalogna with oil and garlic.

  • Chris McMath

    Linguini or Spaghetti Carbonara
    I started making this regularly during my pediatric residency. I would get home after being on call all night and would want something breafasty but also closer to lunchtime. It may have orignally been a Mario Batali recipe and also from research online. Later, when I made it for my wife, I added peas and mushrooms, which makes it more substantial. I ususually have bacon in portions in the freezer for this purpose and ocassionally find good pancetta which makes it even better.
    I just boil the pasta in well salted water and while I am waiting, chop the bacon or pancetta finely, saute with a few cloves of crushed garlic and pepper.add mushrooms after the bacon is crisp. I usually do the peas in the microwave since I always have frozen peas on hand. I toss the peas in the pan at the end. The add the bacon mix to the hot pasta and toss with beaten eggs and good parmagiano-regianno in a bowl or off heat. , add salt if needed and lots of fresh ground pepper. very authentic and quick. I hate when restaurants make carbonara with a cream sauce, more like an alfredo. Itis all about the bacon and the cheese. cant use cheese from the green can.

  • Nishi

    Pretty much every Friday (we do our shopping on Saturday) is Clean-Out-the-Fridge Stirfry (“COFS”?). A quick chop of any leftover veggies and examination of cooked leftovers to see if they make the cut (usually this is how I use up the leftover chicken I roasted earlier in the week). Then putting my nonstick wok on high heat with a little coconut oil. Dumping in ingredients in order of cooking time (longest to shortest). As they cook, I stir up a sauce of fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and a spoon of sugar and separately beat an egg (or up to 4 depending on whether there is other protein). After all my veggies are in (and have had time to sit idly so as to develop a mild char), I make a well in the center and toss in the egg(s), letting them sizzle for a few seconds before folding the veggies over them (so the egg doesn’t coat the veggies but instead there are discernable eggy bits). Then as soon as the egg is mostly cooked (no more shiny liquid), I make a well again and put in the sauce. The sugar bubbles and caramelizes (making the nonstick part of the wok especially useful) and I again fold my other ingredients from the sides of the wok through the sauce (pouring the sauce over top the ingredients waters it down and inhibits the caramelization), moving quickly to prevent a burning situation on the bottom. As soon as the sauce is well dispersed, it’s time to eat!

  • Matt Day

    Tempeh tacos–we’re not vegetarians, but generally eat meat-free most of the week.
    I like to start with half of a big onion, sliced, caramelized (the other half is for raw onion taco stuffings), then add a bunch more oil (tempeh really seems to absorb it) and break up the tempeh into the same pan and put some minced garlic in at the same time and season with salt (kosher/ing). Once it’s where you want it to be (warmed and a little browned), add the taco seasoning: usually I do a LOT of cumin, some cayenne, oregano, turmeric, coriander, smoked paprika, and salt. So add the seasoning and some water and mix it up and let it all come together. Sometimes we mix it with rice, sometimes not. Use the shells of your choice, and have the regular fixins ready—lately I’ve been salting the chopped tomatoes and microplaning (that’s a verb, right?) a clove of garlic into them a good 10 mins before serving. It’s amazing. Black beans are good mixed into the “meat” too. The secret to tempeh is the oil I mentioned.

  • Jennifer

    Teriyaki grilled chicken breasts, brown rice and stir fried broccoli. Brine chicken breasts for 30 minutes. Get rice going in rice cooker (I soak it for 15 minutes before turning it on – 2 to 1 ratio water to rice). Turn on grill to preheat. Cut up broccoli florets and stems. Rinse and dry chicken. Throw on grill. Turn in 5 minutes and douse with good teriyaki sauce (I sometimes make my own, but often just go with Soy Vay). Chicken is done in 10 minutes. Tent with foil. Stir fry broccoli in hot skillet with canola (or olive) and a touch of toasted sesame oil. Add onions and red bell peppers if I’m in the mood and/or they need to be used up. Sprinkle with mix of salt/pepper/garlic. Throw on a few sesame seeds at the end. Somehow, this is just the best comfort meal in our house. Healthy. Filling. And done in less than an hour, with 1/2 of that time unattended brining.

  • Matt

    We eat pork shoulder almost every week. It’s inexpensive, easy to cook, and normally makes for two nights worth of meals.

    My method of preparation for the shoulder is pretty simple. I season the meat, and roast it. I like to roast it in a large pot or dutch oven (lid on) with a steamer basket inserted and an inch of water or so in the bottom. 250-300 degrees is fine and time varies depending on the size of the meat.

    Our most common use of the pork is for tacos or burritos. The key to awesome tacos is the tortillas; you have to make them yourself. There’s no real secret to making great tortillas. The ingredients are flour, lard, salt, a pinch of baking powder and water. Consult the internet or local Mexican friend for further advice.

    For the meat, I pull apart some of the pork shoulder, season it with some expected spices (coriander, cumin, dried chilies etc) and crisp it up in a little pork fat. Then slam it on a tortilla with some lettuce or cabbage, avocado, and chipotle mayo (canned chipotles, mayo, sour cream, lime juice, cilantro).

    The second night I like to make a rendition on a sichuan double cooked pork recipe. The leftover pork is sliced thick and pan fried in oil until it’s crispy, then tossed in a sauce of fermented black bean paste, chili paste, garlic, ginger, and soy. I like it with stir fried cabbage and white rice (and maybe some fried egg on top).

  • Liz S

    Frittata. Always my go-to when time and energy are lacking. Potatoes, onions, cooked in my cast iron skillet with whatever vegetables and/or meat are in the fridge (I love chard and bacon). Add 4-5 eggs, cook until set on the bottom, top with cheese and finish under the broiler. With a salad, it’s what’s for dinner about once a week.

  • ATN654

    Our go-to meal is spaghetti with Patricia Wells’ Light Basil Sauce which is a pesto made without the nuts or the cheese. This dish takes about 10 minutes to make, provided the sauce has been prepared ahead of time and frozen in small portions. I start with a pot of water on the stove. Take out the basil sauce/pesto and put it on the stovetop, next to the heating water so that it thaws by the time the pasta is cooked. While the pasta cooks, I take a large bowl and whisk together 2 egg yolks, ~1 cup of fresh Parm Reg (grated on a microplane) and ~1/4 cup of thawed basil sauce. Save some pasta water. Drain the cooked pasta briefly, add to the mixing bowl, and toss gently and thoroughly. Add more salt or pasta water, if needed. Serve immediately with a side of steamed veggies and some bread.

    It’s a delicious quick meal that is almost decadent as it is simple.

  • Lessa

    Spaghetti a la Lessa

    A staple dish in 3 generations of my family. Over time, each of us put our stamp on it. Mom took out the canned mushrooms, I took out the jar of ragu….

