We all have one, a dish for which we don’t need a recipe. Preparation, cooking and serving have become second nature, like a dance you’ve already performed a million times. When you whip it up from memory on a busy weekday evening or in a vacation rental, you feel a little accomplished, like you’ve got it all figured out. (Even if that’s just for that brief, brilliant moment.) The collection of recipes below, which is by no means a definitive list, includes those you might want to memorize next. These are pocket dishes that will never hurt you.
This quintessential Molly O’Neill stew first appeared in The Times in 1994, and it’s still a beloved reader favorite during the colder months of the year. You can’t go wrong as is, but feel free to experiment with different root vegetables, herbs and spices, or add a little tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, or balsamic vinegar to brighten things up.
There is nothing more satisfying than making your own crispy and tender naan to dip in a bowl of homemade dal or curry. This one, which Sam Sifton adapted from Meera Sodha, the British cookbook author, is fairly straightforward and endlessly satisfying. “Once you’ve done the recipe two or three times, you’ll never buy a naan again,” he wrote.
Recipe: Naan by Meera Sodha
Excellent served with crusty bread or a tangle of buttery noodles, Melissa Clark’s recipe is better than anything you might get at a chain of seafood restaurants. The key is not to overcook the shrimp. You want them pink all over, but not too curly with, as Melissa puts it, “the texture of the tires.”
Recipe: Classic shrimp scampis
Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines, in which chicken, pork or fish are braised in a salty, sweet and tangy mixture of rice vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, chili peppers and lots of pepper. black (and sometimes coconut milk, included here). Sam Sifton adapted this version of Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, who direct the Purple yam restaurant in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. It’s outrageously good.
This four-ingredient sauce from Marcella Hazan has its critics, but it’s a true feat of practical magic. Combine a stick of butter, a can of tomatoes, a peeled and halved onion and a little salt, simmer for about 45 minutes until the tomatoes break down into a silky sauce. Serve over noodles or use as a base for comforting cooked pasta.
Recipe: Marcella Hazan tomato sauce
While traditionally a Persian New Year’s dish, polo sabzi with tahdig, or herb rice with a crispy crust, is a wonderful accompaniment to any roasted or grilled vegetable, meat, or fish. There are a few steps, but they are all quite simple and the results are very impressive. You’ll have to muster your courage to flip the baked rice cake onto a platter, but don’t most good things require a leap of faith?
Dreamers with a capital D, Millie Peartree’s Southern Macaroni and Cheese are wonderfully rich with a milk and egg base. Extra old cheddar adds zest and a layer of Colby Jack creates a gooey center. Make it your fall potluck.
Recipe: Southern macaroni and cheese
Doubanjiang (spicy bean sauce), Szechuan peppercorns and fermented black beans make this Andrea Nguyen’s mapo tofu deliciously spicy and rich in umami. (These ingredients are easily found in Chinese markets or online, and have a long shelf life.) It’s traditionally made from ground beef, but you can also use lamb, turkey, or “meat” made from it. plants. Serve over rice with something shiny and green.
Recipe: Mapo Tofu
Present throughout Latin America in many variations, arroz con pollo is a real comfort food that lends itself to improvisation. This version of Von Diaz calls for boneless chicken thighs. Boneless chicken breasts work too, but avoid boneless chicken breasts as they don’t have enough fat or flavor to withstand the seasoning of the dish. To save time, instead of making your own sofrito, there is no shame in buying it from the freezer section.
Recipe: Arroz Con Pollo
Meatballs are always a good idea, but they can dry askew and pan-frying can be a complicated task. Kay Chun uses ricotta for an extremely tender and chewy meatball, then bakes them for a hassle-free alternative. Try to cook them lightly, then finish cooking them in a saucepan of sauce so that the flavor lingers throughout the meatball. This recipe calls for pork, but also works well with beef or a combination.
Recipe: Pork and ricotta balls
Truth: Once you try this recipe from Chef Judy Rodgers, you’ll never roast a chicken any other way again. Dry brine poultry should be put in the refrigerator one to three days in advance, but if you don’t have time for it (who does?) An hour or two, or even just enough time to heat it up. oven, it will be fine. The key to tasty crispy skin and crumbling meat is to make your pan very hot and use a lot of salt to season the bird.
For incredibly moist and dense brownies, Alice Medrich asks to bake them over high heat, then dip the pan in a bath of ice water so that the batter collapses and concentrates in a truffle-like delight. A word of warning: do not use a glass pan. It could break when hitting ice water.
Recipe: New classic brownies
Mark Bittman’s pancake recipe is exactly what it should be: simple and foolproof, which means pancakes don’t have to be a weekend-only affair. Try using different flours or adding fruit or chocolate chips to the dough. If you have any leftovers, separate them with layers of parchment paper and freeze them in a resealable bag or airtight container, then reheat the individual pancakes in a toaster oven.
Recipe: Everyday pancakes
Well, duh. Everyone needs a good chicken soup in their arsenal, and Julia Moskin’s does the trick. Use the best poultry you can find, and here’s a smart reader’s tip: “If you’re planning on leftovers, don’t cook the noodles in the soup. Cook them separately and add them to individual bowls. Also store any leftover noodles separately. This prevents them from becoming too soggy.
Recipe: Chicken soup from scratch