What are some must-try dinner recipes that anyone can make?
Jul, 29 2023
The Magic of Chicken Piccata
Allow me to take you on a culinary journey to Italy with our first recipe: the spectacular Chicken Piccata. I remember, Enid - my better half, and I made our first chicken piccata together and it was nothing short of a revelation. The combination of the tender chicken bathed in a tangy lemon-butter caper sauce over a bed of al dente pasta—it was the stuff of dreams. And don't even get me started on the aroma that wafted through our home in Cardiff.
The process involves dredging chicken cutlets in flour and lightly frying them. Then you create a delectable sauce out of lemon juice, chicken stock, capers and butter, and pour it over your chicken. It sounds simple enough, and indeed it is, but there's a lot of room for creativity here. Enid swears by adding a pinch of dried dill for an added layer of flavour. If you're feeling a bit adventurous, sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan on top for a nutty finish.
Interesting fact - the name 'piccata' is actually derived from the Italian word 'piccare', which means to prick or pierce. This could possibly refer to the capers in the sauce, or maybe it's a suggestion to use a fork to fully enjoy this dish. Who knows? But one thing's for sure, this dish is a prick into the heart of culinary delight.
Embracing the Classic - Bangers and Mash
Next on our list (and how could it not be?) is the quintessential British classic—Bangers and Mash. This dish is essentially a love letter to the humble potato and its versatility. Don't be fooled by its seemingly modest composition, a well-executed Bangers and Mash can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with the most renowned gourmet dishes.
I remember as a young lad, my mother used to make this every Sunday—but with a twist. Instead of the conventional gravy, she used a sweet onion gravy that added a whole layer of depth to the dish. This is my secret tip to you, my fellow food adventurers. Caramelize your onions till they're brown and sweet, add in the stock, season, and let it simmer till you obtain a rich, decadent gravy.
And here's a charming tidbit - the moniker 'bangers' originated during World War I, when meat shortages resulted in sausages being made with a high water content, causing them to pop or 'bang' when cooked. The more you know, right?
Mexican Fiesta - Chicken Enchiladas
Now let's travel across the Atlantic and delve into the flavours of Mexico with Chicken Enchiladas. Layers of soft tortillas filled with seasoned chicken and generously smothered with a zesty enchilada sauce and cheese—this dish is comfort food at its finest.
What I love about enchiladas, apart from their delectable flavours, is its flexibility. You can customize it to your heart's content. Throw in some black beans or sautéed peppers for some added texture. Even the choice of cheese can drastically alter the dish. A sharp cheddar gives the dish a bold intensity while the traditional queso fresco lends a more nuanced flavour profile.
Let's dispel a common misconception—enchilada sauce is not tomato-based. It's actually a rich blend of various chillies, onion, garlic, and spice. It's what gives enchiladas its distinct, robust warmth. And it’s surprisingly easy to make at home!
Southern Comfort - Shrimp and Grits
Let's voyage further to the American South and try out a dish that exudes comfort—Shrimp and Grits. Creamy grits, succulent shrimp, crispy bacon, this dish is a symphony of flavours and textures dancing across your palate. It’s soul food at its best.
This dish is a testament to the notion that the best things in life are often the simplest. The components are pretty basic, but when combined, they create something truly magical. Make your grits creamy and cheesy, sauté your shrimp in generous amounts of butter and finally top it off with crumbled bacon and chopped green onions for that crunch and zing!
A lesser-known fact is that shrimp and grits were originally a breakfast food for fishermen. It was a hearty, filling meal that was easy to prepare and kept them going throughout the day. Now, it’s a beloved dish served at dinner tables all over the country.
Asian Sensation - Beef Stir-Fry
And lastly, we sail to the Far East for a quick and delightful Beef Stir-Fry. Thinly sliced beef, crunchy vegetables, all bathed in an umami-packed sauce—stir-fries are the epitome of a perfect weeknight dinner.
Making a beef stir-fry is as easy as it gets. But the real key to a spectacular stir-fry lies in the sauce. A perfect amalgamation of soy sauce, oyster sauce, a splash of rice vinegar for that tang, and a spoonful of sugar for balance. Add in some crushed garlic and ginger and bam—you have a sauce that is an umami bombshell ready to explode on your taste buds.
Do you know the literal translation of 'stir-fry' in Mandarin is 'chao', which means 'to sauté' or 'to stir in the pan'? It's a fundamental technique in Chinese cooking and of course, the star of our recipe. When one undertakes this cooking technique, they embark on a rite of passage to master the captivating world of Asian cuisine.