    Butter and grapeseed oil in a sauce pan over medium heat
    Saute 1-3 onions sliced
    Add 4 stalks of fine chopped celery and cook until you have amber color edges
    Add minced fresh garlic ( I use two pods per person if I am sharing, half a large head if not)
    When garlic smell dominates, add red wine and stir (about a 1/2 cup)
    Scrape the bottom of pan and stir until all the crispy bits come up.
    Pour in your favourite brand of canned 1/4′d tomatoes x2
    Add 2 cans of tomato sauce. I use 16 oz cans of each.
    Add dried or fresh herbs here
    I use oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder if needed.
    Cook over low heat while water boils.
    Cook noodles in salted water ( about a tbs)
    Pour sauce over noodles. Top with your favourite cheese. ( I looooove
    asiago)

    Should take appr. 30 mins.

    Go! Cook!

  • Againstthegrain

    We are a small family (2 adults and a 13 yo). My kitchen is gluten-free and fairly “paleo-ish with grass-fed dairy”. My husband and I also eat fairly low carb. I avoid using many packaged factory foods, though I do use create my own conveniences – like storing partially cooked chopped bacon, chopped onions, peeled whole garlic cloves, diced celery, etc., in the freezer in zip bags. I find this strategy very useful & economical when I’m pressed for time, when I just need a small amount, and when I have more of something than I can use before it spoils.

    Most weeks I make a large “clean-out-the-fridge” frittata, usually on Monday night, because a) Mondays are often hectic days and I sometimes don’t have pre-dinner prep time earlier in the day, b) Monday is the day I pick up the local “backyard” eggs, and c) using up meat & veg leftovers creates fridge space for our CSA produce box, which arrives on Tuesday. Because the CSA contents change with the seasons, the frittata changes, too, never becoming boring. Additionally, a frittata is an economical way to provide the family with a nourishing off-the-cuff meal everyone likes (or at least tolerates) and once the basic concept is learned, is nearly as fast to get on the table as a roundtrip for take-out. I also like to make frittata on nights when I know that we aren’t all eating at the same time, as it’s as delicious hot out of the oven as it is just slightly warm or even cold. Slices reheat easily for latecomers, too.

    Preheat the oven to 350°F, then start cooking chopped onions & garlic in ghee or bacon fat in an oven-safe fry pan (cast iron or carbon steel). Whatever veggies I’m using are quickly chopped into small pcs and either added to the onions while they cook (such as cooked veggies or potatoes, leftover meat), steamed al dente if necessary, or just washed, trimmed & cut (greens) – it depends on if they are really dense, already cooked leftovers, etc.). While the pan ingredients continue to cook or heat up, I break 8-12 eggs into a bowl or blender pitcher, add half & half or heavy cream, whatever spices & dried herbs I’m using, then whisk or blend to mix. If using grated cheese, that is stirred into the egg mixture (reserving 1/2 cup) after blending, as well as chopped parsley if I have it. When the filling ingredients are cooked enough and hot I pour them into the egg mixture (scraping the pan well to remove any stuck bits) and gently stir everything together. If the pan is not full of stuck bits I use that again or start with a clean pan, but I make sure the pan is hot enough for just a little sizzle sound (medium-ish heat setting) and there is ample hot fat (ghee, butter, or bacon drippings) in it. Pour in the egg mixture and let it cook undisturbed a minute. Using a silicone scraper spatula, start out cooking like for scrambled eggs, lifting & pushing cooked egg up and to the center to let the liquid flow to the pan bottom & edges, but not trying to break the eggs too much into little curds. When it’s about half cooked and partially solid but still very wet, I turn the heat off, pat the eggs into a single uniform pie shape, top with the reserved grated cheese, and put into the pre-heated oven. I set the timer for 10 minutes. Often that’s just the right amount of baking time, but sometimes it needs 5-10 minutes more (but partially cooking on the stovetop greatly reduces the baking time overall). I check every 5 minutes. The frittata is ready when it puffs up all the way to the the center of the pan (not just the perimeter) and the top is starting to turn golden (it quickly deflates when removed from the oven). If the cheese on the op isn’t quite melted and bubbly enough, a minute or two with the broiler setting takes care of that. After removing the pan from the oven (be sure to wrap a thick towel or place a handle cover over the hot handle – ask me how I know), let the frittata sit while rinsing & spinning the salad or tending to other things (a glass of wine & checking email?). Resting a few minutes allows the frittata to steam in the pan a little, making the crustless egg mixture less likely to stick to the pan bottom when cutting slices, though the first slice sometimes isn’t as cleanly cut as the rest ;-). Use a sharp knife to cut and a thin spatula to remove the slices.

    Usually there is a serving or two of frittata left over, taking care of breakfast or lunch for one of us the next day. Typically I put out creme fraiche to top the frittata (a dab of fish roe is really nice if I have any). I serve the frittata with a tossed leaf lettuce salad and sometimes a pot of quick pureed cream-of-vegetable soup or a simple steamed and buttered vegetable or chopped greens side dish.

    My basic “clean-out-the-fridge” soup pattern is similar to the frittata (sometimesI start with one pan and then divide for soup and frittata); saute onions & garlic in ghee, whatever CSA greens or other veggies need consuming are prepped and added with homemade chicken bone broth (dry white wine & water if I’m out of broth); puree in the pot with the stick blender when veggies are soft enough (or in a Vitamix blender if I want it really smooth); add anywhere from 1/4 cup to a pint or so of heavy cream, SS & BP to taste; bring back up to temperature, garnish with some creme fraiche or grated cheese & chopped parsley).

    againstthegrain at me dot com

  • Bill

    I make a
    Greek Roast Chicken from a receipe I found in Savour Magazine. Oven preheat to 425, salt and pepper leg quarters, dredge in flour. Brown in oven safe skillet add alittle wine some rosemary, sage or thyme, boild down and throw in over covered for 45 min. Add some couscous and a salad, tada, dinner. Good enough to have once a week with a good spice rotation..

  • Jenn

    In an effort to keep a lean food budget I only cook full meals twice a week on Thursday and Sunday. Mondays are reserved for left overs, Tuesdays we have breakfast for dinner, Wednesday is either soup or soba noodles.

    But my go to dinner which my son adores are breakfast burritos that can be whipped up in a matter of minutes while I’m make his lunch for the next day. A simple mix of sausage, cubed potatoes (sprinkled with Tony’s seasoning is a must), scrambled eggs, onion, roasted green chile (which I carry tons back to Chicago everytime I go home to New Mexico) topped with salsa and cheese. Very filling and cheap and a definite taste of home that can be enjoyed every week forever.

  • Michael Muscarella

    Chickpeas, garlic olive oil salt in their own cooking broth. Serve with a nice loaf of bread and a salad. The kids love it. Even had it for lunch today.

