GET SAUCY — TRANSFORM DINNER FROM BASIC TO BALLER
After negotiations of what to watch on Netflix, surely the most frequently posed marital question is “What do you wanna do for dinner?”
It’s a question rife with import. At its best, dinner can be a salve to difficult co-workers and the indignities of commuting, a time to come together as man and wife, break bread, and fall in love all over again. Who knew your five-piece place settings could provide a safe harbor from the storms of modern daily life?
But at its worst, it’s chicken eaten on the coffee table again. Pass the remote.
That’s the bad news. The good news is you have the kitchen of your single-girl dreams, tricked out with every manner of food-processing, immersion-blending, mortar-and-pestle- pounding instrument of culinary delight. It’s time to put them to good use.
It’s time to make sauce.
And don’t think this is going to be as fussy as a French braid on a hell-on-wheels bridesmaid. A well-crafted sauce takes the simplest dinner standys—a couple of pork chops, a whole roast chicken—into a realm that is revelatory.
If only the same thing could be said for the Friday night streaming lineup.
It all begins here. Pour together one part red wine vinegar with three to four parts olive oil in a clean glass jar. Plop in a garlic clove, a dollop of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and shake. This is the backbone to easy dinner improvement—dress mixed greens and baby kale, drizzle over steamed vegetables, use it as a dip for carrots—but it’s also just the beginning. Yogurt or buttermilk makes a creamy vinaigrette; add fresh herbs you have kicking around the produce drawer; try different acidic elements, like citrus or other vinegars; experiment with different ratios of acid to oil; or shift the flavor profile to another continent completely with rice wine vinegar and a touch of sesame oil.
Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce
Had you ever wondered if a three-ingredient recipe could induce rhapsody, let this be the proof. Tomatoes, butter, and an onion sliced in half—plus forty-five minutes to bubble away—is all it takes to make a sauce that will coat pasta, leftover polenta, and a homemade pizza crust. Believe the hype; might as well double this one.
Miso, Carrot, and Sesame Dressing
This dressing takes what would be a slightly-too-ascetic assemblage of gloriously healthy ingredients (think: brown rice, tofu, and a whole mess of steamed kale) and makes it a life-improving lunch. Tried it tossed with spinach salads or Japanese-style noodle salads.
Thank a sunny Spanish port city on the Mediterranean for romesco, a rich and earthy blend of roasted red peppers, almonds, garlic, tomatoes, oil, vinegar—plus a hit of heady spices like smoked paprika and cayenne. Spoon it onto simply cooked fish or grilled shrimp, potatoes, or steamed broccoli.
Alice Waters calls velvety, luscious Provençal aïoli—basically, the best mayonnaise ever to touch your tongue—an essential sauce, and your kitchen is about to find out why: Aïoli turns leftover rotisserie chicken into a suddenly French chicken salad, makes grilled fish seem downright luxurious, and transforms your brown bag sandwich into something elegant.
The food equivalent of taking a spa day. Nutty tahini is brightened by lemon, then introduce it to roasted cauliflower, or a salad of shredded brussels sprouts and toasted hazelnuts. Take a cue from New York City’s macrobiotic restaurant Souen and add feathery sprigs of fresh dill.
This is how the Argentines do steak, but it’s how the rest of us can enliven a robust bowl of chili or a chorizo and egg scramble. Or, try or serving alongside grilled or roasted chicken or a falling-apart, slow-cooked pork shoulder.
Talk about gilding the lily. When salty, softened butter meets an array of ingredients—shallots and lime juice; any variety of fresh herbs; even blue cheese—the results are transcendent. Slip a pat into a baked potato, onto grilled vegetables, or go for broke on date night and let it melt atop a medium-rare aged steak. Now, that’s a way to fall in love again.