Welcome back to Five Weeknight Dishes. Late winter always reminds me of the first time I had a kitchen of my own, and made dinner every night for a year (give or take). There wasn’t much choice: no restaurants except chains, no good takeout and no shortage of supermarkets. I complained a lot, but that year made me a cook.
When I ran out of inspiration, Refrigerator Chicken was a faithful friend. To make it, you take all the condiments in the door of the fridge (mustard, soy sauce, peach jam, hot sauce, etc.), mix together a spoonful of each and coat chicken pieces with the result. Roast and serve with rice or potatoes and anything green. This week, I made Kay Chun’s easy recipe for chicken thighs, below, and recognized it as a stripped-down, tastier version, seasoned with just salt (soy sauce), sweet (honey), garlic and ginger. It’s actually better.
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Here’s the recipe, plus four others to get you through the week:
You could use store-bought minced garlic here to save yourself some time. But it usually isn’t very delicious. Minced ginger packed in brine or vinegar, on the other hand, holds up very well.
Shrimp and white beans are, for mysterious reasons, one of those food combinations that always works. Both are good for weeknight cooking, for non-mysterious reasons: Shrimp cook practically instantly, and canned beans are pre-cooked and pretty good, especially after a quick simmer in tomatoes, garlic and spices.
I wouldn’t survive the winter without a stockpile of lemons and a stash of fresh herbs. When you have those on hand, this pasta comes together super-fast and tastes bright. Add toasted nuts, a scoop of ricotta or a poached egg for some richness.
Mushrooms have a lot of umami, the savory taste that also makes Parmesan, soy sauce and red meat taste satisfying. Along with fermented black beans, they’re the key to this version of the Sichuan standard, and I love this video of a skilled home cook cooking the classic, including making the tofu from scratch.