The Secret Ingredient That Instantly Upgrades Weeknight Dinners
Add a hint of smoke to easy evening meals.
Adding smoky flavors to simple weeknight dinners is a low-effort way to upgrade your everyday. Here are the three tips and secret ingredients we find ourselves using over and over again.
Where: Talde, Brooklyn
What: Top Chef alum Dale Talde cross-pollinates a familiar Chinese takeout dish with Western breakfast ingredients: ample bits of fried egg and sausage upgrade a heap of alcohol-absorbing rice, bits of scallion and red onions. The secret ingredient? Kraft American cheese. Invisible but essential, this is the gooey, pretend-it's-not-glue that holds everything together. Ask for a side of Sriracha ketchup (which Talde serves with Tater Tots).
© Carey Jones © Carey Jones
Tea: Tossing in a lapsang souchong tea bag while cooking rice or dropping one into a stir-fry imparts a pinewood-smoked wok-charred flavor. "The flavor gets even deeper after the rice sits overnight," writes food stylist Sneh Roy, who likes to pack her smoky rice for road trips. "On the eve of a road trip I make a wok full of this and pack it in boxes for lunch the next day. It is often our first meal of the day when we make a rest stop on our adventures."
Kale: Grilling this dark leafy green teases out a smoky, rich, palate-satiating flavor that's just not as obvious in its raw form. Use grilled kale in hearty dips (like this smoky ranch—a great accompaniment to flatbreads) and sauces (think pesto—easy to make in batches and save for later, too) for simple, tasty weeknights in.
Smoked Sausage: A meaty soup served with mashed potatoes or crusty bread is the perfect weeknight antidote for an overcast winter day. Use smoked sausage (consider Hillshire Farm® Smoked Sausage) for extra-savory warmth--and keep things flavorful and simple with this chicken and smoked sausage gumbo.