A combination of textures is an essential aspect of a delicious dish. Crunchy and creamy, chewy and runny, crisp and tender: Part of cooking is learning how to play ingredients off each other in interesting and appealing ways. (And it doesn’t stop with texture, of course. Think of the push and pull of flavor in sweet-and-sour sauce, or the mingling of hot and cold in an ice cream sundae with warm fudge sauce.)
That’s a theme in our three recipes below.
1. Baked Cod With Buttery Cracker Topping
Baked, stuffed fish is an old-school restaurant staple in New England; covered in lemony, butter-soaked cracker crumbs, it’s a wonderful way to eat mild white fish like cod or haddock. The dish has a long history and relies on two ingredients New Englanders have in abundance: fresh seafood and crackers, which are descended from sailors’ hardtack. Fannie Farmer’s 1896 “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book” has a recipe for cracker-stuffed halibut, seasoned with butter, salt, pepper and onion juice. Some modern versions use saltines, others use butter crackers like Ritz, and many enrich the crackers with crab meat. This recipe is an easy weeknight variation: Instead of rolling the fish up around the stuffing, which requires long, thin filets, it is generously covered in the stuffing and roasted until the cracker topping is toasted and the fish flakes.
By: Sarah DiGregorio
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 25 minutes
4 ounces butter-flavored crackers, such as Ritz (about 1 1/2 sleeves; 1 1/2 cups crushed)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1/2 lemon, zest and juice, plus more lemon wedges for serving
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 (6- to 8-ounce) fillets of cod, haddock, halibut or other white fish
Coarse kosher salt and black pepper
Sweet paprika, for serving
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the crackers in a medium bowl and use your hand to crush them until they are finely crushed. (Some coarser bits are OK.) Add 4 tablespoons of the melted butter, the chives, parsley, lemon zest and onion and garlic powders, and stir to evenly combine, making sure to moisten all the crumbs.
2. Put the fish fillets in a large, ovenproof skillet. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over the fish and turn to coat. Season the fish on all sides with salt and pepper. Mound the cracker mixture on top of the fish, covering it. (Some cracker crumbs will fall off the fish.)
3. Roast in the oven for 10 to 16 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Plan for about 10 minutes per inch; the fish should flake easily, and the juices should be bubbly around the edges. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Sprinkle with paprika, and serve with extra lemon wedges on the side.
2. Shrimp Piccata Spaghetti
The zesty piccata sauce of fresh lemon juice, briny capers and rich butter is the inspiration behind this weeknight seafood pasta. Plump, meaty shrimp pair perfectly with the pantry-staple sauce, which is simple yet fresh and bright. The chopped shrimp are gently cooked over low heat in a shallot and garlic-infused olive oil to keep them tender. Peas are an easy way to add a vegetable with pops of sweetness. (Thawed frozen corn would also work well.) The dish is finished with fresh parsley, but other herbs like basil, chives or dill would yield equally delicious results.
By: Kay Chun
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 25 minutes
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound cleaned medium shrimp, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup thawed frozen peas
2 tablespoons capers, plus 2 tablespoons caper brine
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain pasta.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in it. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low, add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp just turn opaque, 4 to 5 minutes. If the shrimp is done before the pasta finishes, remove the skillet from heat.
4. Return pasta and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water to the large pasta pot and heat over medium. Add the shrimp mixture, peas, capers, caper brine and the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, and season with salt and pepper. Stir vigorously until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and parsley.
5. Divide pasta in bowls and garnish with more parsley.
3. Garlic Chicken With Guasacaca Sauce
Simple to make, versatile in use and complex in flavor, guasacaca sauce is one of the wonderful condiments of Venezuelan cuisine. Creamy from the addition of avocado with a bright and tangy herb and lime base, it makes an evocative pairing for any vegetarian, seafood or meat dish. Here, it accompanies a sheet-pan dinner of roasted chicken and carrots but will do just as well with anything from the grill.
By: Yewande Komolafe
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 45 minutes
1/2 cup olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 pounds carrots, scrubbed, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths (1/2-inch wide)
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, breasts or a combination, patted dry
1 avocado, pitted and chopped
1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup chopped parsley leaves with tender stems
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves with tender stems
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup oil and grate in 2 garlic cloves using a zester. Add the carrots and toss to coat. Lightly season with salt and black pepper and transfer to a sheet pan, reserving the garlic oil in the bowl. Add the chicken to the bowl and coat with the remaining garlic oil. Arrange in a single layer on the sheet pan skin-side up between the carrots.
2. Roast until carrots are tender, and chicken is cooked through with crispy skin that’s browned in spots, 35 to 40 minutes.
3. While the chicken cooks, in a food processor or blender or using a mortar and pestle, combine the avocado, jalapeño, vinegar, lime zest and juice, remaining garlic clove, half the chopped parsley and cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Purée or pound into a coarse mixture. With the machine running or while mixing with a pestle in a mortar, slowly drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon room temperature water. Purée or stir until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt if necessary. The sauce can be made a few hours in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.
4. Scatter the remaining 1/2 cup each parsley and cilantro over the chicken and carrots. Transfer to individual plates along with any pan juices. Spoon a few tablespoons of the guasacaca sauce on the side for dipping. Serve warm with additional sauce on the side.