  • Janice

    In my efforts to expand my repertoire of whole grains, I usually make some version of a grain salad utilizing whatever leftovers I may have. One week may be wheatberries with leftover roast chicken, some roasted cauliflower, rosemary, dried cranberries, and a mustardy vinaigrettte. Another week may be quinoa with shrimp, scallion, pepper, cilantro, etc.

  • Kris

    Depending on the day, we either forage in the freezer for something (currently, I’ve got homemade burritos, lasagna, ratatouille, roast pork and a variety of soups in single-serving sizes plus several quarts of soup), make clear-out-the-fridge soup (most recently: leftover cooked sausage, a bit of marinara, the rest of a quart of chicken stock, red beans and some almost-past-its-prime baby spinach), or some sort of quick pasta – usually with lots of fresh herbs in the summer, or with lemon and garlic in the winter.

  • Carol

    Shrimp and Grits – and depending what I have in the refrigerator depends on style – Andouille Sausage and a fried Egg on top for Cajun, Diced Jalapeno and Chorizo for Mexican, Bacon and Cheese for Low Country style. Grits are always cooked with chicken stock. Its the ulimate comfort food…winter or summer!

  • Stefan

    Usually something Vietnamese – shaking beef if there’s beef to work work, over rice or greens, or clay pot caramelized catfish or shrimp if there’s seafood in the fridge. They all come together in like 20 minutes but have nice, complex flavors from the oyster sauce, lime juice, and fish sauce, and taste like they take a lot longer. Especially with the rice maker to handle the rice portion of the meal, it’s all very convenient.

    Roast chicken would be another staple, followed up by enchiladas with the leftover chicken the next night.

  • Jennifer Hess

    Fusilli with tuna, tomato and capers. It’s built on a foundation of pantry staples we always have on hand – good quality canned tuna (we like Wild Planet or American Line Caught), gently crushed canned plum tomatoes (our own or good store-bought ones) and dry pasta – and I like to add nonpareil capers, a hit of red chile flakes, and fresh lemon juice and zest to perk things up a bit. The sauce is ready in the time it takes the pasta to cook, and it’s hearty without being heavy.

  • Nicole

    I broil some frozen scallops with salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and copious amounts of fresh spinach. Toss with pasta. Delicious!

  • james

    I would say my best staple meal is pretty simple.. Spaghetti Carbonara. I always have a supply of my homemade pancetta or guanciale around ( wonder what book i used to learn those) and have farm eggs from my friend. So if its been a long day or I forget to stop by the store.. Its carbonara time. A tiny bit of diced onion or shallot sweated with the pancetta. Then a splash of wine, a bit of stock. Cook the pasta toss then add the yolks and some Parm. Boom dinner is on. So easy, but with the good ingredients it makes it sublime

  • karen downie makley

    Every Monday is soup night. I have a long day on Monday and mustering up more energy to cook after already having cooked all day (I am a personal chef) is nearly impossible. So every Sunday, I pull some bones out of the freezer. I just use whatever happens to be left over from a roast we had some other night during the previous week…sometimes the bones are chicken, sometimes turkey or pheasant, sometimes beef, and even ham every once in a while, it matters little to me. I just throw the bones into a stock pot with water and turn on the gas. When that has simmered a while, I add vegetables, sometimes sauteed, sometimes not. I often like to put wild rice into my soups. For my at-home soups, I never have follow a recipe so every soup is a little different, but they are all healthful and flavorful and they ensure that not much goes to waste in my kitchen. Even my non-foodie husband now turns his nose up at canned soup. Canned goods can’t even come close to the weakest from-scratch improvisation! It is so nice to come home from a long Monday and know that my dinner is already prepared…and it really takes minimal effort the day before. I just re-warm the soup and serve with a salad or some crusty bread and it’s a totally satisfying meal for those nights I would have otherwise been tempted to make bad, or unnecessarily expensive, food choices.

    Oh, and the holiday go-to?? Anytime there is an opportunity for me to make a lamb shank osso buco, I am all over that!!

  • Brian

    The other day I found myself in need of throwing together something quick and easy. I almost always have arugula and some sort of other fresh veggies in the fridge which can quickly be thrown together into a salad. This week’s included arugula, breakfast radishes, yellow carrots, peat sprouts, feta, and some cherry tomatoes. Dressed it with a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, sherry vinegar, dijon, maple syrup, and some olive tapenade.

    I then boiled some whole wheat penne, and whilst hot tossed it with some more of the feta, a drizzle of olive oil, olive tapenade, and some minced sun-dried tomatoes. Super quick and easy, and vegetarian too.

  • Tucker Keene

    Good Spaghetti and high quality tomato sauce is my “I don’t feel like cooking” staple.

  • JW

    Chana masala, or atleast a bastardized version. Saute an onion with some garlic and when soft add a myriad of “Indian-like” spices. (Whatever is on hand…smoked paprika, garam masala, cardamom, tumeric, cumim, ginger and cinnamon). Add a can of roasted tomato, bring to simmer then puree with stick blender. Add a can of drained and rinsed chick peas and a diced potato if you like. Add about a can of water and simmer for about an hour adding more water periodically if the mixture gets too thick. The finished product will be a thick curry. Serve over jasmine rice and garnish with chopped chili and cilantro.

  • Chris

    Much to my Korean parents’ delight, my Hoosier husband hailing from southern Indiana asks for kimchi every week.

    First thing I do is start some brown rice (or whatever variety I have on hand) in the Zojirushi. The refrigerator always has several containers of kimchi fermenting at various degrees of pungency. I take the ripest batch, and start on one of the following:
    – Kimchi jjigae (stew)
    – Kimchi pancakes
    – Kimchi fried rice + bacon
    – Kimchi soup with soybean sprouts
    – Fresh tofu with stirfried kimchi and pork belly
    – Kimchi dumplings
    – Soybean stew with kimchi and pork neck
    – Kimchi and soba noodles

    I could go on and on. Kimchi dish is done by the time the rice is done. Oh yes, and serve with (not as stanky) kimchi!

  • MN

    Crepes- because anything can go in them, and yet they still seem fancy!
    We start with the crepe recipe from the NY Times cookbook, although lately, we’re using half buckwheat flour instead of just white. I will also blend in whatever herbs look good in the garden, so the crepes are green and aromatic.
    For filling, we just mix up something from the fridge- it’s a great use for leftover roast chicken, or even rotisserie chicken from the store, all shredded up. We also usually include shallots, spinach, and sundried tomatoes, and perhaps a bit of cream or soft cheese. The filling can stay warm in a pan while I cook the crepes, and dinner’s ready in 20 minutes or so. We do this probably three times a month!

