Weeknight Dinner Ideas: 2Dishes To Make Your Weeknight Dinners Easier

If you work a 9-to-5, you know exactly how difficult it can be to make yourself a quick and delicious meal at home, especially after a long day at work. But there are various ways to eat right and eat well despite a full schedule. Here are 2 dishes that are easy to make and delicious!

Shrimp Scampi

Also known as Norway lobsters or, more familiarly, langoustines, scampi are a type of lobster usually found in northern seas where it’s colder. In Italy, because of its scarcity, scampi was replaced with shrimp, which had a similar taste and texture to its northern counterparts. When the Italians migrated to America, they brought this simple and delicious dish with them.

Photo credits from: Pixabay

Shrimp Scampi is the perfect weeknight dinner because it’s very quick, very easy, and very tasty: shrimp is gently cooked in a simple sauce of garlic, butter, and white wine, spiked with just a hint of red chili flakes for a tiny bit of heat, all brought together by a spritz of lemon juice to brighten up the whole dish.

From prep to serving, shrimp scampi shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to make, 30 if you’re relaxed!

Ingredients:

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ¾ pounds large or extra-large shrimp, shelled
  • ⅓ cup chopped parsley
  • Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon
  • Cooked pasta or crusty bread

Preparation:

Step 1:

In a large pot, add water and boil. When the water has come to a quick boil, add a handful of salt. The water should smell like the sea, or taste like a really bland broth. Add your pasta and stir once before covering. Do NOT add olive oil as this will prevent the sauce from sticking to the noodles after you drain them. If you cook pasta correctly, your noodles won’t clump together.

Step 2:

While the pasta is cooking, melt some butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Once the butter/olive oil mixture has heated through, add your garlic and sauté until the aroma fills the kitchen, this should take about 1 minute or less. Do NOT let the garlic brown!

Once the garlic has cooked through, add your white wine, along with your black pepper and red chili flakes. If you’d like to add other dried herbs, like oregano or thyme, add those in as well. Simmer the sauce until it has reduced by half. This should take around 2-3 minutes.

Step 3:

When the sauce has reduced, add your shrimp. Cook the shrimp until they turn pink, around 2 to 3 minutes depending on the size of your shrimp.

Step 4:

As the pasta starts to finish cooking, drain it 1-2 minutes before the recommended cooking time. Reserve some of the pasta water. Add the pasta to your sauce and shrimp mixture, stirring occasionally and adding more pasta water to thin out the sauce when necessary. Cook until your pasta is al dente. Add your parsley and squeeze over your lemon juice before serving.

Photo credits from: Pixabay

Notes:

A few things to remember: when it comes to what the best wine is for shrimp scampi, always use something you won’t mind drinking. This means that, while you don’t have to go for the top-shelf, vintage Chateau Coutet; a $10-$12 bottle of white wine is more than ok; just don’t get the cheap stuff!

You can also use chicken broth instead of wine, but I’ve found that this might make the dish a little heavier than it’s supposed to. Don’t worry too much about the alcohol –most of it is boiled off as you reduce the sauce! For this recipe, we’re serving it with some classic spaghetti noodles, but you can also serve it over some crusty bread for a nice, rustic dinner.

Pan-Fried Porkchops

A classic weeknight dinner, but this time elevated with an interesting maple brine! While this might not be as quick as shrimp scampi, it’s still well-within weeknight territory because there’s ample time for you to relax and do other chores while the meat brines. The actual cooking takes about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chops, while prep time takes less than 5 minutes, as most of it is just getting your brine ingredients to temperature.

Photo credits from: Pixabay

Brining is a great way to ensure that your meat stays juicy, moist, and unbelievably soft. Brining works by breaking down certain muscle fibers in the meat, which then helps the meat draw in the flavorful liquid it’s immersed in. The brine we’re using here is fairly basic –just salt and sugar for this one –but you can definitely upgrade it by adding various aromatics like orange peels, star anise, juniper berries, or even lemon grass once you’ve perfected your technique.

Once the chops are done brining, they’re patted dry and sprinkled with your choice of herbs and spices. I prefer a combination of savory spices like garlic powder and paprika with a special herb rub. Combined, it makes a wonderful dry rub that takes your pork chops to new heights!

Ingredients:

For the Brine:

  • ¼ cup or 4 Tbs. kosher salt
  • ¼ cup or 4 Tbs. Grade B Maple Syrup
  • 1 Quart Water

For the Spice Rub:

  • ½ Tsp. Dried Thyme
  • ½ Tsp. Dried Rosemary
  • ½ Tsp. Dried Oregano
  • ½ Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • ½ Tsp. Onion Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Pinch of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 ¾ inch-thick bone-in pork chops
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. Butter

Preparation:

Step 1:

Bring 1 liter of water to a boil. Once it gets to a rolling boil, turn off the heat and add your salt and maple syrup. Stir until both salt and syrup are completely dissolved. Let cool until it is slightly warmer than room temperature.

Step 2:

Place your pork chops in zip lock bags and add the slightly cooled (but still warm) brine. Let sit in room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.

Step 3:

Combine all spice rub ingredients in a small bowl. After 30 minutes or 1 hour, take the pork chops out and pat them dry. Rub spices on the entire surface of the pork chop.

Step 4:

In a large skillet, place 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and put it on high heat. Sear the pork chops for 8-10 minutes on one side before flipping. Do the same for the other side, but this time, melt the butter and baste the pork chops with the melted butter and rendered fat. Let rest for 5 minutes before carving or serving.

Photo credits from: Unsplash

Note:

You can, and personally I think you should, serve pork that’s slightly pink in the middle. This does NOT mean that it is undercooked. The myth that pork has to be served completely well-done stems from an FDA advisory in the 1950’s, which recommended that pork products, including chops, have an internal temperature of around 165°-170° F to ensure that all microbes and bacteria have been eliminated. However, this produces a fairly dry piece of pork that might not be appetizing at all.

While this might have been true back in the day, advances in agriculture and medicine have pretty much eliminated most risks of salmonella, tape worm, and other unwanted parasites. Of course, this depends on where your meat is from and if it was stored properly. For best results, always get your meat from a trusted source.

So if your pork chops come out with just a little bit of blush in the middle, don’t worry about it and just enjoy!

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