One of my favorite dinner shortcuts is to nestle a hot roast chicken on a pile of hearty greens like kale, baby mustard, or watercress. The chicken fat coats and gently wilts the greens, giving them the flavor of the chicken. It’s a perfect side dish for the roasted bird that requires no extra work.
Now Sarah Copeland has taken this technique to another level with her spiced chicken legs with sweet and sour kale (above). She uses quartered chicken drumsticks and roasts them until the fat comes off and the skin becomes crispy. All those delicious drops are tossed with kale, olives, and, intriguingly, the sweet and tangy brine from a jar of bread and butter pickles (although cider vinegar works, too). It’s a weeknight pan dinner with the wow factor of a Sunday splurge.
Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs With Spicy Greens
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Here’s another low-work, big-wow move: Dry your salmon before cooking. Although I’ve been dry brine Thanksgiving turkeys, chickens, steaks, and chops for years, I never thought to try it with fish. But J. Kenji López-Alt went there, with stunningly delicious results. The fillets release some of their liquid when salted and left overnight in the refrigerator, crisping the skin faster and deeper, and with much less mess than searing unsalted fillets in hot oil. You may never look at salmon the same way again.
On the earthy side of culinary innovation, Sarah DiGregorio wants to change the way you cook beans. She roasts her (canned and drained) white beans on a sheet pan, browning them all over. Toss in some prawns, bacon and garlic bread and you’ve got a crispy, velvety casserole meal.
For something meatless and just as brilliant, Hetty McKinnon brings us a high-protein, vegan edamame pesto spread that you can make in just half an hour with some hulled frozen soybeans, loads of garlic, and nutritional yeast for umami oompf.
And finally, there’s Dorie Greenspan’s aptly named long and creamy cheesecake for dessert. You’ll need to make it ahead of time, but like dry brining your egg whites, it’s worth a little planning.
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Go beyond Graham Crackers
To add a signature twist to Dorie’s cheesecake, or a recipe that calls for a graham cracker crust, try substituting the crumbs for your favorite crunchy cookie. Gingersnaps, chocolate wafers, shortbread cookies, and even crunchy chocolate chip cookies will all work beautifully and add an unexpected twist to a classic.