  • Joe

    Aside from providing me with you and Bourdain doing Hunter Thompson schtick, No Reservations gave me something eminently useful; the proper way to roast a chicken. It’s now become my go-to weeknight meal along with some roast vegetables and garlic.

    -1 roasting chicken 4-6lb usually
    -1lb small red potatoes
    -3 sweet onions
    -2 bulbs garlic
    -1 bunch rosemary
    -1 bunch thyme
    -1/4 stick of butter
    -salt
    -pepper

    I use an oversized roasting pan intended for a turkey so dinner is a one-pan wonder and the vegetables get to soak in all the goodness that renders out of the chicken while it cooks.

    Potatoes get washed/scrubbed, halved, and placed cut-side down around the sides/edges of the pan. Onions get cut into 1/6th wedges and spread around. Garlic gets peeled (Or I just buy pre-peeled at the asian market if I don’t want to fuck with peeling 2 whole bulbs) and cloves scattered around on top of the rest of the vegetables.

    Bird basically gets the treatment TK showed on the No Reservations special. Wishbone & giblets removed, salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of both rosemary and thyme go into the body cavity (Exercise for the reader: Make your favorite anal fisting joke here) I generally do not truss the bird, just stuff it, toss it in the pan. I’ll pluck another 1-2 sprigs each of the aromats, and scatter that along with a generous dusting of salt and pepper over the entire contents of the pan. Divide the butter into about 6 pats and spread them evenly over the vegetables, then throw the whole thing into a 400 degree oven for about an hour to an hour and a quarter cooking time.

    Once it’s done cooking I quarter the carcass, load up a plate with some bird, some vegetables, and a hunk of crusty bread to mop the plate with. For extra bonus points, grab some bay leaves, carrots, more salt, and celery, chuck them into a stock pot along with the remains of the carcass. Let it simmer for a few hours, and you’ll have yourself a good gallon or so of what my friends have described as “fucking gangster” chicken stock that you can chuck into a tupperware and freeze till you need it.

  • Julie

    In our home, pasta carbonara is the typical staple. If we’re both tired after a long day at work, have no dinner planned, and don’t want to go out, you can guarantee within five seconds of wondering “what’s for dinner?” I’ll be dicing thick pancetta and setting up a pot of water to boil. It’s not as hands-off as roasting a chicken with veggies (which I always mean to do more often!) but after about fifteen minutes, dinner is served. I love the process of sauteeing garlic in the pork fat, then tossing in the pasta, eggs, and cheese. I just might have to do it when I get home…

  • Bob Brooks

    I make a Ligurian-style seafood stew. I use Swai filets, which are incredibly clean tasting and hold up well in a stew. The sauce is tomato based and I add cauliflower, zucchini and either chickpeas or Israeli couscous to make it a complete meal.

  • Devlyn

    My most basic staple meal is curry… most often, it’s Thai-style curry with white rice (takes much less time to cook in my rice cooker than brown), or if we need food within 15 minutes, with rice noodles. I usually have a bag of frozen shrimp or other seafood in the freezer, and tons of coconut milk in the pantry. There are always a few kinds of curry paste in the fridge (typically Mae Ploy brand — green, yellow, 3 kinds of red, whatever else sounds lovely), and all I have to do is simmer the coconut milk with the curry and add whatever veggies I have on hand, then add the seafood just before the veggies are done. It’s simple, tasty, can be vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or whatever we need for the night. I like making it with seafood as it tends to cook a lot faster than chicken or other meat. When I make it for friends, they’re always amazed, but I’m even more amazed that they don’t know about the simplicity of making food with a bit of simmer sauce. ^.^

  • Tony

    It’s winter, so I do pressure cooked roast beef with steamed veggies (whatever is in the refrigerator). 45minutes and it’s dinner time.

    Then that meal always leads to the next day’s staple meal of SoS. Cut up the rest of the roast beef, leftover veggies, instant rice or toast and make a quick poor man’s gravy and have it ready to eat in 15minutes.

  • Ryan Fiore

    My staple meal isn’t exactly for me to save time cooking that day, but for other days with the left overs. I make my pasta sauce that is a combination of my italian Dad’s and my italian Step Dad’s as well as any changes that I’ve made (including cooking it in my Le Creuset pot for 6 hours). The benefit of it is that it ends up making a whole lot of pasta sauce that only takes 20 minutes to heat up and always tastes better as left overs.

  • Lawrence Bliss

    Our staple meal is enchiladas, made from whatever happens to be in the refrigerator. It might be two chicken thighs diced up, or a random sausage cut into cubes, or leftover meatloaf or even shepherd’s pie. Make rice. Then add a healthy scoop of the rice to a healthy scoop of the whatever-meat-you’ve-got, and perhaps some diced chilies. Roll in a tortilla and set in a baking dish. Repeat seven more times. Pour spicy, smokey enchilada sauce over the whole thing, and then top with grated asiago, jack, and/or cheddar cheese. Pop in the oven until the cheese melts and the sauce bubbles. Quick, yummy, and it helps clean out the refrigerator!

  • Martin

    At least one day in week I love to enjoy meatless , tasty food , packed with lot of good carbohydrates .

    Rolled oat cakes with sweet sour eggplant salad

    Oat cakes:

    625 ml whole milk
    375 gr rolled oats
    1 tsp currypaste

    150 gr creme fraiche
    2 whole eggs , large
    salt to taste
    1 tbsp dijon mustard
    panko crumbs for coating

    Bring milk to a boil , add some salt and currypaste , stir in rolled oats , reduce heat , stirring constantly for 2 minutes . Remove from heat .
    Let the oats rest for 5 minutes , work in the creme fraîche , eggs and mustard , adjust seasoning .
    Mold cakes , coat with crumbs and pan fry on both sides in clarified butter .

    Eggplant salad , sweet sour:

    2 – 3 medium sized eggplants , cut into 0.5 inch cubes

    2 tbsp brown sugar
    white balsamico vinegar

    scallions , minced
    garlic , finely chopped
    celery , cut into slices

    capers
    peeled and deseeded tomatos , cut into 0.5 inch cubes
    black olives
    pine nuts , unroasted

    lemon juice
    salt

    fry eggplant cubes , pat dry on paper towel . Caramelize sugar , add scallions , celery and garlic and deglaze with vinegar immediately . Add all other ingredients , adjust seasoning and enjoy .

  • Volition

    Asian Crispy Puffed Fried Eggs with Asparagus and Steamed Rice

    Heat your Sunflower oil in a pan to 190-200 degrees C (Australian Degrees) probably 3cm deep once again they are Aussie Depths)
    Crack your eggs into a cup usually 2 per person

    Oh yes Make your rice for everybody. at the same time.

