Simply comfortable

RECIPES: 5 weeknight dishes to break up monotony — with sauce

Pork and Ricotta Meatballs (The New York Times/Julia Gartland)
Pork and Ricotta Meatballs (The New York Times/Julia Gartland)

As we plod through these first few weeks of 2021, I felt the best thing I could do for you was to tell you to make meatballs — lots of meatballs.

That is what I did Sunday, tripling Kay Chun's recipe for pork and ricotta meatballs and making a pot of sauce to go alongside. This allowed us to have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner twice and for lunch once, too. I've tried many other meatball recipes, and in the category of fast and easy, this one is simply the best. The combination of pork and ricotta makes them tender and juicy; the parmesan provides a punch of flavor.

You could use jarred sauce if you don't want to deal with homemade, but once you get the pot on the stove you'll see (or remember) how easy it is to do, how bright and fresh the results are compared to even the best jarred sauce. Start that before you make the meatballs, and both will be done around the same time.

The meatball recipe is below, along with recipes for a week that calls for comfort, for simplicity, for sauce.

Here are five dishes for the week:

I have four small tips for this recipe: Use a heavy hand with the parmesan (and if you do, a lighter hand with the salt). Try not to overbake them. If you check them and think they could go another minute or two in the oven, they're probably already done. Let them bathe in simmering tomato sauce before serving. Lastly, make extras.

Pork and Ricotta Meatballs

  • ½ cup whole-milk ricotta
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound ground pork

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and use your hands to gently mix.

Shape mixture into 12 equally sized balls (about 2 ¼ inches in diameter). Arrange on a greased rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until golden and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Leftover meatballs freeze well; simply reheat in the oven at 375 degrees until warmed through (about 20 minutes).

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from Kay Chun

One-Pot Japanese Curry Chicken (The New York Times/David Malosh)
One-Pot Japanese Curry Chicken (The New York Times/David Malosh)

This recipe was inspired by the classic Japanese stew, which is served with rice alongside. Here, the method is tweaked, blooming a few spices in butter to form the base of the sauce and cooking the rice with the chicken and vegetables, for a superb one-pot meal.

One-Pot Japanese Curry Chicken and Rice

  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 6 large thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided use
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • ½ cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
  • 3 tablespoons Madras curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups short-grain white rice, rinsed until water runs clear
  • 1 large baking potato (about 1 pound), such as russets, white or Idaho, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 ½ cups sliced carrots, (½-inch-thick)
  • 3 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Chopped green onions, pickles, kimchi and/or hot sauce, for serving

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Rub chicken with 1 tablespoon oil, and season with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil with 1 tablespoon butter over medium until butter is melted. Working in two batches, brown chicken 3 to 4 minutes per side, and transfer to a plate.

Add onion to the pot, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 minutes. Add curry powder, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and stir until butter is melted and spices are fragrant, 1 minute.

Add rinsed rice and stir until evenly coated in spices. Add potato, carrots, broth and Worcestershire sauce, scraping bottom of pot to lift up any browned bits. Season broth generously with salt and pepper. Arrange chicken (and any accumulated juices) on top, skin-side up, and bring to a boil over high. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until most of the liquid is absorbed and chicken is golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes longer.

Divide chicken and rice among bowls, and garnish with green onions. Serve with any combination of pickles, kimchi and hot sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from Kay Chun

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This simple recipe is a very good way to treat yourself nicely. Rosemary needles are pressed into the fish before the filets are sauteed in butter, and then you make a pan sauce with white wine and lemon. Use wine you'd actually want to drink, not least because I think you should have a glass of wine with dinner. Maybe two.

Pan-Fried Trout With Rosemary, Lemon and Capers

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 trout filets
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

Press ½ teaspoon of the rosemary needles into the flesh of each trout filet. Combine the flour, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Coat the filets in the seasoned flour.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the trout and saute until cooked through, about 2 ½ minutes per side. Remove the trout from the pan and place on warmed plates. Add the shallots to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 seconds.

Pour in the wine and reduce to 1/3 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, capers and remaining teaspoon rosemary and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place 1 trout fillet on each of 4 plates, spoon the sauce over the trout and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from Molly O'Neill

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A reminder that, as with all fried rice dishes, this recipe starts with cooked and cooled grains, ideally leftover ones, so account for that in your cooking (or takeout ordering).

Kimchi Fried Rice

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ small onion, medium dice
  • 1 cup roughly chopped kimchi
  • 2 tablespoons kimchi juice, or to taste
  • ½ cup small-dice Spam, ham or leftover cooked meat
  • 2 cups cooked, cooled rice (preferably short-grain)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt to taste
  • Crumbled or slivered nori (roasted seaweed) for garnish
  • Sesame seeds for garnish

In a nonstick saute pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat, and add onions. Cook, stirring, until the onions start to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add kimchi and kimchi juice, and stir until it comes to a boil, about 3 minutes. Add Spam, and cook until sauce is nearly dried out, about 5 minutes.

Break up the rice in the pan with a spatula, and stir it to incorporate. Turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the sauce and is very hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce and sesame oil. Taste, and adjust with more soy sauce, sesame oil or kimchi juice. Turn heat down slightly, but let the rice continue to cook, untouched, to lightly brown while you cook the eggs.

Place a small nonstick saute pan over medium heat, and add the vegetable oil. When it is hot, add eggs, season with salt and fry to your desired doneness. Serve rice topped with fried eggs, nori and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe from Francis Lam

Creamy Braised White Beans (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Creamy Braised White Beans (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

This convenient and deliciously simple recipe was intended to be made with canned beans, a mix of cannellinis and chickpeas. I'd wilt a few handfuls of greens into the pot to make this a one-bowl meal, and serve it with garlic bread.

Creamy Braised White Beans

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, with their liquid
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white beans, such as cannellini or Great Northern, drained and rinsed
  • 1 thyme sprig, 2 sage leaves OR 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, allspice or garam masala
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices crusty bread or thick toast
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • Freshly grated parmesan, for serving
  • Aleppo pepper or red-pepper flakes, for serving

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, cut side down, and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the milk, chickpeas and their liquid, white beans, thyme and nutmeg and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper. When the mixture begins to bubble around the edges of the pan (you don't want it to come to a full boil), reduce the heat to low and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Use a fork to remove the garlic halves from the beans. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then use the fork to remove the cloves from the skins. Spread the cloves on bread or toast.

If you would like the beans to be more stewlike, mash some of the beans using a potato masher or the back of a spoon. Serve beans and milk in bowls. Garnish as you wish, with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of parmesan and a pinch of Aleppo pepper and black pepper. Serve with the bread alongside for dipping.

You can reheat leftovers the next day over low heat; the sauce will have thickened, but the beans will still be delicious.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from Ali Slagle

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