The 30-minute holiday meal
Whipping up a delicious holiday dinner in 30 minutes or less is easy when you know how long foods take to cook. The possibilities are endless with these five cook-it-quick tips.
Meal time vision quest
As a busy mom, you've already mastered the art of time management and multi-tasking and can apply those skills to making dinner. Think about what you'd like to cook for tomorrow's dinner the night before, and using the list of quick-cook foods below, create a 30 minute menu. Knowing what you want to cook a day ahead will take the pressure off when it's crunch time.
Pound, butterfly, dice and mince
Smaller vegetables and thinner cuts of meat will cook faster. The smaller you cut vegetables and herbs, the quicker they will cook, absorb flavors or infuse flavors into a recipe. Vegetables cut to 1/2-inch pieces will cook much quicker than 1-inch or 2-inch pieces. Minced onion, shallots, garlic and herbs will infuse flavor faster. A quicker cook time also ensures nutrients are kept at their peak. Thick cuts of pork, chicken and beef should be pounded to no more than 1-inch thick or butterflied to make them thinner.
Bang for your buck
Use bold ingredients that will build flavors fast. Chicken or vegetable stock used to boil converted rice will add more flavor than just plain water. Water, generously salted, will season pasta or potatoes as they cook. Soups, pan sauces and gravies started with a foundation of diced carrot, celery and onion will infuse complex flavors into the finished recipe. Rich "umami" foods such as tomato paste and crimini mushrooms will also infuse a long-simmered flavor into foods. Wines, vinegars and citrus zest will add a zing to your cooking liquid. A quick marinade of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh herbs will add a punch of flavor just before cooking. A second batch of the marinade can be made to slather over the cooked meats and vegetables before serving.
Use quick cooking methods
Braising, roasting and long simmered recipes are perfect for lazy weekends, but won't cut it in a 30-minute kitchen. Stick to shallow pan frying, broiling, grilling, blanching and steaming when you've got to get dinner on the table in a hurry.
Cook everything at the same time
If you've got four burners, use 'em all! Keep as many items cooking at the same time as possible. When something is finished cooking, cover it and set it in a warm oven until the rest of the meal is ready. Consider one-pot meals as well. For example, from the list below, you can combine pasta, vegetables and mussels or salmon for a quick, one-pot pasta dinner with a pan sauce of white wine, broth and shallots.
Quick cooking foods
Meat, poultry and fish that cook in 30 minutes or less (no thicker than 1-inch):
- Boneless chicken breast: Broiled, grilled or pan-fried, four minutes each side or until temp reaches 160 degrees F. Cover and rest for 10 minutes, temp will increase to 165 degrees F.
- Chicken tenderloins: Stir fried, broiled, breaded and pan-fried, two minutes each side.
- Boneless pork chops: Broiled, grilled or pan-fried, four minutes each side or until temp reaches 140 degrees F. Cover and rest for five minutes, temp will increase to 145 degrees F. Pounded to 1/4-inch thick, breaded and pan-fried, two minutes each side.
- Pork tenderloin: Grilled, broiled, 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from oven when internal temp reaches 140 degrees F. Cover and rest for five minutes, temp will rise to 145 degrees F. Cut into medallions, pan fried, three minutes each side.
- New York strip steak: Broiled, grilled, pan-fried, four minutes each side for medium-rare. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting.
- Skirt steak: Broiled, grilled, pan-fried, four to six minutes each side for medium-rare. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting.
- Salmon: Broiled, grilled, pan-fried, steamed, poached, four to six minutes each side for medium-rare. Cover and let rest for five minutes before serving.
- Cod and similar white fish: Broiled, grilled, pan-fried, steamed, poached, four to five minutes each side until opaque.
- Mussels and clams: Steamed, pan-fried, broiled, three to four minutes or until they open. Discard any unopened mussels or clams before serving.
Common (fresh) vegetables that cook in 10 minutes or less:
The following vegetables can be blanched in water for one to three minutes, and then pan fried/pan roasted to caramelize. They can also be steamed for six to seven minutes:
- Carrots, onions, potatoes, green beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, squash, zucchini, corn on the cob, asparagus and peas
Starches that cook in 20 minutes or less:
- Pasta, jasmine rice, converted rice, potatoes (prepared stovetop)