    Prepare a Dripping sauce. Lime Juice preferable maybe Lemon, Fish Sauce, Palm sugar dissolved, Hoi Sin Sauce salt and pepper all to taste. Finely sliced Chili. All in a bowl

    Fry up your asparagus in another fry pan. Drop your eggs into the oil for about 45 seconds to a minute. It’ll puff up Spit out and be wonderfully crispy. Dig it out onto paper towel.

    To serve In a bowl, Place your steamed rice. Asparagus Standing Up ready to be dipped into Yolks along side of bowl. Eggs on rice Pour over Dripping sauce and sprinle on some Spring Onion ( I think you Americans call them scallions just use the green stemmy part) For some crunch. Season to taste. Easy peasy and tasty homely food, for 1 or the family.

    Or we have Pasta, Chicken pot stuff, Steak and Veg and my Favourite Lamb chops with Onion Marmalade.

    Regards Volition

  • Mike Isaacs

    I have a few go-to meals as a single dad with two boys as I always have some kind of intricate meatball and meat pie in the freezer.

    My family’s favorite go-to dish has no recipe, however. A simple ploughman’s board of sausage, fruit, cheese and bread can be adapted for all seasons.

    For example, right now in WNY, a locally made marjoram polish sausage is in every supermarket. Slice some apples from our fall picking, add some smoked cheddar and sourdough I bake twice a week and we are set. The kids appreciate the veg-free quick dinner that I can proudly serve while still making all the after-school activities we parents have to endure.

    Thanks for Ratio, Twenty and the Bread app. Have fun.

  • Rina

    Shepherd’s Pie! Oddly enough, I always forget how easy it is to whip up, how filling and delicious it is, and that we typically have all ingredients necessary in the house at all times. I use Elise’s (Simply Recipes) version which is so simple but unbelievable in taste.

  • Dan

    Tilapia sauteed in equal amounts of soy sauce, mirin, vegetable oil, sesame oil, and one teaspoon of sugar. Bring liquids to boil, add tilapia, cover and simmer 5-7 min until fish is done. Serve fish over cooked rice, and top with sauce and chopped scallions. Serve with a nice salad and perhaps some crusty bread. Easy, fast, delicious.

  • Ben

    Risotto is my favorite weeknight meal. Dice an onion, start the rice, and then prep any other ingredients while the rice is cooking. The rice itself only takes 20 minutes or so, so even allowing a little time to heat the stock and slice some vegetables, it’s 30 minutes to the table. My default is crimini mushroom and Italian sausage, but whatever protein I can find in the fridge usually ends up in the pan.

  • Jenn

    I use my slow cooker and prep ahead for busy weekday meals. My favorite is brisket and buttermilk mashed potatoes. I buy a small piece of grass-fed brisket from the coop. The night before, I put together a rub for the brisket, apply it, and leave it the frig all night. I saute an onion on the stovetop with garlic, herbs, and a bit of tomato paste, then deglaze everything with stock (usually homemade that I keep in the freezer). This goes in the crock, which goes in the refrigerator. In the morning, I put the brisket in the onion/chicken broth mixture and put the crock in the crockpot; cook on low for 9 – 11 hours. I also prep my potatoes the night before. I boil yukon gold potatoes until soft then rice them into a glass bowl. The bowl goes into the refrigerator. Before dinner, I heat the potatoes in the microwave and then mix with buttermilk, butter, salt and pepper. I remove the brisket from the crockpot, skim some of the fat off the top, then add a slurry of flour and liquid to slightly thicken the gravy. I serve sliced brisket on top of the potatoes and top with the gravy. This meal does take some prep the night before, but it couldn’t be easier and tastier the following day, and the leftovers are delicious. Admittedly, this meal could use a green vegetable, but usually I have a big salad or other vegetables at lunch, so it all balances out.

  • Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie)

    Fish or Seafood.

    Although I grew up on the prairies I come from a family of fishermen. The ‘up North’ type of fishermen. We always had a stash of pickerel or Northern pike. I just thought everyone loved fish. Now I have also included seafood. To me it is fast food.

  • Martin Sovik

    I’m in my 60s and single, so I often do things that will serve me many meals, and freeze or refrigerate as necessary. I get variety this way.

    A pot roast is easy; chuck roast dredged in flour then browned in oil in a dutch oven. Once browned, add water (or beer or red wine) and braise for 2 hours. Then add 2-3 large onions (get the paper off), 5-7 peeled russet potatoes, and a pound bag of carrots (peel’em). Salt & pepper. When the ‘taters’ are soft, you can eat, about an hour. You can refrigerate and reheat for many days, and at the end, with 1 portion left, add a little flour and it’s stew. BTW, It’ll be better the second day.

    Spaghetti sauce–I know, don’t call it by the pasta–so this is what I serve over spaghetti, or penne, or linguini: a pound or so of mild Italian sausage, you can get it at most supermarkets just ground, not in casing; a large onion diced, a green pepper and one of those containers of white mushrooms, both cut into fairly large chunks, a lot of diced garlic (I use a whole head), 2 little cans of tomato paste, a regular can of tomato sauce, and a big can of diced tomatoes. Brown the sausage, adding the onion, pepper, garlic, and mushrooms as things brown. Then add the tomato stuff, and simmer. Spices—basil, oregano, and I like a lot of thyme.

    Meatloaf is really versatile. Makes great sandwiches. This makes two, put one in the loaf pan, freeze the rest. In a big bowl or pot. 2 lbs ground beef, 1lb ground pork. 2 large diced onions. 2 sleeves saltine crackers, 2 large eggs, 3 tsps yellow mustard, 4 tble spns ketchup, 2 tble spns warchestershire. And whatever additional you want. Mix thoroughly by hand. (It feels good!) Bake 75 minutes at 350.

    Last, is of course, roast chicken. I just put a little butter under the skin over the breasts, salt and pepper everything, and put a lemon and onion in the cavity. If you get gizzards, etc., put’em in a small sauce pan and start simmering in water. With this you’ll get some broth and some fat. I don’t bother to truss the guy. I buy “fryers” so I get protein for three meals–1 breast, 2 thigh and leg (the best!). Preparing the third meal I also cut the other breast off the carcass, and save it in the fridge.

    Add everything from the roasting dish to the broth from the gizzards, and refrigerate. The fat will come to the top. That’s great stuff to fry and saute in, so keep it.

    So I’ve got a chicken carcass, which goes into a dutch oven, with any aromatics (onion, celery, carrots, parsnips,etc) I might have, and cover with water. I also add a cube of chicken bullion. Bring to a boil, and then let cool. When it’s cool enough for your hands, go through it, and get rid of bones and skin. Be thorough to get all the meat. You’ve now got the best chicken soup ever. Add noodles or rice, as you please.

