With such busy schedules it can be nearly impossible to put a hot dinner on the table, let alone one that tastes good.
But you can overcome it all with a little know-how.
Chris Kimball, editor in chief of Cook's Illustrated magazine and host of public television's "America's Test Kitchen", showed how to make a few dishes on "The Early Show" that are not only delicious, but inexpensive, quick and easy, too.
Salmon with Asparagus and Chive Butter Sauce
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: Instead of requiring a steaming rack or other kitchen equipment, this recipe resourcefully layers the asparagus spears in the pan to serve as a bed to elevate the salmon fillets above the liquid. Vegetable and entrée cook together in the same pan, while a simple white wine and chive butter sauce makes the perfect finishing touch. Thinner asparagus spears will overcook, so choose spears that are at least 1/2 inch thick at the base. Serve with lemon wedges.
1 pound thick asparagus, trimmed
1 cup water
4 skinless salmon fillets (6 to 8 ounces each), about 1 inch thick
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1. Lay asparagus in single layer on bottom of large skillet. Add water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to skillet. Season salmon with salt and pepper and lay across asparagus spears. Bring water to boil over high heat, cover, and cook over medium heat until salmon is cooked through and asparagus is tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer asparagus and salmon to platter.
2. Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer mixture to reduce, 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter and chives and season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over salmon and asparagus. Serve.
Skillet Lemon Soufflé
Don't open the oven door during the first seven minutes of baking, but do check the soufflé regularly for doneness during the final few minutes in the oven. Be ready to serve the soufflé immediately after removing it from the oven. A 10-inch skillet is essential to getting the right texture and height.
5 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup juice and 1 teaspoon grates zest from 2 to 3 lemons
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Using stand mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tartar together on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar and salt, then increase speed to medium-high and continue to whip until stiff peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Gently transfer whites to clean bowl and set aside.
2. Using stand mixer (no need to wash mixing bowl), whip yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar together on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 1 minute. Whip in lemon juice, zest, and flour until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
3. Whisk 1/4 of whipped egg whites into yolk mixture until almost no white streaks remain. Gently fold in remaining egg whites until just incorporated.
4. Melt butter in 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl pan to coat evenly with melted butter, then gently scrape soufflé batter into skillet and cook until edges begin to set and bubble slightly, about 2 minutes.
5. Transfer skillet to oven and bake soufflé until puffed, center jiggles slightly when shaken, and surface is golden, 7 to 11 minutes. Using potholder (skillet handle will be hot), remove skillet from oven. Dust soufflé with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately.
For more recipes, go to Page 2.
Easier French Fries
Serves 3 to 4.
Flavoring the oil with bacon fat (optional) gives the fries a mild meaty flavor. We prefer peanut oil for frying, but vegetable or canola oil can be substituted. This recipe will not work with sweet potatoes or russets. Serve with dipping sauces (see related recipes), if desired. See "Cutting Potatoes for French Fries," below, for help on cutting even batons.
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 medium), scrubbed, dried, sides squared off, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch by 1/4-inch batons (see method below)
6 cups peanut oil
1/4 cup bacon fat, strained (optional, see note below)
1. Combine potatoes, oil, and bacon fat (if using) in large Dutch oven. Cook over high heat until oil has reached rolling boil, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until potatoes are limp but exteriors are beginning to firm, about 15 minutes.
2. Using tongs, stir potatoes, gently scraping up any that stick, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer fries to thick paper bag or paper towels. Season with salt and serve immediately.
Keys to Easier Crisp French Fries
The classic technique for French fries involves four steps: rinsing the cut potatoes, soaking them in ice water, and then deep-frying-twice-in quarts of hot oil. Our method calls for just one round of frying and a lot less oil.
1. LESS OIL Our fries cook in just 6 cups of oil instead of 2 or 3 quarts.
2. COLD START Beginning with room-temperature oil gives fries time to cook through before their exteriors crisp.
3. ONE FRY Potatoes are fried only once, for about 25 minutes, rather than twice.
Our easier approach to cooking French fries does not preheat the oil and calls for one prolonged frying instead of the quicker double-dip in hot oil used in the classic method. But does the lengthy exposure to oil lead to a greasier fry?
We prepared two batches of fries using Yukon Gold potatoes, our preferred spud for the cold-start method. We cooked one batch the conventional way, heating 3 quarts of peanut oil to 325 degrees and frying 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes until just beginning to color, removing them, increasing the oil temperature to 350 degrees, then returning the potatoes to the pot to fry until golden brown. Total exposure to oil: less than 10 minutes. The second batch we cooked according to our working method, submerging 2 1/2 pounds of spuds in 6 cups of cold oil and cooking over high heat for about 25 minutes, with the oil temperature never rising above 280 degrees. We then sent samples from each batch to an independent lab to analyze the fat content.
Our cold-start spuds contained about one third less fat than spuds deep-fried twice the conventional way: 13 versus 20 percent.
Fries absorb oil two ways. As the potatoes cook, they lose moisture near their surface, which is replaced by oil. Then, as they cool after being removed from the hot grease, oil from their exterior gets pulled in. Because our cold-start method cooks the fries more gently, less moisture is lost (but enough so the fries stay crisp) and less oil is absorbed during frying. Plus, this approach exposes the spuds to just one cool-down, versus the two cooling-off periods of the classic method, so less oil gets absorbed after cooking as well.
Cutting Potatoes for French Fries
1. Square off potato by cutting a 1/4-inch-thick slice from each of its 4 long sides.
2. Cut potato lengthwise into 1/4-inch planks.
Stack 3 to 4 planks and cut into 1/4-inch batons. Repeat with remaining planks.
Easy Chocolate Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
If you plan to store the ice cream for more than a few days, place plastic wrap directly on its surface before freezing.
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
1 tablespoon hot water
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, cold
1. MELT CHOCOLATE BASE Combine coffee (or espresso) powder and hot water in small bowl. Let stand until coffee dissolves, about 5 minutes. Microwave chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, and coffee mixture in bowl, stirring every 10 seconds, until chocolate is melted, about 1 minute. Stir in vanilla and salt. Let cool.
2. MIX AND FREEZE With electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream to soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Whisk one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Fold remaining whipped cream into chocolate mixture until incorporated. Freeze in airtight container until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 2 weeks. Serve.