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Home / World News / In a dinner rut? Here are some impressive — and easy — main dishes (that even you can make) – The Denver Post

In a dinner rut? Here are some impressive — and easy — main dishes (that even you can make) – The Denver Post

You’ve got the in-laws coming for the first time – and you’re cooking. Or it’s the first time you’ve cooked for a new amour. Or you just want to be able to cook for yourself, but this time, make something that’s a tiny bit sophisticated, but still a little bit economical. And you want to take leftovers to work that will impress your friends and wow your enemies.

Your first go-to cuisine would be Italian – of course. You could look up virtually anything Marcella Hazan has ever written, in any of her seven-plus cookbooks – or you could start with two simple dishes, one with chicken and one with fish. Then you might venture into curry – a good mild green version that goes with any kind of protein and any kind of rice or vegetables, to please those diners who have restrictions on dairy or additives or alcohol.

Finally, a real macaroni and cheese, one that begins with a classic béchamel. You can change it  up with bacon or lobster or broccoli or poblanos and bake it in zucchini boats or individual ramekins.

All of these dishes serve 4 and microwave or reheat easily.

Chicken marsala takes advantage of the way a fortified wine plays well with mushrooms and onions.

Susan Clotfelter, Special to The Denver Post

Chicken marsala takes advantage of the way a fortified wine plays well with mushrooms and onions.

Chicken Marsala

Get a bottle of real Marsala from the liquor store for this dish; it’s not the same with other fortified wines or the grocery-store variety, no matter what the Internet tells you. Pair this Italian classic with tiny roasted red potatoes. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders, pounded to ¼ inch thick
  • 1 mild yellow onion or three shallots, sliced in thin half-moons
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, chopped into quarters
  • 1 cup Marsala
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly salt and pepper each pounded chicken tender. Saute the breasts, a few at a time, for a few minutes on each side until no longer pink; remove to a plate and cover with foil.

Add the onions or shallots and mushrooms to the pan, with a little more oil if necessary. Saute, scraping up any browned bits, until all the oil is absorbed, about 7 minutes. Add the Marsala and flame it if you can to burn off the alcohol. If the mushrooms have released too much water to flame the wine, no worries; just continue to simmer until the alcohol has cooked off. Add the chicken broth and continue to simmer until reduced by half; add the butter. Return the chicken tenders to the pan and heat through for about a minute each side. Serve at once.

Salmon piccata is the teeniest bit fussy, because you don't want to overcook the salmon. Don't microwave this if there are leftovers; instead, put it in a skillet (pasta included) and throw a little more wine, lemon juice, or broth over it, cover and rewarm gently over very low heat.

Susan Clotfelter, Special to The Denver Post

Salmon piccata is the teeniest bit fussy, because you don’t want to overcook the salmon. Don’t microwave this if there are leftovers; instead, put it in a skillet (pasta included) and throw a little more wine, lemon juice, or broth over it, cover and rewarm gently over very low heat.

Salmon Piccata

Salmon, wine, butter, lemon – what’s not to love? Thin salmon filets will cook very quickly, so have the artichokes and peppers diced first, and the rice or pasta or vegetable pasta (zucchini noodles work well) that you’ll serve it with ready to go. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 4 4-ounce salmon fillets, skin off
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or avocado oil
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice (about two large lemons or three small)
  • 4 grilled piquillo peppers, diced small
  • 7- to 8-ounce jar of artichokes in water, sliced into ribbons
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Warm 1  tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sear the salmon about 3 minutes on each side, until barely flaky. Remove to a plate and cover with a second plate to keep warm. Add the second tablespoon of oil if necessary; sear the second pair of filets and keep warm as well.

Add the wine and lemon juice to the same skillet, scraping up any bits of salmon. Boil to reduce to half the volume. Add peppers, artichokes, capers and butter; stir to heat through, until the butter is melted.

Plate the salmon fillets on a bed of cooked pasta, rice or vegetable noodles; ladle the sauce over each filet, dividing the capers, peppers and artichokes among the portions. Serve immediately.

Smoky Mac and Cheese

This is a dish that lets you enjoy your company (or put them to work tossing a salad) while the casserole heats up. There are a million variations on the internet, so if you want to add lobster or pancetta to make it fancy, go for it. But this simple version is plenty special and can star as the centerpiece of a homey, welcoming meal. You can easily make it gluten free by using your favorite gluten-free flour blend, glutinous rice flour or sweet white sorghum flour instead of wheat flour. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups milk, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 6 ounces smoked gouda, shredded
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon smoked, regular, or truffle salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions with the following exception: Check on it starting about 4 minutes before it is supposed to be done to avoid overcooking it. You want the pasta al dente. Drain (if using gluten-free pasta, strain into a mixing bowl and reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid in case the cheese sauce is too thick.)

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