  • MRWest

    In the summer when garden veggies are coming out our… ears we do a lot of stir fry. No special technique really. The veggies are whatever is around. Meat is added only if it is leftover and already cooked. The sauce always has corn starch, soy and fish sauce. Other things are added like chicken stock, peppers flakes, ginger, ground mustard, fresh oregano, really whatever feels right at the time. If we have it, a little sesame oil is added at the end. Served over rice. The dish is different every time and impossible to screw up. That is why we like it.

  • Lou

    Pasta:
    A little olive oil in a frying pan, crushed garlic, thin sliced red onion, artichoke hearts (I use frozen), black olives (sliced/chopped), baby spinach, split grape tomatoes. (pinches of pepper, thyme, oregano). Add Fettucine (or pasta of choice) and finish with crumbled feta cheese (this covers the salt) and olive oil taste.

    Sometimes I add some mushrooms and/or cut up chicken breast.

  • Matt

    Spinach “cream” sauce over polenta.
    I already posted about tempeh tacos, but I thought of another one this morning—it also happens to be mostly vegetarian: Polenta with spinach “cream” sauce.
    For mid week, no one in our house, with a newborn and a 3 year-old have time for fresh spinach, so I tend to just use some frozen from TJ’s. But we always have a bag of polenta in the cupboard and some stock in the freezer, so I make a little batch of polenta with (hopefully) chicken stock—but any stock will do—even just water with some salt and butter. Then the sauce starts usually with onion, caramelized, then add garlic and some butter to start a roux…right in with the onions and garlic. I like pepper in there too. Once it’s browned a little start adding milk until it thickens and is a little thinner than you might want to serve it, then add the spinach, a big scoop of nutritional yeast (bulk at whole foods—delicious), a bunch of grated parmesan-ish cheese and season with salt. If you can mortar/pestle some saffron and sprinkle it in, that’s pretty darn good too if you happen to have it. Let it hang for a bit and serve it over the polenta and maybe put some Sriracha on it. It’s awesome if you have time to make polenta cakes and get a crust on them. But I never do that…again…trying to get kids in bed! Oh and you’ll notice there’s no cream in it–it’s great with cream, but eh…cutting cholesterol corners.
    This is a great thread, by the way. So many great meal ideas!

  • Tim

    Pizza and calzones is our favorite mid-week meal.
    In the freezer, we always have homemade dough (often made using a ‘no-knead’ recipe). For toppings/fillings, we clean out the refrigerator and use leftover meat (chicken or pork), some ‘less-than-perfect’ vegetables, and open bars of cheese. In the winter, we make a quick pizza sauce…and in the summer we look to the garden to see whats ready to pick, which includes fresh herbs, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables.
    In the winter, we cook the in the oven either on a pizza stone or using a cast-iron pan (which is great for deep-dish pizza). In the summer, we cook outside on the grill. These pizza/calzones are quick, easy and never taste the same!

  • charsiew

    this post is great, cos i’ve gained so many ideas reading others’ comments on quick go-to meals. i have a couple of regular go-to meal ideas.

    one involves slicing and sauteing lots of garlic, add good quality anchovies (preferably Ortiz), add in cooked linguine, squeeze of lime juice. serve with salad. done!

    the other involves leftover rice and meat from fridge: fried rice (there’s always leftover cooked rice in the fridge, day-old rice is best for fried rice). first heat up oil in wok and fry to make a softly cooked omelette. put aside. then fry chopped garlic and shallots till fragrant. add chopped up leftover meat from fridge. add rice, making sure to separate grains with fingers before adding so that the mixture doesn’t clump up in the wok. season with salt and white pepper. toss in omelette, breaking up into pieces similar in size to meat. add in frozen peas / corn (which has already been microwaved to warm). serve piping hot.

  • Manley Walker @manleywalker

    My go-to dish is a bastardized version of an Indian curry (probably Keema Matar), that I found in a cookbook while in high school. The cookbook had been penned by then NYTimes food guys Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey. I don’t believe I had ever had curry before but I was somehow drawn to this recipe and I’ve been making it ever since.

    The recipe itself is rather simple. Sauté a diced onion in oil (peanut, canola, coconut – it doesn’t much matter). The spice mixture is about a tbsp of coriander seed, 2 tsp of your favorite curry powder and about a tsp of salt or more to taste. Add crushed red pepper to taste. Over time, I learned to bloom the spices with the onions. To that, I add a pound of hamburger although one could easily use turkey, lamb or chicken. Once the hamburger has browned, I add a small (drained) can of tomatoes, cover and cook over a low heat until the tomatoes have broken down and the onions are melting into the sauce (usually about 40 minutes). Finally, I had about a cup of frozen peas in the last five minutes of cooking.

    Not only was this recipe my gateway into cooking, it got me through college. I served it at parties, I made it for friends, lovers and frenemies. After college, I made it through good times and bad. It got me through boom years; it got me through unemployment. It got me through cancer; it gets me through good health. I’ve served it with rice, potatoes, and as a filling in omelets. It pairs nicely with cauliflower, carrots, cabbage and most other vegetables. It’s great with wine or hard cider. It fits my palate like a glove.

    While my repertoire has since expanded beyond my wildest dreams, this is the one I will grow old with.

  • starre

    my go to meal is nachos. As easy as plain cheese or as fancy as meat, guac, homemade salsa,crema and candied hot peppers from my garden. for crunch you can add cabbage or lettuce. In the summer the salsa can have fruit like mango or pineapple. nachos the perfect fast food plus peeps can make it just they way they like

  • Mattm

    What the heck, I’ll throw in.

    Spaetzle.
    Being a history dork and cook of the house, I got to looking for something to make from my German roots (intertwined with Hungarian, Lituanian, Polish…I think that’s all of em) and for something that was easily made from basic ingredients that I usually have around and that wouldn’t take so much time to make. And of course had to taste good. I dove into the internet to look for a recipe, there are many, but the basic is below.

    OK, so I pulled together recipes, but it’s so basic and traditional that to fool with it is to risk damaging something awesome. Go ahead and look for yourself.

    1c AP flour
    1/4 c milk – I like 2%
    2 eggs
    pinch salt
    pinch cracked black (or white) pepper

    Pot of boiling water or stock of choice (chicken or beef suggested).

    2 tbsp butter, unslated or salted – to toss finished product in

    Mix it all the ingredients up, you have your dough. It should be stiff.

    OK, now to make the dumplings there are a few techniques and everyone has there own way. Youtube provided me with a video of a older German woman, weilding a Spaetzle board, stiff dough and a well used knife. Couldn’t understand a word, but her technique, so great.

