Eight months ago we challenged our Test Kitchen Staff to cook up the best fast dishes ever.
October 11, 2012
1 of 10Photo: Iain Bagwell
The Test Kitchen's Best Fast Dishes Ever
If there’s one thing we’ve heard consistently over the past 25 years, it’s this: You want your healthy food fast. The quick recipe that really satisfies is cherished above all others. Sometimes it’s a recipe that uses inherently fast-cooking ingredients. But even more dazzling is one that uses smart techniques to infuse a dish with the rich flavors that usually require hours on the stove. Every recipe devised for this challenge had to receive one of our top scores. These were the champs. Prepare to be amazed.
White Sea Bass with Orange-Fennel Relish
This dish is inherently quick but stands out because of its vibrant flavors and textures: juicy orange sections and floral rind, fruity Castelvetrano olives, crunchy fennel, and red onion. Executive Food Editor Ann Taylor Pittman says, “The key here is a superrich, unctuous fish, which will taste special and pair well with the bright, fresh relish.”
*By fast we mean 30 minutes or less, using regular kitchen tools and appliances.
Another way to dazzle in a hurry: Start with luxury ingredients. That’s Ann Taylor Pittman’s strategy here: “Sweet lobster requires little adornment to produce a stunningly delicious dish. If you use lobster tails, prep is quick, too!”
Try this ingenious trick from Assistant Test Kitchen Director Tiffany Vickers Davis, who devised an “improvised stovetop smoker using an aluminum foil pan. The technique allows for yearround smoking, and because you don’t need to soak the wood chips, it’s quick.” Cooking winter tomatoes this way transforms them from bland to the smoky, flavor-packed star of the dish.
“The trouble with tarts is the time the dough usually requires between chilling it and rolling it out,” says Sidney Fry, assistant editor. Here she skips the fridge and presses the crumbly mixture directly into the pan, yielding one of the best pastries we’ve produced. Other shortcuts: prechopped squash, presliced mushrooms, and diced pancetta.
Cassoulet is a dish that can take days to make, but we get much of the same goodness in this half-hour version. “Duck breast, duck sausage, and bacon provide the rich, meaty core of cassoulet flavor in little more time than it takes to heat up a can of beans,” says Test Kitchen staffer Robin Bashinsky. It’s worth seeking out the best quality meats you can find (we ordered D’Artagnan sausage from
Senior Food Editor Julianna Grimes advises, “Buy lamb loin chops, and have the butcher remove the meat from the bones in the store.” The lean, tender meat cooks quickly, and it’ll stay moist in this speedy take on a comfort classic.
30-Minute Filet Bourguignonne with Mashed Potatoes
The trick that speeds this dish to real bourguignonne flavor in record time comes from Test Kitchen staffer Deb Wise: “I ‘sacrifice’ some of the beef, mincing it and cooking it into the sauce. It melts into the dish and adds so much meaty flavor.”
Gumbo is usually a labor of love. The brilliant accelerator here is that we sauté chicken and veggies in the roux while it cooks and develops the trademark deep, rich color and nutty flavor (instead of browning the roux separately). Test Kitchen Director Vanessa Pruett says, “Drippings from authentic andouille sausage start a strong foundation, adding spicy, garlicky goodness to the dish.”