    I’ve experimented with two: I have a very small bamboo cutting board and a dull knife that I use like a spaetzle board. Dipping the end of the baord in the water, a good wooden spoonful of dough near the center. Dip the kinfe int he water and scrape ribbons off the lump and into the water. Keep dipping the baord and knife to keep it all working smoohtly. It takes time, but I found it’s very worth it. Sure, it’s not quite as easy asthe real deal, but it works. Even easier, press the dough through a collinder and directly into the water.

    People have tried amny different ways utilizing common kitchen wares with mixed success. There is a spaetzle press you can buy and the aforementioned board. In the end, in my humble opinion, I preferred honing an aged old technique as opposed to reinventing for hours, or going and spending more money and maybe getting frustated and having globs of dough all over to clean up. Pick a technique that works for you and stick with it = eventual quicker turn around time to actually eat the stuff!

    Once you do get the dough into the water, when they float, take them out with a slotted spoon or something similar, putting htem in a warm bowl. Once all the dough are turned into fluffy little dumplings of goodness, throw butter into a hot pan, add speatzle and gently brown for even more tastey brown on the outside. Add chopped parsley if you want. Once palted I like to shred parm or some type of hard cheese over top.

    I’ve made up a nice stock with veg, scraped the dough right into it and had a soup once. Added nutmeg to the recipe, had a different flavor. Used way less butter and added sour cream with spaetzle in a bowl (shoulda put some chive in too), awesome. Onion int he iwth butter is great to. Alright, I’m done, now I need spaetzle.

  • Jason Parsons

    We love pork. Our goto meal is center-cut loin chops with grilled vegetables and toasted french bread. The whole meal from starting the charcoal to getting on the plate is 1 hr, with 5 minutes of prep and 25 minutes of cooking time. The chops get a quick marinade for 30 minutes in equal parts olive oil and fish sauce, with crushed garlic and fresh thyme. The vegetables are either a mix of red bell pepper, onion, zucchini and jalapeno in a grill wok. Or, potato wedges with lemon aioli. The bread is just drizzled with olive oil and black pepper, then grilled.

  • Rachel

    I default to *vegetarian or *vegan stir-fry. I am an avid farmers’ market shopper, so I can rely on having odds and ends of veggies around. between the bottom drawer of my fridge and the frozen items like peas, corn, broccoli that I buy “just in case” I just pull everything out and start cooking. Chop onions, tofu usually, other hard veggies and then get the wok hot. While that is going on, I smash garlic, put it in a small bowl with some cornstarch, ginger, soy sauce and miso paste. Add a little acid, whatever I have, and some water and stir that up. Cilantro is a bonus, but I rarely have it on hand. Then it’s just hot oil, stir stir stir the veggies. Any leafy greens thrown on at the end, with the sauce, cooked for a minute or so. Plus whatever carbs I have around (toast, rice cakes, leftover rice, etc.) and some pickles or kimchee. In no way authentic, in every way delicious and always a little different.

  • Devon H

    My staple quick meal is vegetarian, even though I am a devout carnivore. It’s a bean and rice burrito :-)

    I just throw a cup of rice in the rice cooker with a can of rinsed beans and some sofrito and water, and a bit of salt and let it do it’s thing. I set out the tortillas, the ubiquitous salsa and sour cream that are always on hand, and I take out a big chunk of cheddar and grate it quickly unless I have some crumbly queso fresco on hand. If I have leftover veggies like sautéed squash or zucchini or onions and peppers, they go on th pile. Add a bit of hot sauce and we’re ready to eat in no time. The hubby and I inhale two of them and off we go, bellies filled. :-)

  • Meg

    A favorite go-to meal is brown rice, black beans, and roasted kale. It’s nourishing, simple, and easy to put together. I’ll usually put hot sauce on top of it all, too (I blame the Californian in me for that). Oh, and I like cooking the rice in chicken stock for extra nourishment.

    Wild salmon is also very easy, as we just put the salmon on parchment, top it with sliced lemons, olive oil, sea salt, then wrap it up and put it into the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. That and a salad is a wonderful quick meal (about 20 minutes from start to finish).

  • K Schuster

    My go-to meal is usually pasta of some sort. I always have it in my pantry and there is almost always homemade tomato sauce in the freezer that I can “doctor” up…or steak =D

  • Peggy

    My favorite staple meal actually derives from a “special birthday” dinner my mother used to make for my sister every year when we were children. That meal was Veal Cutlets, French green beans with lemon and garlic and salad with homemade Italian dressing. Over the years this meal has morphed into a family staple spanning all four of us sisters. It is the favorite meal in eah of our homes and is now prepared with a little twist by all of us. Since veal is no longer Politically Correct and quite expensive we all make the following meal with chicken and with great regularity. In fact, my husband of 7 years says it was the clincher in asking me to marry him!
    Menu:
    Chicken Cutlets: pounded boneless, skinless chicken breasts coated with Italian seasoned bread crumbs, parsley, salt/pepper and parmesan cheese. These are sauteed in a mixture of sweet butter and olive oil until crisp, tender and juicy.

    French Style String Beans: Fresh or frozen beans cooked until crisp tender then tossed with salt/pepper, butter and fresh lemon juice.

    Salad: Classic green salad dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt/pepper and parmesan cheese.

    Rice Pilaf: Near East rice pilaf made with added fresh mushrooms or sometimes even dried cranberries.

    My mother passed away this year and I know I will never, ever eat this meal again without thinking of her. Enjoy.

  • Thomas Osborne

    I throw shrimp and minced garlic in the saute pan with olive oil for a minute or two, then toss with spaghetti, capers, Italian parsley, and good olive oil. I finish it with lemon juice, black pepper and some grated parmesan. It’s a nod to my Sicilian ancestors as well as a quick meal that suits my tastes perfectly. You’ll always find these ingredients in my kitchen.

  • Rebecca

    Burritos: I keep seasoned beans (pot beans from Heirloom Beans cookbook) around in freezer containers, shredded beef seasoned with green chili’s (slow and low cooked) and just add cheese and sour cream.
    For a really quick and easy meal, I throw rice in the cooker with chicken broth, add in some pot stickers, place the veggie basket above and put in green beans.
    Close the lid, push the button, done.

  • Marcy

    7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin: just remove the silverskin, drizzle with olive oil, rub with kosher salt, ground pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, and garlic powder. Get grill to medium heat, oil grate, throw tenderloin on (lid down) for 7 minutes, turn over and time for 6 minutes (still lid down), then at the 6 minute mark turn the grill off and let the pork rest in the closed grill for five minutes. Then take it off the grill and let it rest about 10 min before slicing. Meanwhile steam baby carrots in orange juice (Tropicana is fine) and fresh ginger (the ginger in the tube works fine for this) in a wide, covered saute pan. Then the lid off the saute pan and add a knob of butter and some salt and pepper and let the sauce reduce. Nuke some Trader Joe’s brown rice for three minutes and dinner is served.

  • Doriantake

    These days the standard is a big roast chicken – either salt and pepper or salt/pepper/lemon zest/garlic oil are the standards. Roast @ 500 for 20 minutes, drop to 450 till it’s done. Roast whatever root veggies or squash (salt/pepper/garlic oil are the standard seasonings) are hanging around once the temp is dropped to 450 until everything’s done. Makes plenty of versetile leftovers, so the week can have tacos/soup/salads/stirfry as called for. Yum!

  • Ed G

    Roasted chicken–salt, pepper, olive oil. Roasted at 450 for about 45 minutes, til done. Served with some kind of seasonal greens and rice.

    Easy, always delicious, and there’s leftovers for lunch (and a carcass for the stock).

  • Nate

    Orrechiette w/ rapini and sausage
    While water boils (large pot for rapini/pasta), rinse/chop rapini, chop onion, bring large skillet up to temperature. Add sausage, preferably 1/2 hot 1/2 mild, brown, remove from skillet. Add rapini to now boiling water, cook for 2 minutes. While rapini cooks, add chopped onion to skillet (using fat rendered from sausage). Soften onion for few minutes. Remove rapini from boiling water, place in strainer and run cold water/ice over. Add orrechiette to water, cook til almost done (al dente). While pasta cooks, squeeze water from rapini, and combine rapini/sausage/onion to skillet. Add a splash of chicken or beef stock and simmer until pasta ready – remove pasta to the skillet, add a good cup or so of grated parmesan, a glug or 2 of olive oil and enough pasta water to have a sauce. Cook/toss for a minute or 2. Dump onto the plate(s) and eat up.

  • John C.

    For us…fish tacos. Fresh, light, simple and delicious.

    For the fish, usually something that looks fresh, typically a lighter white fleshed fish (mahi is one of my favorites as it reminds me of some great fish tacos we had in Aruba!). I simply dredge finger sized pieces in some salt, pepper, flour, and cayenne and pan fry them quickly.

    If I have time, will make some homemade tortillas, but usually pick up some fresh, handmade ones from our local market.

    Next is a chunky guacamole – avocado cubed in medium chunks, a little finely chopped onion, a bunch of chopped garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and pepper, chopped cilantro, and a little chopped tomato. I may also add some other items like chopped roasted red peppers for variety. Because my 18 month old daughter devours this stuff we leave out the chopped chili (typically a jalapeño or serrano).

    Finally, I make a simple cole slaw out of shredded cabbage and carrots (sometimes broccoli), a little mayo, a splash of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, and a couple of dashes of sesame oil, which gives it this nice, nutty/toasty flavor.

    We warm the tortillas and stack everything on. I like to finish with some hot sauce (homemade from late-season hot peppers from the garden or sriracha, depending on my mood).

    I could eat 10 of these, but always limit myself to 3!

  • Lynn

    We have a gluten free household and one of my favorite standard meals during the winter is roasted butternut squash, parsnips, fennel (oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes) served with roasted wild salmon that has a layer of course ground mustard mixed with dijon (also roasted in a 400 degree oven between 10-20 minutes depending on how hot the oven runs.) It is done in under and hour and really doesn’t require a lot of prep time.

  • Jesse W

    We have several staple dishes at my house. One of the dishes I have been making for a long time is Tortilla soup. I start by browning up some chicken breasts in a large stock pot, once those are brown I take them out and sweat some onions and a pabalno pepper, then add tomatillos and tomatoes and let them cook a bit. After all that I add the chicken back in and fill with chicken stock and some Pollo y Tomate seasoning. Let it cook until your chicken is done add some diced tortillas and let it thicken a little and you have Tortilla soup!
    Or if I am being super lazy I just cook some chicken breasts and whatever good vegetables I can find in the oven with a little salt pepper and olive oil maybe with rice.

  • Laurie

    This is quite uninventive, but easy. Organic dry whole wheat pasta with organic jarred pasta sauce. Quickly feeds my family of 5. You can through some goat cheese in the sauce to make a pink sauce if you have any on hand. Also, if I have it, I include a green salad or some italian bread. Too easy!

  • Matilda

    Broccoli pasta: steamed or boiled broccoli tossed with warmed olive oil, garlic, chile flakes, anchovies and pasta, topped with grated parmesan and/or pecorino.

    Our second go-to meal is a mashup of a Thai-style stirfry of ground turkey and/or ground pork with basil and rice noodles: the meat is sauteed with lots of garlic and fresh chiles and then mixed with a sauce made of dark soy sauce, fish sauce, lots of ground pepper, a teaspoon of brown sugar and the juice of a couple of juicy limes. I toss this with softened rice noodles and basil and some cooked green beans or sauteed red peppers. Serve with extra lime wedges at the table.

    Otherwise, it’s something I’ve made extra of on the weekend, like pork stew, meatballs, etc. I’m lucky my 5 year old and 2.5 year old kids are good eaters!

  • Donald

    Bucatini Amatriciana is the staple meal for our household. I hold off making it too often as it would lose its magical popularity. It’s a great, simple (2 pot) dish that can be served at any time of the year. The hard part is obtaining the bucatini; yes, you can make it with spaghetti but it’s not really the same. To be honest, the recipe I use is from Lidia Bastianich.

    The meal does not require any ingredients other than what’s in the kitchen: pasta, tomatoes (canned, fresh, whole, diced, etc.), garlic, onions, pancetta (or bacon) and grated romano or parmesan cheese. It can be served with a green salad and/or a nice, fresh baguette. 45 minutes and everyone is sitting down at the table.

  • Drew Mankin

    A favorite midweek meal that I prepare for my family is Chicken Picatta. The dish is easily put together in a snap and the aromas that permeate from the kitchen get everyone’s jowls salivating. I start by creating my dredge mixture of half Italian bread crumbs, half AP flour, salt, and white pepper. I create a quick egg wash then I pound out three chicken breasts. I dredge the chicken breasts in the bread crumb mixture, then in the egg wash, and back one more time in the bread crumb mixture. I start a pot of boiling salted water for spaghetti noodles and start pan frying the chicken breasts on the stove top in a moderate amount of oil. After the chicken breasts are done I usually keep them warm in the oven while I finish the sauce on the stove top. Using the same pan I cooked the chicken breasts in minus the oil I add shallots and capers. After the shallots are translucent I add lemon, white wine, and chicken stock. I deglaze the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, and remove it from the heat at which time I finish the sauce with a couple of tablespoons of butter. Usually the Chicken Picatta is served over the spaghetti along with a small dinner salad. During the long work week the comforting feeling of briny capers, fried chicken, and pasta makes it so much easier to get back to the grind the next day not to mention a great night sleep.

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